B2B or Not 2B: A Look at What Makes B2B and B2C Communications Similar
If you work in business, marketing, or communications, the terms B2B and B2C mean something to you, and you likely know which side of things your work falls upon. Nevertheless, the significance of these terms may still be a little opaque.
Let’s start with definitions:
- B2B stands for business to business. A B2B business is one that markets its products to other companies. One example: a company selling an email marketing platform.
- B2C stands for business to consumer. A B2C business markets to individuals. One example: a company selling an electric toothbrush.
Check out the graphic below to see some of the differences between the two types of business:
On the surface, these two types of business may seem very different, since the products are so different. And it may not seem obvious how to make an email marketing platform sound as cool as the snazzy electric toothbrush advertised on your podcast. As a PR firm that works primarily with B2B businesses, we have encountered people with the belief that B2B communications are boring, especially as compared to B2C communications. However, that is not necessarily the case — and, in fact, when it comes to telling companies’ stories, there are more similarities between the two than one might expect.
Below are some things to keep in mind whether you’re creating B2B or B2C communications:
Both are about people.
At the end of the day, a business is made up of people. Because we are all individuals, we experience life both as individuals and as part of the companies we work for.
Thus, in some ways, marketing to a business isn’t that different from marketing to an individual consumer. Think about how to address the individual people within a business. There may be a CEO, CFO, marketing manager, analyst, developer, data scientist, office manager — the list goes on and on. Consider what an ordinary day is like for each of those people within a company and how your product or service could help them. Who would be the most likely to benefit from your email marketing system?
This approach is similar to the one you would take with the electric toothbrush. First you determine who the people you’re addressing are, and then you figure out how your toothbrush or email marketing system can make someone’s life easier.
Both assume a certain level of knowledge about a problem.
That brings us to the next point: to effectively market to your audience, whether a business or an individual, you have to understand the problems they face. Maybe you know what those problems are because you have grappled with them yourself or because you have researched them — either way, you have to make sure you’ve thought about them a great deal.
If you’re selling an electric toothbrush, you think about the problems a consumer may be facing related to getting their teeth clean — maybe consumers are dealing with the difficulty of getting their teeth clean with a standard toothbrush, the high cost of other electric toothbrushes, or the hassle of replacing toothbrush batteries.
If you’re selling an email marketing platform, you think about the struggles of someone trying to market a product or business. Those consumers are likely dealing with the hassle of sending out mass emails in their everyday email systems, which might mean taking too much time to make them look good, feel personal, or be impactful.
Then, of course, you should reference those issues when you market your product to your target consumers. Talk about the problems the consumer currently faces, then explain how your product is uniquely able to solve those problems.
Some communications can be both B2B and B2C.
Sometimes, a company needs to communicate with other companies and individual consumers. In those cases, communications, especially in terms of language or imagery, may be similar, though transmitted via different mediums.
For example, electric toothbrushes could be sold to individual consumers or to dental offices en masse. While some of the problems that an individual consumer faces may differ from those a dental office faces, and thus some of the messaging will differ, there will be some common ground. In advertising your product to both, you’ll probably talk about the quality and affordability of your product and any external approval it has received.
Both require establishing the company narrative.
That leads into the next point: whether you’re sending a B2B or B2C message, you should think about how you’re representing the company’s story, reputation, etc. In both cases, establishing the reputation and brand identity of your product and company will be important. Whether you are buying a product for yourself or for your business, you want to know that the company behind the product is trustworthy, knowledgeable, and at the leading edge of its industry.
At the end of the day, B2B and B2C communications are not so different. Yes, the mediums and the messaging may sometimes differ, but the principles are similar — which means B2B doesn’t have to be boring, after all. Next time you read a toothbrush ad, think about how you can apply the communication concepts to your B2B product.
If you have questions about how you can apply B2C communication to B2B (or vice versa), let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.