Marketing strategies for B2C versus B2B

B2B and B2C text on sticky notes with office desk.

The type of business you operate largely determines your marketing activities and the types of customer acquisition processes you use, so it’s important to know what works best, where. If you’re not sure where to start, this guide is here to help you make sense of it all.

Think of it as two streams, running parallel. The first stream is B2B (business to business) marketing, the second B2C (business to consumer). B2C will be targeting the end-user of their product or service – essentially you, me and the guy next door. However, B2B enterprises market their products and services to other businesses, which requires quite a different approach.

For B2B marketing, the number one priority is lead generation – seeking out prospects to target and interact with in order to make the sale. Once a client has been onboarded, B2B marketing focuses on continuing this relationship and educating the buyer.

B2C traditionally takes a more humanistic approach, which is fitting, as these enterprises are targeting individual consumers purchasing for themselves or their families. Using emotions to market their products or services is effective, as people are prone to impulse purchases based on how they are feeling at any given moment, whereas businesses take time to consider a product before buying in.

There’s also more room for humour and tongue-in-cheek approaches to marketing for B2C, while B2B is expected to be straightforward and professional, setting foundations for long-lasting relationships. At the heart of it, B2C is focused on transactional relationships, efficiency and raising brand awareness within their marketplace.

But in the digital age of the 2020s and beyond, are these distinctions still as cut and dry? The answer is no.

While traditionally these streams have run parallel, in today’s world they intersect. The best brands incorporate values from both B2B and B2C to achieve their business objectives. Why is this? Because businesses and consumers alike want to purchase from brands that connect with them. Increasingly, emotional qualities such as engagement, personalisation and entertainment are having a substantial impact on purchasing decisions.

This shift is reflected in the data as well. Google found that 71 per cent of B2B researchers begin their research by using their generic search engine – which is the same method as B2C customers. Social media is also having a huge impact in this space, influencing marketing content to embody immediacy, relevance and interaction. Both B2B and B2C enterprises benefit from how they are perceived online and are able to form stronger relationships with their buyers through the interaction and communication social media platforms facilitate.

While the most popular social platform is LinkedIn for B2B and Facebook for B2C), there are a significant number of B2B marketers blurring the lines by having active accounts across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, with B2C enterprises jumping on the LinkedIn and Twitter bandwagons as well. It is now becoming perfectly viable for you to retarget to your audience on traditionally B2C platforms, such Facebook and Instagram –it’s cheaper, after all– and you’ll likely be getting the same eyeballs on these ads as the ones on your LinkedIn. This is because the modern buyer is increasingly self-educating through online research, peer opinions and social media –and this applies across the board for both B2B and B2C.

Looking to the future, the most successful brands – whether they be B2B, B2C or a combination of both – will be the ones that are able to maintain a professional reputation, provide educational content and build an emotional brand connection, taking the best from both schools of marketing thought to bring a holistic brand experience to a savvy, engaged consumer.

Talia Datt, Founder & Director, The Social Cliq and Co-founder, Tapt By Hatch