The Difference Between B2B and B2C Digital Marketing for Small Businesses

Many small business owners must be fluent in marketing not only to consumers, but also to other businesses. For example, a car parts distributor may need mechanics at auto shops to buy their parts as much as they need the individual DIY fixer upper to grab one off the shelf. It can be a different animal to market to other businesses than to attract new end user customers.

There are some definite differences between B2B (business-to-business) and B2C (business-to-consumer) audiences, and this means different digital marketing strategies for each audience. Here’s what you need to know about the difference between B2B and B2C digital marketing, and what they mean for your small business.

Businesswoman pressing sign button b2b icon web.

What Is B2B Marketing?

B2B stands for Business-to-Business, and that’s the simplest part of what it means. What are business-to-business markets, what is B2B marketing, and how does it impact your small business?

Consider a value chain that starts with consumer demand, and from which dozens or even hundreds of business products or services are required. For example, the shirts that we buy in stores.  They do not arrive in stores by accident. There is an extremely complex value chain that begins with cotton or some other fiber that must then be woven into cloth, which in turn is machined into a garment, packed and distributed through various levels until finally we pick it from the shelf.

This is called the "chain of derived demand." Businesses sell cotton to merchants, who sell it to spinners, who sell it to weavers, who sell it to garment makers, and so on.  None of the businesses buy the products out of impulse.  They buy them with the strategic aim of adding value so that they can move the products down the chain until they finally reach the general public - at a profit.

So in short, B2B marketing is the act of marketing to other business owners or decision-makers. B2C, or Business-to-Consumer audiences, are distinctly different than B2B audiences. B2B buyers typically have greater access to information about prospective solutions than average consumers. They research potential vendors extensively, and look for the most consistent, reliable and trustworthy providers that they can count on not to let them down.

B2B audiences also tend to be more skeptical of vendor-driven communication, which makes inbound digital marketing tactics like PPC (Pay-Per-Click or Paid Search) and SEO (Search Engine Optimization or Organic Search), more critical to companies marketing to other businesses. Rather than forcing your desired marketing messaging upon B2B audiences, it is equally if not more important to be present when and where these people are researching information.

Digital Marketing For B2B Consumers

Build Custom, Targeted Landing Pages for B2B Audiences

Build unique, custom landing pages targeted specifically at the niche B2B audiences you want to reach. For instance, the previous example of an auto parts distributor that wants to reach out to mechanics may want to design a landing page specifically aimed at the needs of mechanics. The content, imagery, features, benefits and value propositions should be targeted specifically to the mechanic persona, in order to show just how the auto parts distributor can solve their unique problems. These landing pages should be designed acquire the minimum required amount of lead information quickly and easily, and ensure your team personally follows up with those leads to navigate them through the sales funnel.

Auto Mechanic Shop Owner with Clipboard

Anticipate the Questions the B2B Searcher Will Ask - And Answer Them

The B2B consumer is often more discerning about the potential products and services they choose than the average end user. They are likely using business funds, and their reputation with their customers is on the line. Thus, empower your B2B searcher to make fast, smart decisions. The landing page is a powerful tool to provide as much information as possible about the features and benefits of your offering. Anticipate the questions the B2B consumer may ask, and what they might need in order to get a purchase approved. The goal of search marketing in particular is to uncover the needs and questions of the consumer, and fulfill or answer them.

Again, the auto parts distributor example is perfect. If you supply high-quality parts at reasonable prices, and that solves the problem for mechanics of staying profitable while providing top notch products, let those potential B2B consumers know! If your unique selling proposition is the fastest, easiest-to-use online ordering system so you save businesses precious time, highlight that! As business decision-makers themselves, they care as much about their bottom lines as you do about yours. Identify the specific problems you're solving for your B2B customers, and clearly state how you will solve them.

Use Multimedia to Supplement Text Content

Don't limit yourself to just text as a content medium. On your landing page, it may be wise to incorporate highly relevant images and visuals, an introductory or tutorial video, an infographic, a lead submission form, or something else. Sometimes information is best communicated quickly through multimedia like images, infographics, presentation decks, or videos. Other times, in-depth articles are the best tools.

Find out how your target audience consumes information, and cater to those preferences. But be careful not to make assumptions about what landing page designs will perform best with your audience. Be sure to test variations of your landing pages to continually optimize for maximum conversion performance based on real, actionable data.

How Is B2B Marketing Similar to B2C Marketing?

B2B marketing has many characteristics in common with B2C marketing, and your B2B consumers have access to and use the same search engines as your potential B2C consumers to find information about products and services. In fact, according to a 2014 study from the Acquity Group, 94 percent of B2B buyers research online before making a purchase decision. In addition, 55 percent of these buyers research more than half of their corporate purchases online first.

A few highlights from the study:

  • 77% used Google search
  • 83.4% went straight to the supplier's website
  • 34% visited third party websites
  • 41.8% read user reviews
  • 10.8% browsed blogs
  • 8.6% referenced social media

Just like B2C marketing, it is important to thoroughly understand what the B2B purchaser needs and wants from their purchase - and be able to deliver. From the same Acuity Group study:

  • 31.6% want to research and purchase the products online, but want phone support readily accessible if they need it.
  • 16.2% want to discuss options entirely on the phone and be walked through every step of the purchase process.
  • 15.8% want to research and purchase the products online, but want online live chat support available if they need it.
  • 10.5% want to do all the research and purchasing online, no sales person necessary.

You want to create a positive user experience from start to finish for your B2B consumer. Take the time to do the research to understand what needs your business should fulfill for B2B consumers, how to reach these business decision-makers, how they like to make purchases, and how you can accommodate that with your website and digital marketing.

Reach Your B2B Audience Online

To learn more about how Tentacle Inbound can help your small business achieve the digital marketing results you want, call 913-788-1732 or e-mail us to schedule a consultation today!

Troy Frink
Copywriter at Tentacle Inbound, LLC
Troy Frink is a Copywriter and Proofreader at Tentacle Inbound. He serves our clients in writing and editing blogs, articles, website content, social media posts, e-mail marketing, white papers, e-books, and more.

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