B2B vs B2C

Why B2B and B2C marketing is so different

I’ve spent about 12 years in B2C marketing and about 5 years in B2B marketing. It is surprising just how little the two have in common. I thought it would be useful to write a post for people moving from one to the other.

Obviously there are skills that can crossover between the two. Understanding web analytics and knowing how to setup a Google Advert are the sort of things that you would do in both.

The main difference is volume. The B2C businesses I’ve been involved in have typically aimed for 5,000 to about 20,000 new customers per month. In B2B you are usually looking for dramatically fewer customers but these customers will be much higher value.

So in B2C you might have an allowable Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) of perhaps £10 to £50. But if I look at a good customer at Machine Labs we could actually have a CAC of £10,000 and that would make commercial sense.

It’s this low volume, combined with a dramatically higher allowable CAC that makes B2B such a different beast. Here’s some specific examples:

  • B2C is all about self-service with minimal human involvement. In B2B it’s much more common to have people involved.
  • SEO is a high quality and relatively low volume channel. This means it tends not to be worthwhile for B2C but is essential in B2B.
  • Events are not great for selling in B2C (but face-to-face is useful for learning). The high CAC from events can work fine for B2B.
  • Testing just about anything in B2B is very hard. Tests that would have given a good answer in a week in B2C might take 6 months in B2B.
  • Offers are absolutely essential in B2C. Simply put out a discount and sales will rocket! Price is still important in B2B but much less so.
  • PR is good for brand building in both B2C and B2B but the very low volume of sales from an article is useless for B2C but great for B2B.

The other big issue in B2B is that the products tend to be massively more complex. I have sold beer and I am currently selling a database marketing product. Beer is something that most people understand pretty quickly and make a rapid decision on. Changing a company’s marketing playbook and switching over their systems is not fast and will be very seriously considered.

Of course there are some complex B2C sales, the obvious examples being buying a house or buying a car. And guess what? These are the two types of B2C sales where the processes strongly resemble B2B (that is a multi stage sale with human involvement).

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