While there are similarities between business (B2B) and non-business (B2C) customers and some common marketing strategies, the differences between these two groups are substantial enough to justify independent marketing approaches. The fundamental similarity between these two markets is, quite simply, that people are making decisions. While this is an obvious fact, it should not be overlooked. Mari Smith in her book titled The New Relationship Marketing, challenges marketers to shift their thinking from B2B or B2C to P2P, a newer acronym which stands for people-to-people. “At the core,” she says, “most people are fundamentally the same; we all want to know that we matter, that we make a difference, and that our voices will be heard” (2011).
Differences between the Markets
Smith’s advice should not be ignored. Marketers need to understand key psychological elements shared by nearly all consumers, homemakers and corporate purchasers alike. However, people have different ways of making decisions based on the situations they are in. A unit manager who is also a husband and father will unconsciously have a different approach to buying paper and business machines for the office than buying toys for his children or jewelry for his wife. Consider the emotions he is likely to have as he walks through a jewelry store imagining his wife wearing that pair of diamond earrings or that black pearl necklace. He is unlikely to have the same experience looking at copiers. When buying for himself or his family, he represents himself and the small, close-knit group to which he belongs. He pays with his own money. When buying for the business he represents a larger group of professionals who depend on getting the right materials to do their jobs. He uses company funds and is therefore held accountable and must be able to justify every purchase. It is not that business buying is more important than personal buying or vice versa, they are just different.
In general people making personal buying decisions tend to be more emotional, make faster decisions, desire to maximize value, and are product-driven (Murphy, 2007). Business buyers are also concerned with value, but are not as interested in the “shopping experience” as personal buyers. Business buyers will often make decisions in groups and they will take much longer to make a buying decision. There is a lot more at stake for business buyers as the purchase of poor inputs will affect the quality of outputs, in turn affecting the company’s sales and value. Business purchase decisions require a stronger commitment from both parties as sales often take the form of long-term contracts. Naturally, strong relationships are required to build trust and confidence (Gillin & Schwartzman, 2011, pp. 6-8). Clearly there are strong differences between B2B and B2C markets.
Pages can, and have in great number, been written about the strategies that should be used in reaching these two different markets. However, the differences (or gap) between B2C and B2B strategies will vary based on the industry and the target markets. Marketers should not make the mistake of assuming that an identical reach to B2B and B2C markets is appropriate. Instead, human behavioral psychology should be integrated with thorough market research to provide the foundation for effective strategy, successful implementation, and profitable results.
Gillin, P., & Schwartzman, E. (2011). Social Marketing to the Business Customer. Hoboken: Wiley.
Murphy, D. (2007, April 6). Marketing for B2B vs. B2C – Similar but Different. Retrieved from Masterful Marketing: http://masterful-marketing.com/marketing-b2b-vs-b2c/
Smith, M. (2011). The New Relationship Marketing: How to Build a Large, Loyal, Profitable Network Using the Social Web. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.