If you’re new to marketing and advertising, or looking to build out your own business’s marketing function, one of the most crucial distinctions to learn is the difference between business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) campaigns.
At first, it might seem like a simple difference. B2B advertising targets customers who are buying on behalf of a business, while B2C advertising targets customers who are buying on behalf of themselves. But this difference in audience is a crucial one with major implications for the tactics and messages for campaigns.
The reason comes down to two significant differences between these audiences: time-sensitivity and preferences.
When someone’s in a position of buying power within a business, the situation is different. With their prosperity tied to that of the business, they’ll likely be quite open to spending more time considering ideas that can drive up revenue, push down costs, or improve operations. In fact, in contrast to the consumer, they’ll likely be hunting for a great product, service, or solution for their team.
This means B2B marketers have an audience that’s much more responsive to their campaigns and more likely to spend time listening to what they have to say.
While visually appealing, novel, and emotionally resonant content and messages can be useful, the key for B2B marketers is to provide clear signals from the outset that their solution ties in with a problem faced by their audience. B2B marketers often orient themselves toward connecting their brands to industry events, disseminating research that covers how their product adds value, and developing blogs that will direct search traffic their way.
The attention span of the modern consumer is short. During an average day, most consumers encounter countless ads in print, television, radio, billboards, posters, and web browsers. This means that many people don’t have the cognitive space to process additional advertisements and may be filtering them out.
Since their target audience already has so many other things to think about, B2C marketers have to find ways to make their advertising and marketing stand out and catch the consumer’s attention in the crowded marketplace.
The result is that B2C advertising often has an emphasis on novel, visually appealing, and emotionally resonant content and messages. Such strategies in messages are the most likely to prompt a consumer to pause and take in an ad.
In contrast, the audience for B2B advertising engages with marketing material with a much more well-defined idea about the needs they’re looking to have satisfied by a brand. For B2B marketers, this means the messaging of their advertising needs to persuade the audience that a brand offers a solution to their problems and challenges.
For this reason, B2B advertising is often much more detailed and specific content. For this reason, B2B material uses statistics, reports, industry analysis, and testimonials to connect with customers. All these aim to provide clear details about what exactly a buyer’s team can stand to gain from a brand.
B2B marketers work to further win and keep the confidence of prospects and customers by signaling that they’re well aware of the state of their industry and business function. To this end, B2B marketing often includes “thought leadership” angles that focus on signaling to audiences that a brand is an expert in the areas it wishes to operate in via blogs and commissioned reports.
When consumers encounter advertising, it’s usually without having a well-defined plan to meet whatever need a brand wants to fill. Given this, B2C marketers can’t reliably hope that their product or service will slot neatly into some unfulfilled demand by a consumer. In short, consumers tend not to be thinking or inclined to start thinking about a product or service being advertised to them.
This is why B2C marketers often regard consumer preferences in emotional terms. B2C advertising often focuses on building an emotional connection between a consumer and a brand first, making it more likely a consumer will remember or think about a product or service.
So alongside B2C material intended to be attention-grabbing, the messages in B2C advertising aim to elicit memorable emotional reactions to encourage retention. For that reason, B2C messaging is often focused on trying to quickly share an emotional message. This means they lean on short and simple concepts that leverage wordplay, humor, or sentimentality.
The division between B2B and B2C advertising comes down to the sort of audience you want to target. The former is time-rich and connects with detailed, precise, and factual content; the latter is time-poor and connects with simple, broad, and emotionally powerful content.
Of course, no two B2B or B2C brands are the same, and each brand will have different tactics and messaging approaches. But the rough distinction between B2B and B2C endures for a reason: It captures two very different audiences that are looking for different things. When developing your marketing and advertising campaigns, the B2B vs. B2C question of audiences should be top of mind.
With different disciplines come different metrics for success. If you want to find out more about the successful execution of B2B and B2C campaigns, take a look at GetApp's guide on how B2C and B2B differ in their performance tracking.
Matthew Kirtley - Guest Contributor
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