I think we can all agree 2020 brought a lot of change for everyone. On top of wearing a mask, keeping my distance and hunting for toilet roll, I decided to move counties and start a new job at a new agency. This also brought a change of industry, as I switched from B2C to B2B marketing communications.
During my business degree at university, I was always taught the importance of knowing the difference between B2B and B2C marketing. However, after working in both fields, I am noticing that this isn’t as cut-and-dry as we are led to believe.
I suppose the main and most obvious difference between the two is the audience. In B2C, you’re targeting the consumer, and in B2B, you’re targeting those who make decisions on behalf of a business. This means there are differences in terms of the types of communication and the methods used to appeal to the decision maker. The most commonly-cited differences between B2B and B2C marketing include:
- The decision maker: B2B customers are thought to be driven by a planned, logical and rational process, whereas B2C buyers are more likely to be emotionally driven
- The decision-making process: B2B customers often have to go through many processes and approvals, whereas B2C customers tend to be more spontaneous
- Conversion time: B2B buyers often have a much longer decision-making process and therefore take longer to convert from interest to sale
- The relationships built: a B2C relationship is usually short-term and transactional, whereas in B2B you build long-term, personal relationships.
What can B2B and B2C learn from each other?
The thing is, these differences are logical and would all get good marks in a university essay. However, when you really look at it, you’re still interacting with a human, and whether they are shopping for themselves, or a business, there is a fair amount of overlap in both the targeting of, and communication with, the customer.
Emotion holds a place in both forms of marketing. The belief is that B2B decision makers are only going to make logical, business-led decisions. However, there is also an emotional pull when it comes to making a decision. These decision makers are still likely to be impacted by elements such as knowing and liking the brand and the individuals behind it. B2B marketing is just as much about customer experience as B2C. Harvard Business Review have researched the B2B elements of value and found that decision makers have both objective and subjective priorities.
One of the first things I noticed when working with B2B clients is that the use of social media to promote a product or service is universal. I had never really considered social to be something B2B clients would use. However, it makes perfect sense to use social to reach a B2B audience. The decision maker is likely to use social, and – as our work and home lives increasingly overlap – it seems silly not to promote through social.
Personalisation is another similarity and something B2B has learned from B2C marketing. As ABM becomes a more prominent marketing technique for B2B clients, it’s made me question why this didn’t become standard practice sooner. B2C companies have been using hyper-personalisation for years, to the point where I think ASOS know more about me than I do myself. Why not use this to make B2B customers feel more valued, important and cared for? This is likely to build stronger relationships and is further evidence as to why emotion is important in B2B communications.
After doing some research, I found that the converging of B2B and B2C is something studies are picking up on too. Deloitte found that companies who focus on the human experience perform better than those that do not. In the end, whichever industry you are working with, you’re still selling to a person. So maybe it’s time to look past the labels and put more emphasis on human marketing, developing B2B campaigns that not only service the business needs of the client, but also engage with them on a more emotional level, helping to build strong and successful business relationships.
Clare Roshier is a Senior Account Executive at the Purple Agency, working within the B2B team. Clare has nearly 4 years’ experience working within marketing agencies, having previously specialised in brand and marketing campaigns for the hospitality sector.