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B2B vs B2C: Key Differences Every Marketer Should Know

By: Viral Nation | 6 mins read |
Terms like B2B and B2C get thrown around so often in digital marketing spaces and are sometimes casually addressed. It often leaves marketers wondering, what are the key differences between the two types of companies?  B2C businesses are more well-known to the public because they can take the form of anything from restaurant chains to retail stores to media platforms, so long as they sell themselves directly to their consumers. Having said that, many B2B companies (like Microsoft, FedEx and Slack) have garnered attention over the years despite their personalized and private nature.  Unlike B2C, strictly B2B companies serve other businesses in need of their service and rely on healthy partnerships to thrive. Though certain businesses operate on both B2C and B2B principles, many more B2B companies depend on stable relationships with their partnered businesses. So what are the key differences between them? Which way does your business operate? And how can it change your future marketing strategies?

Difference in Targets & Engagement

At the core, B2B and B2C companies both sell and market themselves, with the biggest difference being their target audience. Engaging consumers in B2C is vastly different from engaging other businesses in B2B. For starters, let's compare the decision-making process of the average B2B client to a B2C consumer. If a B2B client plans to partner or purchase services, they must first get approval from various departments and executives within their organization. They'll be making major purchasing decisions that will affect the company's future, so they need to conduct extensive research to weigh the benefits and risks. Let’s face it, it’s more stressful to purchase a service for an entire organization than it is to buy something just for yourself. A B2C consumer may take some time to research their purchase and compare reviews of the same product, but much less time is spent when compared to the research conducted by a B2B company. For the most part the average consumer will buy whatever goods and services they feel they need or want at that moment and are prone to emotionally driven or impulsive purchases. The division between B2B and B2C customer engagement lies in their relationships. B2B relationships are interpersonal and require lengthy cooperation between both parties. If you work on a B2B basis, your client will most likely be a regular in the future, so earning their trust is often as rewarding as it is difficult. Engaging a B2B client needs personalized strategies, 24/7 communication, and a multi-channel experience that remains open and available for their convenience. It involves solving pain points and providing benefits, while creating a trust-worthy relationship to provide help at any given time.  Meanwhile, B2C relationships are more transactional and often require mass-appealing engagement. If you work on a B2C basis, your marketing techniques should cater to old needs or seek to create new ones. It involves being catchy, engaging and convincing people they want or need your product. B2C usually involves a one-time purchase and requires less relationship building and nurturing than a B2B relationship. 

Difference in Customer Journey

Over 74.6% of new B2B sales cycles take a minimum of four months to close, with nearly half taking over seven months or more. However, returning customers tend to have shorter sales cycles, with as much as 22% spending less than a month to reconsider and around 60% taking three months or less. The vast disparity of sales cycle lifespans highlights the importance of maintaining long-lasting B2B relationships and going with the journey. When you're selling on a B2B level, it's important for you to personalize and get to know your potential client's needs. Around 72% of businesses seek out personalized engagement from their vendors. B2B engagement can involve some of the following strategies:
  • 24/7 customer support: Considering the various processes and orders a business can engage in, it's vital to provide helpful and sturdy support along the way. Providing a well-researched FAQ based on the individual company's needs also goes a long way. Nothing is more frustrating than needing help from a company and not being able to access customer support.
  • Provide an omnichannel experience: Provide a range of options to access the business's services. You should aim to set up various websites, social media, ordinary shops, emails, chatbots, and other access points for your client to choose from. It’s convenient for the customer and keeps you top of mind when they are able to access you anywhere.  
  • Providing details: B2B clients require more information and research in their decision-making process than B2C clients. Allowing them access to forums, demonstrations, chats, case studies, and FAQs can help them in their search.
On the other hand, B2C markets work on a more massive level than B2B markets. The success of B2C sales is difficult to measure, and marketers often rely on the funnel principle to target their consumer base.  Engaging consumers on a B2C level requires emotionally-driven marketing and advertising, often bringing awareness to products or services that the customer may need. You must understand consumers who are already aware of your brand. Then, you can narrow down your leads and spark interest and consideration in your primary consumer base. These tactics eventually lead to sales from engaged consumers. There are some unique ways to start this journey with a B2C consumer base:
  • Take advantage of social media: Over 3.6 billion people use it in their daily lives. Utilizing popular platforms like Tiktok or Instagram is one of the easiest ways to bring awareness to your brand and narrow down interest in marketing.
  • Collaborate with influencers: Influencers of all sizes maintain dedicated followings willing to listen to their recommendations. You should consider collaborating with the right influencers in order to better connect with your consumer base.
  • Create high-quality and interesting content: Enticing copywriting and content can go a long way in grabbing consumers' attention. It's always worth engaging in effective CRO tactics and designing user-friendly websites or apps for navigation. 

Difference in Product or Service Features

Selling and marketing B2B products or services require more complex features and direct channels than B2C. This is characteristic of their longer sales cycle lifespan and deeper consideration for Return on Investment (ROI).  Because products or services for B2B companies are often more complex, you need to be able to provide detailed specifications of the products, as well as access to demonstrations or trials. These are a popular method of promoting features and explaining rather complex products or services to a potential client. Both methods are especially effective in B2B marketing as 3 out of 4 B2B clients prefer self-education in features Conversely, selling B2C products or services is relatively more straightforward and emotionally-driven marketing may help influence their purchasing decisions. Other things to consider when detailing products or services in B2C are being able to access your brand through a variety of channels. These consumers like the convenience of being able to reach out to your customer support team through websites or social media platforms. Remember to regularly research your competition and listen to the needs and wants of your target audience to keep your product on top!

Marketing channels

One final thing to consider when comparing B2B and B2C marketing and commerce engagement is their different channels. While there may be some overlap between the two in the initial phases, B2B and B2C marketing channels vary depending on their targets. Similarly to its engagement approach, B2B marketing channels often involve communication channels that interact with potential business clients on a direct basis. Your marketing should aim to be educational, providing clarifying details on products and features. With that in mind, sales visits, online webinars, and one-on-one calls are the best way to market to your customers.  B2C marketing channels are mostly based on mass media platforms. The goal is to bring eyes to your products, so you should emphasize audience analysis and copy. While providing details on features is important in B2C marketing, emotion and persuasion have just as much, if not more, influence in the marketing phase. Create a strong strategy around social media and email marketing to reach your target audience.  Though there are vast differences between B2B and B2C commerce and marketing tactics, they're both essential parts of the marketing ecosystems. Understanding how to cater to their separate needs is crucial to successfully closing a sales deal or selling a product.  Some businesses utilize both B2B and B2C models and see many benefits from hybrid tactics. Whatever target client your company aims for, you should always strive to smoothen the client's journey and maximize any available tools and platforms at your disposal.
_About the author
Viral Nation

Viral Nation is a new media innovation group that powers the social ecosystem through integrated solutions that align strategy, talent, media, and technology. As pioneers in the influencer space, Viral Nation is comprised of a full-service creative agency, a creator and athlete-influencer representation agency, and a technology division creating modern marketing solutions for the social media age.