B2B and B2C markets are different. I am sure you know this already.
But that doesn’t mean the content you create for either of them works. Because you see, in spite of the obvious differences, there are also many intricacies that make content marketing for either group a challenge.
As they say, the devil is in the details.
Content doesn’t mean sales.
At least not directly. It can bring a customer closer to making a purchase though—be it through increasing brand awareness or engagement, building authority and trust, communicating and answering their needs and many other factors. Content influences how and when customers purchase your products or services.
As a content marketer, your job is to know how to use both content and stories to bring a person or a business closer to pulling out that credit card.
Does your content achieve this goal? Or does it fail because you missed those subtle differences in each market?
Let’s have a look.
The Buying Process
B2B and B2C customers go through the stages of the buying process differently.
B2B customers identify their needs on a rational level. A need to purchase a product is typically related to an overall company goal—increasing productivity to achieve business objectives faster, providing better support, responding to customer’s needs or making the office run smoothly.
B2C customers, on the other hand, often work on an impulse. Their buying need can be easily influenced by advertising and marketing.
B2B customers go through a lengthy process before they select products to buy. Moreover, there is typically a number of people involved that must assess what a potential product would do for a company and agree to commit money to a purchase. Purchases also have to pass certain criteria before being selected.
B2C audiences are much more flexible. Typically, only one person makes the selection for themselves and rarely is a predetermined plan followed. Also, the consumer audience is likely to overlook certain product specifications in lieu of a product they like better (for no other logical reason than the desire to own this item).
Just like with product selection, B2B buyers go through a lengthy evaluation process and often require a number of quotes to compare. These customers also are highly likely to conduct research on potential suppliers and assess their reputation.
B2C audiences are often satisfied if the a brand has a good reputation. They base their evaluation on various comparisons available to them. They can be influenced by online reviews, personal recommendations or peer pressure.
The way each audience reaches the buying decision is also different. For B2B, the decision comes after a lengthy process, often involving a number of people checking the product against various criteria and fighting their egos. It is not uncommon that the whole process takes a few months.
B2C are able to make the decision instantly, snapping up the product at the first point of contact.
Support is a major selling factor for the B2B audience. Sales agreements often include maintenance and support contracts and the state of support is a major deciding factor.
For B2C, what happened after the purchase rarely matters. In most cases, this audience doesn’t come in contact with the seller unless there’s a fault in the product or support is required.
The Effect on Content Marketing
When marketing to a B2B audience, you will have to take various buying stages and buyer intents into consideration. Moreover, you will have to consider the number of people who will be involved in making a decision (and thus might see your content).
Content for B2C audiences however can be more straightforward and sales oriented, targeting their emotions and needs.
Their Needs for Content
When you’re creating content to promote a brand, product or a service, it is equally important to pay attention not only to what content your audience wants but why.
And the needs of both groups are quite different.
B2B audiences seek expertise and expert advice. They do so for a number of reasons. One of course is to find out the knowledge they lack. There is however a very selfish reason as well—they want to impress their co-workers, bosses, managers.
B2C audiences, on the other hand, primarily seek entertainment. They are not restricted by what they purchase therefore, content should first and foremost engage them on a very basic, entertaining level. Content wise, they also often seek deals or information that will help them look cool, etc.
The Effect on Content Marketing
Given the amount of people involved in a purchasing decision in the B2B arena, when devising a strategy you should first identify the so-called “purchase initiators”—people who would be the first to either spot a problem that needs solving or discover a need for a purchase and target your content at them. Your should grab their attention first.
For the B2C audience, gaining their interest isn’t as much of a challenge as keeping them engaged and coming back for more.
Language and Communication
In content, how you communicate to your audience is equally important to what you say. The language you use can make or break your campaigns, too.
Tone of Voice
When speaking to a B2B audience, you should refrain from too-casual tone of voice. This audience takes authority and expertise seriously and thus, will ignore anything that doesn’t sound the way they’d expect it to. Moreover, the B2B audience has no problem with industry lingo and jargon.
B2C audiences prefer shorter content with a lighter tone that speaks to their emotions. They want you to make them laugh or write about issues close to their heart in a language they will understand and will dismiss anything that sounds different.
Number of Recipients
An important aspect of any content strategy is how many people you are actually writing to.
In the B2C case, the answer is quite simple; it’s typically just the one person.
With the B2B market, the situation is more complex. On the outset you are also writing for just a single person, the one who is going to consume the content. There are however other people to consider—managers, purchase managers and anyone else who might be involved in the buying process. Even though the copy is also consumed by a single person, you should create it with a number of people in mind.
Lastly, the emotions you convey in the copy matter too. Both markets expect something else from you, and failing to deliver on those expectations will result in a content marketing failure.
The B2B audience is very logical. Little personal emotion is involved in a purchase. Even if the purchase initiator falls impulsively for the product, a number of steps have to pass before the decision is made. The product will also be thoroughly analyzed at each stage by numbers of people.
Therefore, the best way to attract this audience is to focus on factors that will speak to everyone involved in the purchasing process.
With the B2C audience, the content must be engaging. They want you to capture their hearts, make them laugh or focus on issues that they feel strongly about.
Content doesn’t mean sales—not directly at least. But a properly conducted content strategy can bring customers closer to it and even lead them through making a purchase. The trouble is, that plan often falls apart because of a subtle intricacies in both B2B and B2C markets that cause your content strategy to stall the sale rather than push it forward.
Is your audience primarily B2B or B2C (or both)? What tricks do you use to tailor your content to your audience?