Industrial B2B vs. Traditional B2C Marketing – Completely Different Animals

It’s easy to assume everyone understands the inherent difference between marketing to businesses (business to business, or B2B) and marketing to consumers (business to consumer, or B2C), especially if you’re on the inside of the marketing industry, neck deep in the process every day. 

Here’s a brief rundown of the differences between B2B marketing – with a focus on industrial marketing– and B2C marketing, which caters primarily to retail.

B2C – Persuading Consumer to Purchase Something From A Business

A company marketing primarily to consumers – like Wal-Mart, Ford, or the local deli – have some basic marketing foundations they can rely on when building their campaigns:

  • A large percentage of their sales need to be allocated to their marketing budget because they need to constantly bring in new customers.  Customers are fickle.
  • They can and should establish a target demographic based on age, gender, and other factors, then build messaging around that.
  • They are going to be highly dependent on branding: keeping their name, logo, tagline, or jingle forefront in the minds of their prospective customers so the prospect thinks of them first when their need arises.
  • To accomplish effective branding, a large portion of their budget is going to be allocated to mass media advertising such as TV, radio, billboard, and print ads.
  • Social media has proven itself to be an effective marketing weapon when wielded skillfully, especially Facebook, Pinterest and YouTube.
  • Loyalty programs are also very effective as they generate repeat business that would otherwise go elsewhere.
  • The most powerful marketing messages include something surprising and memorable combined with quick snippets of information supporting the emotional impact.
  • It’s not possible or practical to support all marketing by personal follow-ups.
  • Frequent use of sales or discounts as a marketing tactic.

B2B – Persuading a Business to Purchase Something From another Business

Unlike B2C companies, B2B companies – like Murata, IBM, and a freelance consultant – have to approach their marketing very differently:

  • A small percentage of their sales can be allocated to the marketing budget, usually as little as .5 to 2% of gross sales.
  • Their marketing needs to appeal to a broader demographic since they’re marketing to businesses and don’t often have as clear a picture of who the decision makers are, at least at first.
  • They are far more dependent on direct contact: phone conversations, networking, power lunches, and LinkedIn.
  • Social media has proven effective for introducing new products and educating the market, but not for direct marketing or sales the way it has for B2C. Social media is more of a branding exercise for B2B.
  • Marketing messages often need to appeal to engineers and other technical personnel who will have a lot of detailed questions that need answers before a buying decision is made.  These  are facts stirring emotion, not emotion supported by lifestyle marketing (like in B2C).
  • Marketing efforts are very dependent on personal follow-up with leads and current customers.
  • Typically, trade shows are a significant aspect of the marketing budget.

Both B2B and B2C Marketing

There are some aspects of the marketing equation that remain constant across both disciplines:

  • Both are constantly increasing their reliance on digital advertising and messaging channels.
  • Both need to build marketing programs around their web presence.
  • Both must focus on building and retaining a solid customer base.
  • Both have to position themselves effectively in the marketplace to reach the right market.
  • Both must maintain consistency in their brand messaging.

There’s certainly no “better or worse” kind of marketing.  But they’re completely different animals.  And trouble arises when a B2B company spends a ton of money trying to successfully apply B2C marketing tactics.

If you’re considering your marketing strategy for the upcoming quarter, be sure you’re able to identify the tactics that have proven themselves effective for the market you’re trying to reach, then start applying creativity and experience to the problem.

If your campaign is executed strategically, the end result is bound to be successful.

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