B2B vs B2C (and B2G)
Let’s knock out a couple definitions.
- B2B: business to business.
- B2C: business to consumer.
- B2G: business to government.
The way sales occur, and the methods of marketing used, in these segments differs greatly. Ideally, gaining customers would be simple and straightforward – they see your product, they buy your product. But this is far from reality in the B2B world.
The average person is only familiar with marketing aimed at them, which typically takes the form of advertising. B2B marketing certainly involves some advertising, but it is only a fraction of the job. In fact, the most common budget expense for B2B marketers is live events – often eating up half the budget!
An attribution window is generally defined as the period of relevant time before the purchase, and we use it to track which marketing efforts led to the successful sale. Different segments of the economy use different windows. For example, you probably don’t spend much time choosing which gas station to visit to refill your tank. But I’d guess you spent several weeks deciding which car to buy.
In the B2B world, the attribution window is much longer – months or years are quite standard. As a B2B marketer, you should expect to strike out – a lot. Some contacts will become actual leads, few of those will become legitimate prospects, and even less of those will become sales. There are several reasons the B2B decision making process is more thorough.
As a consumer, you almost always buy finished products. You simply buy an iPhone. But in the B2B world, there are many steps between raw and refined. Apple is certainly not producing all those parts internally. A company may sell glass to a company who makes camera lenses, who then sells them to Apple. Now consider all the different components of that phone. There are multiple layers in the B2B world, and at all of them, there is marketing.
The most expensive thing I’ve bought was a house. Probably you, too. But in the B2B world, it isn’t unusual for purchases to run into the millions of dollars. In addition to the cost, the quantity of an item purchased can be numerous. Imagine shopping for a new telecommunications system or shelving for a store like Target, with its 2000 locations.
If you want to buy a new pair of shoes, who do you have to explain your purchase to? Maybe a significant other, but generally speaking, you choose the shoes you like. You may make your decision simply on emotional or impulse.
In the B2B world, there’s little room for emotion. You are buying products or service used by someone else. You are also spending money that belongs to someone else. The owners or shareholders may ask why the vendor you chose presented the best solution – or even why there was a need at all.
How This Affects You
Let’s run down a list of things you’ll need to do differently.
B2B consumers are going to be more knowledgeable about your product or service, so your website should be professional and authoritative. Focus on the benefits you’re offering to their business. Consider what the buyer’s purpose is, and build your website around that. Many B2B buyers respond to content that reinforces they are making the right decision – these purchases are almost always long-term and consequential.
Repeat and referral business is critical to B2B companies. Your sales team should connect personally with buyers and build a relationship. They can (and will need to) further explain your product, its costs, benefits, etc. They are also facing a key opportunity to differentiate your business from its competitors. Your brand’s personality can make all the difference.
Selling B2C is highly transactional. Marketing efforts are geared almost entirely to convincing a customer to complete a purchase. You meet your goal of selling the product. In the B2B world, you may not want to sell your product. Wild, right? Doing business with another company often requires the relationship to benefit both parties. What do you do if the buyer isn’t a fit for you?
Your B2B business likely operates in a niche market. It’s therefore imperative that you completely understand your audience. Rely on demographics data and speak their language. Consider their pain points, their search intent and the potential touchpoints in their purchasing journey.
In B2B marketing, you need to expose your product not just to the target company, but to the decision maker. And purchases are rarely the responsibility of a single individual. Group decisions are the norm, adding more time, and more complexity.
B2B buyers are significantly invested in the ROI of their purchases. They are also looking for thorough, educational, detailed content. What are the benefits you offer? Does your product save time, money, resources? What does your company provide before, during, after the sale?
Do. Not. Overlook. This.
The onboarding process is critical. As mentioned above, the B2B world is about relationships. Plan out each step of onboarding to ensure it is smooth and efficient. Automate where you can. Use intake forms. Follow up. Ask only for the information you need. Choose, and commit to, a communication channel – the one they prefer. Repeat business is the name of the game, and stressful processes do not lead to retained customers.
Do You Need a B2B Marketing Agency?
Are you looking to increase your ROI? Of course you are. This means more than just the financial return. Consider the time your employees can work on other matters.
Do you have the bandwidth? Long cycles require a different level of capacity. An agency can handle everything from marketing to analytics while you concentrate on what you do best.
Are you knowledgeable about B2B marketing? There’s little room for error, and the sales funnel is anything but linear. An agency’s expertise may be invaluable. (Psst. We think we’re the agency for you.)