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What are B2B and B2C markets? A quick guide to the differences and tips to use

If you’re new to marketing, one of the first things you need to get your head around is the different kinds of markets. Fundamentally, the two types of markets are B2B (business to business) and B2C (business to consumer). In this article, we’ll explore what are B2B and B2C markets, how they differ from one another in terms of marketing strategy, and tips on how to market to each.

What are B2B and B2C markets?

Whether a business is B2B or B2C determines who you need to pitch your marketing copy and advertising at. It’s important to know so that you can correctly identify the key decision-makers for the product you are trying to market and ensure you are targeting them appropriately.

What is B2B marketing?

Team of marketers watching a digital displayIf a company is business-to-business (B2B), it sells goods and/or services to other businesses. B2B companies can operate in many industries and verticals, but typically provide professional services such as digital solutions, financial consulting, and research and development, or they may be wholesalers and manufacturers.

Think: HubSpot, Sony, IBM, Microsoft.

Therefore, B2B marketing involves marketing to fellow companies or agents and may require you to write in a more formal tone and for professional networks.

What is B2C marketing?

A business-to-consumer company sells its products ‘direct to consumer’. I.e. to the general public, such as individuals. They can include retailers, banks, and even manufacturers.

Think: H&M, Booking.com, Not On The High Street, Ryanair.

B2C marketing therefore may be more informal in address (depending on the brand) and pitches itself on the kinds of platforms that these consumers use in their everyday lives.

There are some businesses that may target both B2B and B2C markets, such as a bank that sells both personal and business finance products. If you’re marketing one such company, make sure you know which market the copy you are producing will be targeting.

What are the differences between B2B and B2C markets?

You might think that all marketing and copywriting is the same, but there are key differences between B2B and B2C markets that writers need to bear in mind. What’s more, understanding these differences can help you create marketing copy that appeals to your audience.

Fundamentally, different markets have different key decision-makers. In a B2B business, you’ll typically be writing to the person who has the final say in the purchasing decision. This may be the head of a department, such as the marketing, IT or procurement team. Therefore, the emphasis must be on the tangible benefits such as specifications and information. They will likely have to justify any spend, so want to know how it improves things for them in a business capacity and the more evidence you can provide the better.

When marketing a B2C company, you are appealing to the emotions and personal values of an individual. The emphasis may be less on technical detail (depending on the product or audience) and more about aligning yourself with their everyday lives, their personal wants and needs.

This is all reflected in the language you use. For instance, B2C marketing is typically a lot less formal than B2B. If you’re writing for the general public, it is unlikely that they’ll have an understanding of business-speak or be familiar with acronyms and industry lingo, so you will have to adapt your language.

On the other hand, if you’re writing for B2B customers, you may be expected to write in industry language to convey your company’s level of expertise and credibility.

Close up of someone entering card payment details into a laptopThe other main difference between B2B and B2C markets is the time and process taken to convert customers. B2B markets will often take longer to convert because stakeholders may have to conduct research, offer a project up for tender, get samples, discuss between departments and sign contracts all before any money changes hands.

B2C markets, on the other hand, are often driven by want rather than need, so the emphasis is increasingly on purchasing impulsively. That means when marketing a B2B company, you may need to introduce more layers to your sales funnel to accommodate the different levels of purchasing decision, unlike with B2C.

You should also take into account different marketing mediums when creating copy for B2B or B2C markets. For example, B2B markets will likely be more receptive to blogs and case studies which include lots of stats, infographics and evidence about a product or service’s benefits.

On the other hand, B2C markets may typically be found on social media, which means fast and easily consumable content that is short and entertaining (like videos, memes, posts and polls). Outbound marketing in public spaces, such as billboards and street-level advertising, is also a good way to target B2C markets.

Having said that, there are plenty of caveats, and B2B and B2C markets frequently crossover on the same platforms. If you are putting together a content marketing plan for B2B or B2C markets, the important thing is to use the data available to guide your strategy and your use of platforms

Tips for marketing B2B and B2C companies

We’ve looked at the definitions of B2B and B2C markets and some of the key differences. But how should you go about creating a content marketing strategy that ticks all the boxes?

How to market a B2B company

Closeup of a man using a stylus on a tabletKnow who you are targeting

Is this a head of a specific department or even higher up the chain? Is it someone on the technical side of the business or the creative side? Your audience research phase should provide more information about who buys from you – knowing the B2B stats you should be paying attention to can help. In short, know their pain points and pitch to remedy those.

Be transparent about results and pricing

Sales gimmicks and woolly promises don’t cut it when it comes to B2B markets. Be specific and show how your results are measurable. I.e. make sure the return on investment is clear! If you can’t convince potential customers of your worth and value quickly and easily, they will be lost. In a saturated market, it’s important to know why your solution is better than the rest. What are your USPs? Truly absorb these until you can communicate them confidently.

Produce the content they want

Keep things clear, informative and verifiable. Thought leadership blogs, case studies, long-form articles and whitepapers are an excellent way to convey detail and research in a manageable format.

Tap into professional networks

Posting content on LinkedIn should be your go-to online, but company managers may also have a presence on Twitter or Facebook. Your target may also read trade blogs and newsletters so consider approaching these with guest contributions or advertorials. Chamber of Commerce events and local business groups or trade events are also great ways to find leads.

How to market a B2C company

Do your audience research

This will tell you the age and gender of your target demographic, their interests, location, and when and where they are active. Tailor your marketing to these preferences, and make sure you have a content strategy that satisfies their needs. They will respond well to value propositions with pricing incentives or new releases.

Engage, engage, engage!

Content marketing in the B2C sphere is arguably more competitive than B2B. Therefore you need to really hone your copy so that it is eye-catching and engaging. Think snappy headlines, entertaining and thought-provoking content that is shareable, conversations on social media, memes, polls, videos… You get the idea.

Appeal to their feelings

Know your audience inside and out. What is their typical day like, what are their stressors, what are their desires? Just as importantly: how can you plug that gap? Emotions sell, so capitalise on that. It might sound cynical but it’s not – we all know the kinds of marketing we love the most are those which appeal to our sense of self and our values, otherwise John Lewis’ Christmas ads wouldn’t be half as successful as they are. Speak in your audience’s language and avoid large chunks of text. Use images and emojis too alongside text to help convey emotions.

Post in the right places

Your blog and social feeds are obvious starting points. But which social media feeds? If your product is highly photogenic, marketing across Instagram can help you convey it as a lifestyle choice. You might also want to team up with influencers or guest post on other sites to improve brand awareness.

A final word…

These are just a few of the key things to bear in mind. There are plenty more tips to put together a content marketing strategy that you need to cycle through to ensure your activities are a success. However, the key takeaway here is that it all comes down to your target audience. You need to be clear about who you’re marketing to and what they want in order for a campaign to work, whether you’re writing for a B2B or B2C market.

Header image: Hanson Lu on Unsplash

Embedded images: Leon on Unsplash, rupixen.com on Unsplash, Adeolu Eletu on Unsplash

Wendy Woodhead

Wendy is the Account Director at Copify and a qualified copywriter and proofreader. She has spent six years copy editing and copywriting for B2B and B2C clients and has experience in freelance and in-house arts marketing and digital content creation. Wendy likes to write about language and literature, digital marketing, history, current affairs, and arts and culture. In her spare time she enjoys yoga, reading and writing fiction.

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