B2B vs B2C - more than just a letter

  • A friend asked me in the week to explain the difference between marketing to businesses and marketing to consumers. Unprepared, I fumbled my way to an answer, but soon realised it was a deeper question than it first seemed.

    There is, of course, a plethora of theoretical responses. B2C is traditionally said to be:
    • Product driven

    • Aimed at maximizing the value of the transaction

    • Mass-market

    • A single step buying process and a shorter sales cycle

    • A creator of brand loyalty through repetition and imagery

    • Reliant on merchandising and point of purchase activities

    • The leverage of emotional buying decisions based on status, desire, or price

    Whereas B2B:

    • Is relationship driven

    • Aims to maximize the value of the relationship

    • Has a small, focused target market

    • Involves a multi-step buying process and longer sales cycle

    • Creates brand loyalty through personal relationships

    • Uses educational and awareness building activities

    • Leverages rational buying decisions based on business value

    A useful analysis, but not uniformly true by any means.

    The eminent Professor Malcolm McDonald says that 'the central ideas of marketing are universal' and it therefore makes no difference whether you are marketing vacuum cleaners or power furnaces. This seems overly simplistic too.

    The principle that all marketing has the basic aim of satisfying the customer is, of course, incontrovertible, but the important follow-on questions are: 'who is the customer?' and 'what is my product?'

    We can say that consumers are, on the whole, more impulsive in their decision making than business buyers, because the financial risk is often so much smaller. This means B2C marketers can focus less on the rational basis for a purchase, and more on the emotional appeal. B2C marketing is often geared towards catching the wave or, better still, creating the wave in the first place.

    To say, however, that B2C marketing isn't relationship driven is a mistake. Any retailer, from a supermarket monolith to the local corner shop, needs to form a relationship with its customers to build loyalty and drive repeat business. Retailers are merely intermediaries in the value chain between the manufacturer and the buyer. Manufacturers themselves would also be mis-advised not to consider the relationship - Sony wants loyalty over Panasonic as does BMW over Mercedes. A charity will want a relationship with a donor to encourage repeat donations.

    And what of professional services firms? They want life-time relationships with both business and private clients, which means that the marketing must be entirely geared towards the principles that are outlined in the traditional analysis of B2B.

    In B2B, the pure number of people involved in a purchase tends to have the effect of suppressing the emotion and bringing everything back to the business case. A good B2B campaign has to be brimming with promises of increased profitability, reduced costs or enhanced productivity. This is not to say that there is no room for the emotional influence of the brand. The old adage that 'nobody ever got sacked for buying IBM' still holds true in many quarters and familiarity breeds comfort in the board room. There is a clear need to build the brand with air cover from advertising, sponsorship and pr.

    The conclusion is that the biggest drivers of the marketing approach are not whether it is B2B or B2C, but in the size of the financial risk, the nature of the relationship and the complexity of the decision making process for the customer. If we understand this then we are likely to make the right decisions. Perhaps we should do away with the distinction and simply call it Business to Customer - which is probably the point Professor McDonald was making.


    Source of Theoretical differences between B2B and B2C: Vista Consulting

    Professor Malcolm McDonald

Related articles

  • Read More

    SharpSpring launches visual workflow builder to enhance lead generation and sales

    SharpSpring recently announced the launch of their Visual Workflow builder. The new feature intends to make the process for creating workflows easier and brings it in line with the likes of Pardot...

  • Read More

    Why can’t we make faster business decisions?

    Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Blink, argues that the lengthy procrastination that often takes place in decision-making is ‘post self-justification’, because we actually make up our minds pretty...

  • Read More

    Marketing activity so bad it’s quite literally criminal

    A news article came out through the Bangkok Post (we found it through The Verge) last week about the arrest of three Chinese nationals. The trio had been paid over £10,000 a month to run a...

  • Read More

    Jason Dilworth joins The Marketing Eye to develop technical capability

    Financial services marketing agency, The Marketing Eye, has appointed Jason Dilworth to the new role of Technical Director in a move designed to expand and develop the company’s data-driven...

  • Read More

    A third of B2B marketers are tracking sales through social

    For an industry whose origins and continuing existence rely heavily on the accurate analysis of statistics, the insurance sector would do well to note the seismic shift taking place in modern...

  • Read More

    Repeat, Repeat, Repeat – 4 reasons to keep contacting the same prospect list

    Asking someone to buy your product or sign up to your service after only one mail-shot or email is unrealistic. We can’t expect that one email, no matter how carefully crafted, will be enough to...

  • Read More

    Promoting video content on social media

    So, your business has splashed out on a big, beautiful high quality piece of video content, you are going to want to stretch it as far as it will go, right? Then don’t do what everyone else does...

  • Read More

    Four Facebook ad campaigns you should be running to attract and retain investors

    With around one-fifth of the world’s population on Facebook, you would think generating brand awareness and leads from it would be a piece of cake. The reality is less straight forward. With a...

  • Read More

    6 quick wins when you first sign up to marketing automation

    Marketing automation systems are powerful, intelligent and the bedrock of many businesses' marketing strategies, but getting to learn and understand them takes time and dedication. Not becoming...

  • Read More

    7 characteristics of social media implementation in B2B marketing

    If you look for evidence of the potential benefits to B2B organisations of social media, you will see both lead generation, as well as brand reinforcement are being addressed to great advantage....

Take the first step

To find out more about how we can help you grow faster, please get in touch. We'd like to hear from you.  Or try our instant marketing healthcheck, it's free!

Quick Contact

Quick contact


Contact us

T 01825 765617

E hello@themarketingeye.com

Our offices

Full details of our offices in London and Uckfield more

Request a call