B2B – short for business-to-business – is familiar to many sales and marketing professionals. But what exactly does the term mean, and how does a B2B company appeal to potential customers? The changes that digitalization is bringing to business processes is presenting new challenges to companies, and the B2B industry is no exception. In this guide, you will learn how to respond appropriately to...B2B: business-to-business
Companies can be classified not only by the geographical markets in which they operate, but also by whom they target. Depending on whether the customers are private consumers, other companies, or public authorities, the providers and their communication channels are assigned to different categories. One of these is “B2C.” What exactly is this and how does B2C differ from other business relationships and forms of marketing?
What is B2C?
The acronym “B2C” stands for “Business-to-Consumer,” meaning business relations between companies and consumers. This also includes companies’ entire communication with potential or existing private customers i.e. consumer-oriented marketing. If a company’s products or services are directed at other companies i.e. business customers, this falls under the category B2B (business-to-business).
B2C is the abbreviation for “Business-to-Consumer” and refers to business relationships between companies and consumers. This means that companies orientate their services or offers around private customers and get in touch with them.
A comparison of B2C and B2B
While “B2C” refers to the relationship between a company and private consumers, “B2B” refers to business relationships between at least two companies. Even though the customer is approached in different ways, B2C and B2B have some similarities. The areas overlap more and more frequently as private and professional life increasingly merge with each other. What do B2C and B2B have in common?
- Target group: B2C companies target private consumers and focus on a larger market. In contrast to B2B, B2C customers cannot be defined in concrete terms, but can only be approximately described e.g. by customer profiles or personas. To reach the maximum number of buyers, the company’s communication channels should have the widest possible reach. In B2B, a broad orientation like this would fail to deliver the desired benefits: the aim is to reach customer companies through targeted networks.
- Addressing: private consumers generally have no industry-specific expertise, which is why B2C companies must adapt their communication to their level of knowledge. If you, as a company, want to reach business customers, your content should be informative and relevant for the respective customers.
- Customer relationship: in contrast to B2B, a close business relationship plays a subordinate role in B2C. The prerequisite for a successful relationship is functioning customer relationship management (CRM). The aim of CRM is to ensure good service and communication that’s as individual and personal as possible, even with many customers. The creation of a long-term customer relationship is less important, since suppliers and consumers do not often come face to face with each other, and because private consumers usually order significantly smaller quantities. In addition, private customers often don’t require more detailed information about the company to make a purchase. In B2B, on the other hand, every action has the goal of building the necessary trust for a long-term and personal business relationship.
- Products and services: B2C products or services are often mass-produced and are primarily intended for private use. In contrast, B2B customers expect products or services that are adapted to individual requirements. This results in a high demand for advice and demonstrations on the products and how they work.
- Buying process: while purchasing decisions in B2C are made by one person, in B2B several employees of a company are often involved. Triggered by the high number of decision-makers, the process is more complex and has multiple levels compared to B2C, where decisions are usually made quickly. In B2C, the emotional influence of the consumer is used more as a sales instrument. In B2B, information and facts about the product or service are generally more significant.
The following table summarizes these and further characteristics of the B2C market and compares them with the characteristics of the B2B market.
Several employees act as buyers
Number of customers
Large number of customers
Small number of customers
Buyers invest their own money
Buyers invest their company’s money
Emotional, often rather spontaneous purchase decision
Rational, often rather spontaneous purchase decision
Generally, the customer has no specialist knowledge
Prices and offers are visible to the customer
The customer has a high level of expertise
The company knows current products, prices, and competitors
Mostly mass-produced products
Products/services that are tailored to the individual requirements of the customer
Focus is more on short-term customer relationships
Maintaining the widest possible customer base
Often long-term business relationships
Intensive individual customer care
B2C marketing encompasses all marketing tools aimed at private consumers. In contrast to business customers, consumers’ purchase decisions are predominantly emotional. A B2C marketing strategy aims to highlight the personal and emotional benefits of the product or service for the customers, with the most common strategies being content, e-mail, social media, and website marketing.
Arousing readers’ interest through emotional content is what B2C content marketing is all about. Good B2B content is characterized by valuable information, facts, and statistics. B2C customers want answers to the following questions: How is the product used? What are the concrete benefits? Who is behind the product? How was it made? Is the quality good? What do other customers say? Etc. You can use the following content measures to target specific private customers:
- How-to guide: a how-to guide is a short guide that provides helpful information on how customers should use your products or services. It can be written in text with images and videos – but it’s important to keep it simple. A how-to guide illustrates the benefits of a product or service and can have a positive effect on potential customers’ purchasing decisions.
