A sale is a sale. You may have different ways of getting there, but as long as you make the intended sale, the means of getting there hardly matter, right?
Well, if you’d like to consistently make more of those sales, understanding your target market and the best strategies to employ are going to be imperative. First of all, are you hoping to sell a specific product or service to another business, or is your product for mass consumption? In other words, are you in a business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C) organization?
If you’re not sure, you’d better figure it out pretty quickly. But, you probably do know, so let’s get deeper into the differences between the two outlooks. Keep reading to find out how the strategies of B2B and B2C companies differ when it comes to marketing and ultimately making a sale.
The Target Markets of B2C and B2B Companies
B2B-oriented companies usually boast a specific offering or set of offerings, and, therefore, they tend to have a narrow, highly targeted audience. For example, a company that produces large medical machinery will likely target hospitals and perhaps some private practices. There’s no reason a business of this sort would market to individual consumers, who would have no need for these appliances at home.
B2C businesses, however, usually market to a large audience of individual consumers. While there are ways to home in on a more-focused audience, these companies generally have to market in a way that has mass appeal. Some companies design products with a specific end user in mind, while others churn out products that are really for anybody and everybody. Whichever type of business it is, it’s all about making that sale and keeping revenue coming in.
The Logical Vs. Emotional Appeal
Although B2B and B2C companies both want to offer a product that solves a customer’s problem, the paths they take to get there are often very dissimilar. When it comes to B2B sales, companies generally make a logical appeal to try to sell to other businesses. These organizations put more time into building relationships and providing educational resources, hoping those efforts will elicit a sale. B2B firms tend to offer products or services that are more complex and expensive than what B2C companies provide, but the former group must spend more time educating prospective clients how the product can help their business.
A prime example of how to market a B2B business is the social media agency Social Quant, which actually focuses exclusively on Twitter. Many businesses are on Twitter, but many businesses don’t know how to use Twitter, especially when it comes to building a high-quality following. That’s where Social Quant comes in.
— Social Quant, Inc. (@TheSocialQuant) September 28, 2015
The Twitter-focused agency doesn’t spend all of its time making a pitch for its services, though. Its blog posts and eBooks offer innumerable tips on how to use Twitter, which any user (business or individual) can benefit from. Ultimately, Social Quant is educating the public and building up a certain level of trust that will eventually lead to a few businesses inquiring about social media help. The company’s useful advice is available to anyone, but when it comes time to who’s going to pay their bills, it’s other businesses who have taken the relationship one step further.
Meanwhile, B2C businesses generally don’t spend as much time schmoozing a client and building a relationship prior to the initial sale. Instead, the marketing departments of B2C companies often make an emotional appeal to consumers, hoping that their products provide some kind of instant gratification to the buyer. Building a relationship in this case consists of offering a trustworthy product that consumers buy over and over, or on which they stock up at one time. B2C companies need to focus on providing great customer service, concise education and special deals so they can flourish and earn repeat business.
Check out the emotional appeal and attention-grabbing strategies at work in a commercial released earlier this year by a B2C company, Hefty.
Similar to Super Bowl commercials, the concept of this ad has just a faint connection to the product being peddled, but Hefty has successfully grabbed the viewer’s full attention while helping build brand recognition. They’re probably hoping that you’ll equate the quality of the commercial to the quality of their products. This type of ad should appeal to a wide age range, as well. Next time you’re in the grocery store, you may just opt to buy some Hefty plastic cups over those ubiquitous red Solo cups, and Hefty’s hilarious commercial may have something to do with it, overtly or subliminally.
Differing Sales Cycles
As a rule of thumb, B2C companies operate on a short sales cycle. They need to catch a consumer’s eye and perhaps provide a quick bit of education prior to the point of purchase. Additionally, if they want repeat buyers, they’d better offer a product that the customer enjoys. For example, if a company makes an all-natural food products that sits on a shelf in the store next to similar items, that company needs to have packaging and even some quick literature (such as, “Why is all-natural better?”) that piques the buyer’s interest. Most consumers make purchases from B2C-oriented companies every week, even daily, and many of them are made with little prior research, if not on a whim.
On the other hand, B2B organizations operate on a long sales cycle, sometimes taking several months before turning a lead into a sale. In these situations, businesses have to be vigilant in nurturing a relationship through the entirety of the sales cycle, building brand loyalty along the way. From initial engagement to the point of purchase, B2B companies need to continually educate and hold a lead’s interest, making sure the prospect doesn’t develop cold feet or disillusionment with the process prior to the final sell.
No matter if you work in a B2B or B2C company, you must start to develop an idea on your ideal buyer, how long it typically takes to make the sale and what motivates the buyer to purchase from you. There is some crossover between the two types of companies, and some businesses do a little bit of both (selling to individual consumers and other businesses), but any organization ultimately will thrive if it understands its audience and figures out how to market to them accordingly. For any skilled marketer making a job move, the transition from a B2B firm to a B2C company (or vice-versa) probably shouldn’t be too difficult, but there certainly are separate techniques to master, and it’s best to know the differences ahead of time.