Someone recently asked me to explain the difference between a B2B and B2C marketing strategy. The person didn't like my answer. Being business-to-business or business-to-consumer is not what differentiates marketing strategies.
If the organization is a single-person household or a large multinational company, a human is making buying decisions. Who the decision makers are, what they consider value drivers, how much they are willing to pay, and how they make buying decisions (among other factors, like goals and budgets) determine the strategy and messaging used in marketing. Defining a strategy as B2B or B2C gives no real information necessary for developing a strategy.
Services like credit repair are mostly B2C but have relationship based sales processes that often resemble those of professional services catering to enterprise firms. Purely B2B tools that cater to small businesses may not have any form of sales team.
Saying B2B also doesn't expressly clarify the price point. Sure, some B2B offerings reach dollar figures above the budgets of even the wealthiest of individual humans. But the price of a new home security system, roof repair, or divorce attorney is greater than the costs for many strictly B2B offerings. I've marketed both CRM and asset management systems that cost less than a cheap used car.
The core of marketing is learning about your customers, competition, and broad ecosystem to craft messaging and define tactics to disseminate that message. Trying to reach the target customers with the messaging that appeals to them is marketing as efficiently as possible.
A Super Bowl commercial reaches over 100 million people, most of whom eat Doritos. Presumably, some Super Bowl viewers will decide what new payroll systems a company will use. An email list ad with Society for Human Resource Management can reach half a million people, many of whom decide on new payroll systems, and presumably, some will buy Doritos.
Efficiency dictates what distribution medium best markets each offering. But the marketing principles and overall strategy of reaching people who want to buy what you have to sell are not changed because one offering targets B2B and the other B2C.
Likewise, the messaging is dictated by who the buyer is, not if they work for a company. The most successful campaigns for payroll tools and other HR software highlight primarily how easy the tools are for HR pros (the decision-makers) to use. The messaging speaks to the buyer, who is always a person.
My favorite ads of all time spoke directly to the most frequent buyer segment for the product. The ads start, "Look at your man..." Recognize it?
The largest buyers of men's toiletries at that time, and likely still, were women with children and a male significant other. "Look at your man, now back to me" addressed the primary decision maker. That was the simple brilliance of the advertisement.
The campaigns I worked on for an inventory control system many years ago, used this same tactic as Old Spice. Inventory control systems are as uninteresting and necessary as deodorant. The videos didn't have Isaiah Mustafa. But for a supply chain professional with a choice to click an ad and watch a video or read a boring product listing, the video likely won.
I believe there is no meaningful difference in marketing strategy between B2B and B2C. I'd go so far as saying those who think these are strategically delineated fundamentally misunderstand marketing.
Lead image by Melanie Deziel on Unsplash
Originally published here on November 19, 2022.