B2B vs B2C Marketing: The Differences Every Search Marketer Should Know


If you’ve spent any time reading up on digital marketing trends you’ve probably run into the terms B2B and B2C before. The general difference between B2B and B2C is clear enough in the acronyms themselves: Business to Business & Business to Customer.

But the nuances between the two are a bit more complex than that. And knowing the difference between the two can be key to understanding how to improve your own campaigns.

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We recently niched towards B2B ourselves here at Directive. And what we learned was that there are quite a few differences between B2B and B2C. In fact, they are different in quite a few aspects:

  • Size of the target market
  • Values of the target audience
  • Length of the average sales cycle
  • How many decision makers you are convincing
  • How you reach out to them & what they want

It’s important that you know the differences between the two when it comes to these factors. Streamlining your B2B campaigns means understanding how they work inside-and-out. For a general guideline to the differences between B2B and B2C you can check out the infographic below, courtesy of Fusion 360.

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However, if you want to get really granular with your campaigns, you need to understand the nuances between the marketing to individual customers and businesses. This post will address each difference as if you are transitioning towards B2B. Essentially, each section will address a different pain-point difference between B2C and B2B, and how you can attempt to solve it.

B2B Means Dealing With a Smaller Lead Pool

The first thing we noticed when we niched to B2B was that we were dealing with a much smaller market. Smaller in terms of search volume, smaller in terms of traffic, but often times bigger in terms of budget. Which makes these smaller lead pools worthy of fishing for.

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But focusing just on B2B companies can makes things hard on certain aspects of your campaigns and strategy. Focusing exclusively on B2B essentially tells the rest of the market that you don’t want their business. Which isn’t going to make demand generation or lead generation any easier on you.

It’s also important to keep in mind that this smaller lead pool means there is less room for error. While you never want to upset your users, in the B2C space there is a bit more recovery room. It’s true that customer testimonials and social proof are still essential for B2B. But if you burn a lead for your boating supply ecommerce site, you’ll probably run into a second chance sooner than if you do so for your advanced data integration & management site.

This means that in B2B every market interaction counts. You need to be supplying value to your audience at every corner and around every turn. Now, speaking of the values of your audience, let’s take a look at the difference between those.

Remember That Business Values ≠ Customer Values

Targeting B2B search engine users as opposed to B2C users also means understanding what each is looking for and what each values, respectively. This is vital to success in B2B, as executive-level decision makers aren’t swayed by the same tactics as everyday online shoppers.

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Ordinary search engine users have similar values to everyday shoppers. They are looking for low prices, convenience, and a solid explanation of the product they are buying. This means that your campaigns need to clearly and efficiently explain the value of your products to inspire quick conversions from your users. Landing page tactics like CRO and user-centric, emotively driven design help to put the user in the conversion-ready mood.

However this isn’t likely to work in B2B marketing. B2B site visitors aren’t interested in emotive marketing tactics to highlight a product. They are looking for statistics and strategies to improve their own businesses.

It’s also important to note that these executive decision makers at B2B firms aren’t going to be reading the same content as you’d assume. Many search marketers believe that the “how to” form of content is the best form of authority building, lead gen content. But a VP of Marketing at a large B2B tech company doesn’t need to know “how to optimize X,” she wants to learn “what 3 marketing tactics grew our pipeline 40% in 60 days.”

Focusing on the differences between target audiences is a great way to start. And when it comes to the target audiences, there is no great defining difference between B2B and B2C than their sales cycles.

Addressing a Lengthy Versus Short Sales Cycle

There are some serious differences between B2B and B2C timelines. Targeting B2B often means dealing with a much longer B2B sales cycle, with different stages to consider. This longer sales cycle means a few things for your marketing strategy.

For starters, you aren’t going to want to go for the win right off the bat with the first conversion. We have seen with many campaigns that sales teams tend to jump the gun and try to schedule a demo on the opening conversion. While this seems like a good way to streamline your marketing and sales systems, it usually ends up scaring users away. Why? Friction.

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This longer sales cycle also means that you’ll have to keep these converted leads engaged and nurtured until they closed with your sales team. This is why social media is a must for B2B demand generation. Many times after initial contact, we’ve found that the prospective leads we are communicating with are currently with another agency. Which means we need to steadily nurture that relationship with helpful advice and valuable insights until they are ready to switch agencies.

Social media is the perfect channel for this low-stakes interactions. To avoid coming off as pushy and salesy, brief and casual messages via social are better than a long, HTML branded email and endless ad campaigns. What’s more important in B2B messaging is consistency, as opposed to urgency in B2C.

Adjusting From Quick Wins to Relationship Building

Consistency in B2B messaging and customer-interactions essentially means patience. B2C campaigns are usually focused on conversions and quick wins. While B2B campaigns still focus on conversions, they aren’t as easily come by.

The “consideration” phase for an ecommerce shopper is much shorter than it is for someone looking for an agency to handle their business cybersecurity needs. On top of that, SEO strategies for B2B and B2C campaigns are adjusted accordingly:

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Because of the quick-win nature of B2C campaigns they can focus primarily on conversion and lead generation. However, we’ve found that in B2B the biggest pain point is usually demand generation. The problem usually isn’t your quality of service, but that your ideal user doesn’t even know your service exits in the first place. There is a very significant different between demand generation and lead generation campaigns. And knowing when to employ each is vital to your marketing and sales success.

Remember that B2C marketing also encourages quick wins and return customers while B2B marketing requires client retention. This means that not only do you have to build relationships to win your conversions, but you also need to nurture those relationships as the agency to keep those clients.

In the end, success in the B2B space is going to come from two simple things:

  • Amassing the right market share to build visibility and awareness
  • Building and nurturing relationships for continuable revenue

Takeaways: The Right Place at the Right Time

We’ve addressed that the defining difference between B2B and B2C marketing is the elongated sales cycles of their target markets. This determines how you advertise, how you find prospective leads, how you nurture those leads, and how you market your unique value.

When it comes to B2B, quick-win tactics will only yield quick-effort results. Success comes from building the right teams and developing the right strategies and campaigns from the bottom up. Take your time, stay consistent, and make sure your brand is ideally placed in front of your end customers – at the right place at the right time.

To learn more about assembling your B2B marketing team and building your comprehensive B2B marketing strategy, check out our Complete Guide to B2B Marketing & Demand Gen. But, keep in mind that, regardless of whether you are B2B, B2C, or B2X, digital marketing is always a means to reaching an end customer.

Make sure you speak to your users in terms of the values they are personally invested in. In the end, it’s people, humans, who are going to sign those contracts.

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Garrett Mehrguth is the CEO and co-founder of Directive Consulting – a global search marketing agency headquartered in Southern California specializing in comprehensive search marketing campaigns for B2B and enterprise companies.

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