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You may have heard that today’s digital and Web-centric technology is “blurring the lines” between B2B advertising and its more visible relative, B2C. Some even believe that this means B2B is losing its identity as a separate, stand-alone facet of advertising.
Some of this is true. Sort of. Certainly B2B and B2C initiatives share the same digital space to an increasing degree. You can follow Chrysler, for example, on Twitter and “friend” them on Facebook just like you do with individuals. Things have changed; while there are still TV commercials for Coca-Cola, nobody was “following” Coca-Cola online 25 years ago.
But technology won’t change the fundamental differences between B2B and B2C. To thrive, B2B advertisers must use approaches unique to the B2B world. The two audiences, and their relationship to the message and the advertiser, will always be different. To illustrate this, here are six fundamental ways in which B2B and B2C will always differ.
Both types of advertising and marketing have distinct sales cycles. But the wheels turn faster in the B2C cycle. Speed is of the essence, because the goal is to turn shoppers into buyers, ASAP. The B2C cycle is based on grabbing and “hooking” the customer in any way possible: coupons, special offers, flashy graphics and more. The metric of success is usually the actual sale.
The B2B cycle runs more slowly. The advertiser must build a relationship with the prospect, delivering factual information and generating leads. Lead generation itself can be a metric, with the actual sale (hopefully) occurring down the road. Impulse buying, in short, is virtually absent from the B2B landscape.
2. B2B must always provide the beef
“Sizzle” – flashy slogans, catchphrases, impressive visuals – can close a B2C sale. In B2B, not so much. Sure, B2B can use these techniques. But sooner or later, B2B marketing must provide solid, technical information. A killer mobile device app might entice a plant manager to explore new equipment capabilities. But buying decisions will be based on solid facts and specifics.
3. The person is the company in B2B
The B2C customer is individual, master of their domain. B2B customers represent their company. Others affect, and are affected by, purchasing decisions. Buyer’s remorse after buying a soda is totally different than buyer’s remorse after buying the wrong machine component for one’s plant. With more at stake, B2B advertising must deliver more precise information.
4. B2B solutions can’t be unreal
The B2C advertiser can promise a solution that delivers an ephemeral, illusory benefit to the customer. Pleasant experiences, enjoyable eating, a feeling of well-being. That’s why Kodak commercials used to invoke promises of “memories.” The B2B promise must involve a tangible solution – for example, accuracy and reproducibility in diagnostic imaging film.
Objective metrics may occasionally have a small role to play in B2C marketing but they dominate in B2B. Hearing that a car will get better mileage is nice. Having proof that your next industrial vehicle will meet Tier 4 emissions standards is essential. B2B advertising must deliver that proof.
6. Being somebody versus doing something
This is the most fundamental difference of all. Most B2C advertising promises the buyer the chance to “be” something: Glamorous. Cool. Really refreshed. But B2B buyers want to do something. They want the fastest drive because they were told to maximize throughput, not so they can look “cool.” B2B advertising needs to focus on doing things.
This nifty website about B2B versus B2C, has further details on fundamental B2B-B2C differences. But even their list might not be exhaustive. What do you think? Are there any other key differences you might want to mention? If so, please share them in the comments below.