How is B2B Marketing Different from B2C?

bridge over a hole with b2c and b2b on either sideThis post answers the frequently asked question about the difference between business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing.

Most strategic principles apply to both B2B and B2C marketing, but let’s assume your company sells Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) with a licensing fee to mid- to large-sized companies. Selling to a team or individual responsible for this purchase is not the same as selling to an individual.

So, let’s break down 2 key areas that distinguish a B2B marketer’s approach – the target audience and sales process.

1. The Target Audience

The buyer’s ‘journey’ is an important strategic element in B2B sales because B2B buying decisions are usually made or influenced by more than one person.

Implications of this reality

Buyer Personas

  • When a variety of people are involved in buying decisions, it’s smart to develop strategic ‘personas’ or profiles for all key players. B2Cs use buyer personas too, but in B2B the people involved in the buying process may have different reasons to care about a brand’s value proposition. Having a simple grid that shows the needs, pains, and motivations of each buyer persona enables B2B marketing and sales teams to target their messaging and outreach approach.

Messaging and Tactics

  • Once buyer personas are developed for a company’s target audience(s), they can be mapped to brand messaging. For example, an engineer may respond to messaging about functional or technical details whereas an executive may be hooked by financial details and proof of industry credibility.

Getting Found and Social Selling

  • The B2B buying process often starts long before relevant players engage with potential solution providers. Not only that, people may depend on a variety of resources for insights and information. It’s important for brands to show up online when folks are doing their research, so that communication and social engagement can begin early.

2. The Sales Process

Key dynamics that affect decision-making timelines are the potential financial investment along with competing or shifting priorities. The B2B sales process is rarely linear, i.e., a company can oscillate from…

  1. Interested to
  2. Highly engaged to
  3. Interested but also interested in other solutions, to
  4. Seriously engaged and ready to talk details, to
  5. Still interested but decided to wait

Flow chart of a typical sales process

Therefore, B2B sales teams need to build relationships with as many constituents as possible to show value as both an advisor and the solution.

Implications of this reality

Strategic and Data Support for the Sales Team

  • A B2B marketing team could add value by supporting the sales team with insights and data on a regular basis. Most sales reps are more effective when they are consistently knowledgeable about the market opportunity, industry trends, buyers, competition, and the general landscape.

Content Mapping

Related to the implications above, B2Bs can be more effective by developing communications strategies and content mapped to different buyer personas and places in the funnel, for example:

  • Thought-leadership and education to build awareness – articles, blogs, webinars, speaking engagements
  • Technical detail and how-to information once someone becomes a lead – interactive videos, webinars and workshops
  • Examples and proof of the company’s value proposition to engage qualified prospects – interesting case studies and success stories touted by industry media, and proof-of-concept proposals

Lead Nurturing and Marketing Automation

  • In B2B, about 95% of qualified prospects are not yet ready to talk to a sales rep (per Brian Carroll of Markempa) and on average, nurtured leads may provide a 20% increase in sales opportunities vs. non-nurtured leads (per Forrester). These realities along with the fact that the B2B sales process is rarely linear, may inform an investment in lead nurturing and automation infrastructure to ensure the team can score and actively engage leads coming into the funnel.


These are just examples, but you get the idea — B2B selling is complicated, and the marketing team’s role to help drive sales can be very different from the role it would play with a consumer brand.


By : Lydia Vogtner

Lydia Vogtner is an independent B2B marketing and communications consultant specializing in brand, messaging and content strategy.

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