Published on February 4th, 2016
Is your marketing message connecting with the right people?
You can say all of the right things, but it won't matter if you say them to the wrong people.
Most of the content marketing advice online doesn't differentiate between B2B and B2C, which might lead you to believe that the same approach works for both -- but it doesn't.
Don't get me wrong. The general concept is the same -- create valuable content, but it's a matter of understanding what consumers versus a business find valuable and what resonates the most with each.
B2B vs B2C Marketing 101
Marketing to businesses and marketing to consumers require two different approaches, but there is a great deal of overlap in the strategies used in each approach. Behind every business is a team of consumers, after all.
When considering your content marketing strategy, you should keep in mind the marketing fundamentals for B2B and B2C.
Here they are in a nutshell.
- Driven by relationships
- Goal is to maximize the value of the relationship
- Target market is small and focused on specific buyer personas
- Longer sales cycle with multi-stage buying process
- Brand identity based on authority and relationships
- Awareness built through education and thought leadership
- Logical buying decision based on business value
B2C Marketing 101
- Driven by products and/or services
- Goal is to maximize the value of the transaction
- Large target market (more variety with buyer personas)
- Shorter sales cycle, typically a single step buying process
- Brand identity based on image
- Emotional buying decisions based on status, quality, and price
One area that is different when it comes to content marketing for B2B and B2C is how you influence buyer intent.
What B2B Buyers Want
B2B customers are looking for the proven experts in their field.
Lots of companies offer similar B2B products and services, but what sets them apart is the business knowledge they have to share. B2B customers are interested in the people behind the brand, not just the product or service they offer.
A B2B content marketing strategy should be focused on thought leadership and creating content that your buyer persona can use to improve their business.
By establishing yourself as an authority in your field, prospects can skip past the initial research phase of the purchasing cycle because they already know who you are and they respect your level of expertise.
From there, it's a matter of figuring out if the two of you are a good fit.
What to B2C Buyers Want
Consumers, on the other hand, are more interested in the product or service itself.
There are plenty of brands that excel in marketing and creating an attractive brand image, but they sell lackluster products. The best consumer products, however, stand out from the rest by delivering on their promise.
Consumers want to experience the products and services they buy. Content marketing to consumers should be more focused on exclusivity and status, how the product integrates into the persona's life, and cost-effectiveness.
Emotion vs Data
All purchasing decisions are emotional decisions -- even B2B purchases.
The difference between consumers and businesses is that businesses need a logical reason to back up that emotional decision and consumers can buy something just because it makes them feel good. (Although, you should give them a reason they can use to justify the purchase.)
B2B customers want to see hard data. Show them relevant statistics for their industry, share data from your own business, and especially highlight data that proves the effectiveness of your product or service.
Business purchases require a positive ROI, so you will have a very hard time marketing to businesses without data. More importantly, it's the data itself that elicits an emotional response from B2B customers.
Consider these two headlines for a second:
- How to Make Your Colleagues Jealous of Your Growing Twitter Following
- How We Tripled Our Client's Conversion Rates in 6 Months
The first one is a classic appeal to emotion that a B2B customer will glance right over. However, number two is an appeal to logic -- but, that's the one that will get your B2B persona excited and inspired.
Content Marketing Message
Lack of focus in your content marketing message will make you likable to a lot of people, but a focused message will make your target persona love you.
Prospects that like you will read your content, but the ones that love you will be the first in line to purchase everything you sell and they'll tell all of their friends about you.
Your content message revolves around your ideal buyer persona -- at least, it should.
That means you are creating content based on topics they (not you) are interested in. You're speaking in the language they use. You're considering the problems they face and trying to solve them.
B2B personas are more specific and similar to one another. They might be at different levels in their career and different industries, but most of the time their day-to-day challenges are the same and their goals are the same. Your content marketing message will follow a more linear and focused path.
B2C personas, on the other hand, can vary a lot. You might have several types of customers that fit perfectly with your brand but are in completely different demographics. Rather than using a linear and focused content marketing message, you might have several themes in your content.
For example, if you were selling a fitness product, you will likely have a persona that's only focused on losing weight (example: middle-class mom) and a persona that's only focused on gaining muscle (example: a male in college). Those are two completely different subjects, so your strategy will need to accommodate both of them by splitting up your content.
Stories and Fact Reporting
Storytelling is one of the most effective tools for marketing in B2B and B2C, but the way you tell your story is slightly different.
In both cases, your persona is the star of your story. They have a problem and your product solves that problem.
However, the stories you tell in your B2B content marketing should sound more like fact reporting -- like an interesting documentary. Your stories should definitely be inspirational and very humanized, but they should be practical and founded in reality. Business customers aren't interested in fantasy and fluff, they care more about realistic expectations more than once in a lifetime scenarios.
Consumers, on the other hand, they want to see themselves as the star of their own movie. They don't mind if your stories are a little exaggerated -- they want your product to bring their fantasies to life.
Content Marketing Channel
There are certain marketing channels that work well for both B2B and B2C content marketing, such as Twitter, then there are those that primarily benefit one of those markets.
LinkedIn is the perfect example of a great B2B content marketing channel. After all, it is the business social network.
Pinterest is perhaps the most underrated social media platform for B2C content marketing, but it's not the channel that businesses turn to for informative content.
You'll often hear that your brand needs to be everywhere, which is good advice to an extent, but there is a limit. You really need to be everywhere your persona is.
This applies to guest-blogging, forums, and anywhere else that your brand shares its message and publishes content.