MarketingProfs B2B Forum Conference

Marketers make a big deal out of the supposed difference between B2B marketing and B2C marketing. B2B is more complex, some say. B2C is easier, others say. B2B requires more software. The perception that B2B marketing is different than B2C marketing has, in turn, created entire sub-industries of software and services that are needless, expensive distinctions. As a result, an awful lot of people believe one form of marketing is better or worse than the other, and that artificial distinction can cost your company a lot of money.

Let’s reframe the discussion instead about complexity. The main supposed difference between B2B and B2C marketing is that B2B sales are more complex, which means that there are typically a lot of decision-makers, the sale process takes place over a long period of time, there are multiple rounds of proposal, negotiation, and pricing details, and ultimately a deal is contracted and invoiced. This is in contrast to the average B2C sale where the consumer identifies a product, takes it to a point of sale transaction, and walks out with the product in hand.

The distinction we need to make isn’t about who you’re selling to. The distinction you must make is how complex your sale is. There are B2C purchases that have the same level of complexity as B2B purchases: cars, college educations, houses, mortgages, etc. These sales take long periods of time, they have multiple decision-makers, and there’s typically a third party involved in the financial details.

There are also B2B sales that look like B2C transactions. Hundreds of thousands of apps live in the Apple Store and Google Play Store that are B2B focused. There are web analytics apps, business management apps, dashboarding apps, accounting apps, etc. and they all look like frictionless B2C transactions. Just pick an app, tap Buy, and it’s yours in literally seconds.

The distinction we should be making is whether a sale is complex or transactional. The tools for each kind of selling and marketing are significantly different. Any kind of complex sale is inevitably relationship-driven because the sales cycle is typically long, the time between purchases is long, and thus the value of repeat sales as well as referral sales is high. This in turn makes managing a relationship very valuable.

Any kind of transactional sale can be made more profitable by reducing friction in the buying process. The fewest barriers you can place between the buyer and their product will result in the greatest conversion.

Understanding how your sales process actually works in terms of complexity of transaction (regardless of the artificial B2B vs. B2C distinction) opens up doors for you to improve your marketing processes. If your sales process is complex and relationship-driven, then you should be considering marketing automation software even if you’re a B2C company. If your sales cycle is transactional, it should have a strong digital component and you should be heavily investing in eCommerce optimization tools to refine and hone those processes, even if you think of yourself as a B2B company.

Reframe your thinking about how your business does business and you might find a whole new world of marketing tools and methods suddenly available to you that will make you more efficient, more profitable, and better able to serve how your customers want to buy from you.


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