- Comparisons: many consumers compare products or services using price comparisons and reviews. If a provider scores well in comparisons, they should definitely draw attention to it. So, it makes sense to provide your customers with the relevant information, preferably on the company website, or link to it in news articles, for example.
- Insight: helps to strengthen customers’ trust in the product or service in the long term. Insights are glimpses into everyday business life that illustrate how a product is created or what is required to offer a service. This gives your company a face and creates emotional closeness.
- FAQ: many consumers have questions about specific products or are looking for concrete solutions. As a company, you should respond as quickly and easily as possible to your customers’ concerns and publish frequently asked questions on your FAQ page. It might also help to answer individual questions in more detail in your blog.
- Background knowledge: interested customers are more likely to come to you when they find useful background information and thematically appropriate posts about your products or services on your site. A blog is also ideal for this purpose. Useful content is often shared and can serve as a reference. This strengthens the perception of your company, not only regarding the B2C market.
- Testimonials: testimonials from satisfied customers can confirm the credibility of your products or services. Here it makes sense to integrate short and interesting customer experience reports into the content of your website. A good testimonial should relate to certain content and should only contain a few sentences.
Sending out newsletters is a good way of establishing regular and direct customer contact. B2C and B2B companies want to achieve identical goals by using e-mail marketing: new customers are acquired and products or services are sold. However, they differ when it comes to implementation. This is due to different targeting in the B2C and B2B sectors, which require different forms of communication.
Consumers choose to subscribe to a newsletter for a variety of reasons. Some customers want to be entertained or stay up-to-date, others are interested in useful information and current offers. Personalize your newsletters so that you can get more recipients on board by addressing them properly and tailoring content to them.
Emotionalizing is often the key to success in communication with B2C customers. Your target group should feel personally addressed and be able to identify with your brand. In contrast, B2B companies can be acquired mainly though current and informative topics from your industry.
Social media marketing
Companies decide to use social media marketing for various reasons. Marketing measures on social media can positively influence people’s awareness of the company, image cultivation, customer loyalty, and the acquisition of new customers. In addition, social media marketing is the modern form of recommendation marketing, since satisfied customers share their positive experiences on social networks.
Choosing the right platform for your business is important. While a B2B company should be represented in common business networks such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook are the indispensable social platforms for any B2C company. If your company uses several social networks, it is important to differentiate between them through different content. If you post identical content on all portals, there is no incentive for consumers to follow your activities on several channels.
One of the biggest advantages of social media marketing is that you can introduce new products or services and receive direct feedback. In return, direct customer contact requires a high degree of communication skills. Consumers want to be taken seriously, which you can achieve by replying quickly to them in an appropriate tone. It also makes sense to give users the opportunity to evaluate products and services. Responding with appropriate measures increases customer satisfaction. The high level of personalization makes it easier for customers to build trust in your company. This is how you achieve a continuous expansion of the customer base through recommendations.
The website is your company’s flagship. If a potential customer comes to your site, they should be able to find their way around easily and get a positive feel from it. A user-friendly website is also important for successful B2C content marketing. The user-friendly design of your website also includes optimizing for mobile use. In addition to this, search engine optimization (SEO) is also important so that your website can be found by potential customers. Also remember to include interactive elements on your website, because: what would an online shop be without reviews, or a blog without comments and ratings?
In the IONOS Digital Guide, you will find numerous articles on website optimization, i.e. web usability and mobile SEO.
B2C companies face the daily challenge of personalizing communication with their customers. In contrast to B2B providers, they are dealing with a huge and very heterogeneous group of private consumers. However, to achieve the best personalization possible, the company should get to know its customer base better. This can be done by creating customer profiles in which all commercially relevant customer data is recorded and merged. Social media also offers many opportunities to make direct contact with private consumers and to gather their opinions and feedback.
These and other B2C marketing measures are aimed at building stronger, and above all, emotional customer bonds. The right approach improves the target group orientation of your products or services, and is rewarded by higher customer satisfaction and increased sales. Companies should use this opportunity to hold their own against their competitors.