Recently, I had coffee with a junior marketer who had made a career switch from B2C to B2B marketing. The transition had been a bit difficult since the data uses seemed different, the full cycle of marketing before results seemed much longer, and he couldn’t use the same types of strategy or content as often, if at all.

“It’s still marketing,” he said. “Just marketing that I’m not sure I know how to do anymore.”

It’s not uncommon for B2B and B2C marketers to feel like they’re speaking the same language, but with different dialects. Terms are often the same, but methods can differ greatly due to the wildly different needs in both areas. Where do B2B and B2C product marketing overlap, and more importantly, what makes them different?

Similarities

Buyer Personas

Both B2B vs. B2C product marketing have buyers, even if the type of buyers couldn’t be more different. All marketers must develop buyer personas at the outset of their strategy development. They have to know who their buyers are, what their buyers need, and where their buyers are.

This fundamental part of marketing doesn’t change much: you have to know who you’re talking to before you start talking.

Sales and Marketing Alignment

If you market products, you’ll have a sales team on staff. The marketing and sales teams should always work together, first to develop buyer personas, and then to communicate about leads and conversions.

Your Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) will go to your sales team to follow up on, so make sure that the two departments are in agreement about what a qualified lead looks like and what information is necessary to have on the leads.

Data-Driven ROI

The goal in marketing is to contribute to the bottom line of the company: turn awareness into leads, to conversions, into dollars. This kind of revenue-focused effort is driven in many ways by the data collected during marketing efforts.

If you are B2B or B2C, you’ll be able to collect data on your potential buyers from first and last-touch attributions, to their general behaviors regarding your marketing efforts. In both types of marketing, you’ll need to pull that data, analyze it, and use it to move your strategy forward.

Go-to-Market Plans

As a product marketer, when getting ready to launch your product to your general customer base, you’ll need a plan of action to maximize the amount of people who know about your product and its launch. In both B2B and B2C product marketing, it is necessary to understand that base front and back, to create a highly effective strategy surrounding your launch.

Differences

Decision-Makers

In B2C marketing, you have one real decision-maker: the person buying your product. In B2B marketing, that’s not the case. Inside of a B2B sales cycle, to sell just one product, there are many decision-makers. The can include product users, managers, tech implementation, executive members, and more. Your marketing materials must be more flexible and diverse in nature, and able to cater to a wide range of stakeholders in different positions with different pain points and motivations.

Customer Volume

While B2B marketing needs to appeal to far more decision-makers than B2C marketing in the sale of one product, there are also far fewer client options available. If you have 10,000 customers in one town who could buy your B2C product, you’ve got a wide range to target.

But businesses are made up of individuals, which means that you may only have 100 businesses available in that same town who can use your B2B product. Because of this, B2B marketing campaigns must be highly targeted to try and hit those 100 businesses, as opposed to being a little more flexible—and more room for trial and error—and still able to hit 5,000 of your 10,000 available B2C consumers.

Buyer Types

Buyer types differ in B2C and B2B marketing, only because you are targeting people who are likely slightly different in their personal and professional lives. B2C marketing has to focus on who that person is as an individual: age range, gender, race, income, hobbies, interests, location (urban vs suburban vs rural,) and how they spend their free time and money.

B2B marketing focuses on that person as a professional: job title, department, company size, department size, number of people on a team, and budget size. And perhaps above all else, B2B marketers must focus on the pain points of the buyer and how their product solves that pain point.

Likewise, the B2B purchasing process generally requires several different players—the end users of the product or staff to be directly impacted by the product, a supervisor, and sometimes other staff, like IT or an executive-level staff to approve the purchase. So in a single B2B sales transaction, marketers have to create content and messaging that targets each of those players within the purchase process.

Sale Cycle

The B2C sales cycle is built for speed, ease, and emotional impulse purchases: awareness to purchase can sometimes come in less than 24 hours. There are many reasons for this, including what I outlined about decision-makers and customer volume above. If I need a wearable calorie tracker, I do my research on available products, find the one that is best for me, and can make that decision in a day.

However, if my business needs marketing automation software, it could take a year (or more!) to actually purchase the product.

A B2B company must weigh all the pros and cons of each available product on the market, determine its budget, evaluate which departments need which capabilities, get approval from all necessary decision-makers, and potentially hire new people for back-end additions and implementation—it’s not quite as simple as just swiping a credit card.

Sale cycles are, by nature, longer in B2B marketing—something that can be frustrating for folks like my junior marketing friend—and can take some getting used to with a lot of rigorous follow-up and strategic if-then conversations.

B2B and B2C marketing live under the same umbrella, and may overlap in places, but are still very different beasts with very different strategy, goals, timelines, and executions. Each marketer must know the obstacles they’re up against, as well as the environments they are in, to be able to effectively push their campaigns.

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Danielle Bilbruck

About Danielle Bilbruck

Danielle is a former sales and recruiting leader turned freelance inbound marketer, using her background in sales management to drive the bottom line for marketing efforts. When she is not directing high-level strategy, blogging, or at networking events, you can find her watching way too much TV with a nice glass of red wine.