B2B vs B2C content marketing – what you need to know

21st November 2018
Author: Etienne Clergue
Posted in: Strategy

Is B2B content marketing so different from B2C content marketing?

At the very core of content marketing as a discipline is a focus on the customer. And there’s a clear business case for adapting and tailoring messages and campaigns to individual customer needs.

But is it as simple as dividing the approach into the two traditional segments of B2B (business to business) and B2C (business to consumer)? At the end of the day, it’s all about communicating with human beings and quite frankly … we’re an emotional lot.

 

Where the lines blur between B2B and B2C content marketing

Geometrical wall feature

The fundamentals of B2B and B2C marketing are in essence the same. We all know that marketers want to effectively communicate with their audience, provide value to their target market and successfully position their organisation’s brand/product/service in a way that drives loyalty and trust – emotional qualities. Both business types are committed to generating content marketing to achieve this.

  • 88% of B2B marketers use content marketing
  • 76% of B2C marketers use content marketing

Yet traditionally the approach to communicating with consumers and businesses has been compartmentalised.

B2C focus lay in big brand building – encouraging immediate transaction.

B2B focus lay in a ‘drip drip’ approach of continual dialogue – ensuring the service or product is top of mind when purchase decisions are to be made.

B2B content

  • Aims to increase brand awareness generate leads and boost engagement
  • Uses content as a way to build excitement around brand and products
  • Content needs to educate and inform
  • Needs to appeal to business organisations

B2C content

  • Aims to create excitement around products and increase brand loyalty
  • Uses content as a way to position a brand as an innovator and leader
  • Content should inspire and entertain
  • Content needs to appeal to the individual

Underlying both approaches is the need to reach out and inform, educate, provide value and … yes, influence human beings. But equally, it is essential to understand that there is a difference in the needs of each audience.

Two distinct audiences?

But do the differences in audience type really boil down to something as simple as a plain divide between B2B and B2C.  When you consider these two domains – yes there are differences but there are crossovers too. The following comment made by Doug Kessler in a CMI post poses why the current segmentation doesn’t cut it:

“Sometimes I wonder if the B2B vs. B2C thing is a dead end. It’s funny that we marketers — the experts on segmentation — are still banging our heads against the B2B/B2C segmentation. Maybe it’s not the most meaningful way to segment brands. Maybe something like ‘long sales cycle’/’short sales cycle’ is more meaningful. Some B2B brands sell off the web page (anti-virus software, say) and some B2C brands have sales cycles that last for months (cars, mortgages). So maybe it’s so hard to nail the differences between B2B and B2C is because they have a fair amount of overlap.”

Today not only are there overlaps in audience needs and business sales cycles but also in customer behaviour. The average consumer now rarely makes an instantaneous decision based on traditional advertising (yeah, sure that subversive thing still happens to a certain degree) but will reach out and research other consumers’ feedback and recommendations.

people walking around

Business audiences are now so inundated with information and knowledge that we need to explore new ways of grabbing their attention. They need to be engaged. They need something to shout out to them and grab their attention, whether or not they’re looking to buy a new SaaS tool or a new bed.

So perhaps it’s time to adopt some new acronyms:

  • B2P (business to people)
  • H2H (human to human)
  • B2A (business to absolutely anyone that needs your product/service – yup, no, that one doesn’t work)

But whatever happens to the B2B / B2C definitions it’s still worth taking into consideration some relevant differences of approach when targeting your audience.

Content marketing objectives for B2B practitioners

Recent data from MarketingProfs and the Content Marketing Institute showed that the primary objectives for B2B companies who are investing in content marketing are raising brand awareness, generating leads, and boosting engagement.

Businesses want to work with brands that are top dogs in their field. Consequently, B2B brands should aim to create content that informs and educates, that demonstrates they are one of the best, if not the best, at what they do.

As a B2B marketer you must identify the issues that your target audiences are facing so that you can provide content that addresses their pain points.

B2B transactions frequently have a much higher “ticket value” than B2C transactions.

There’s also a greater likelihood of repeat purchases, simply because it makes sense, from a time and practicality point of view, for companies to complete recurring purchases with the same retailer.
B2B transactions are also more likely to entail the completion of a contractual agreement and such ‘deals’ are often completed after a long, multi-stage sales process.

If you want to win this type of business, it really helps to have a background as a thought leader and innovator in your industry. Not only will this help generate leads, but it should help to speed up the sales process, too.

Content marketing objectives for B2c practitioners

The stats show that on the surface, the goals for marketers in B2C industries aren’t all that different than those set out by B2B marketers. While their number one goal differed, both B2B and B2C brands think building brand awareness and getting consumers to engage with their content is important.

However, while B2B companies lean towards building brand awareness by showcasing their knowledge and industry expertise, if you are marketing a B2C product, you need to understand user behaviour to gauge the aspirations of the target users, to understand what connects with them on an emotional level.

woman reading a magazine

And so B2C brands are more likely to be concerned with creating excitement around their products. About pushing their products as “aspirational”.

So, what is the difference between B2B and B2c?

Purpose

B2B content should keep the generation of creating thought leadership top of mind. If your audience can see you as an authority in your field then this massively helps the research stage of the consumer buying process. B2C content has different goals such as establishing exclusivity, desirability or cost competitiveness.

Message

If you’re creating B2B content you should be thinking of delivering a message of value, service and trust. If you are delivering B2C content you need to think about emotional engagement, of both exciting your audience but also on proving its financial worth.

Channel

It’s fair to say that B2C businesses have much greater scope. What with social media networks, websites, traditional advertising, geo-targeting apps – the list is endless. B2B businesses, on the other hand, need to take a more targeted approach and investigate where their audience hangs out, what they engage with, what the competitors are feeding them with.

Format

Research has found that B2B audiences prefer their content served as blogs, white papers, case studies, and product guides. Whilst B2C audiences prefer their content in real-time (such as social media) or via user-generated stories. Delivering in a format that appeals will be key to achieving engagement. Always remember that the medium is the message.