B2B vs. B2C marketing: what’s the real difference?

13 min

B2B and B2C customers aren’t the same, so tailoring your marketing efforts to each is crucial. 

To start, you’re either marketing to one consumer or a department at a company — but it goes deeper than that. Even the way these audience groups make decisions is miles apart. 

B2B buyers make purchasing decisions after doing in-depth research and weighing the advantages and disadvantages of multiple solutions to a problem.

Conversely, B2C purchases can be emotionally driven or even spur-of-the-moment, especially when the pricing is right. In fact, an Intelligence Node report found that 37.7% of consumers plan to continue spending in 2023 as they did in 2022, despite economic uncertainty. And 14.1% plan to increase their spending.

Chart demonstrating answers to the question: "entering into 2023, are you planning to reduce your retail spending amidst inflation?"
Poll taken from the Intelligence Node report

These key differences in consumer behavior alone call for a custom approach to engaging and getting conversions from each audience. But that’s just one of the many facets you must account for to build effective marketing campaigns for each segment.

Here, we do a deep dive into the primary things that set B2B and B2C marketing apart and explore what successful catering to these audiences looks like. 

But first, let’s dive into the basic differences between these types of marketing.

Comparing B2B vs. B2C

B2B marketing explained

B2B (business-to-business) marketing is geared toward a company or business. It targets one or several key decision-makers or departments in an organization.

A good example of a B2B business is GetResponse MAX, which sells email and SMS automation and other marketing tools to organizations. Another example is Bluehost, which offers web hosting services to other businesses.

B2C marketing explained

In contrast, B2C (business-to-consumer) marketing refers to strategies a company uses to promote its services and products to individual consumers. Examples of B2C businesses include Starbucks and Spotify.

Can B2B and B2C intersect?

It’s very common for businesses to cater to both B2B and B2C consumers, so they overlap frequently. For example:

  • A company that sells food and beverage items to individual consumers may also sell to catering services and restaurants.
  • A content creation agency that offers resume writing services to job seekers can also create blog and social media content for organizations.
  • An automotive company that sells vehicles to individuals as well as rental companies and government agencies.

B2B and B2C audiences can also intersect through the B2B2C model. In this model, two businesses collaborate to sell products or services to consumers.

Learn more about where B2B and B2C models intersect from our marketing podcast:

For instance, Instacart teams up with grocery stores to offer customers grocery delivery services. It provides an ecommerce website where consumers can shop for groceries from their preferred store. In return, Instacart gains access to a built-in customer base. 

This partnership also benefits grocery stores by letting them provide delivery services without significant technology and staffing investments.

The difference between B2B and B2C marketing

B2B marketingB2C marketing
Target audienceTarget customers are key decision-makers within a company.Target customers are direct consumers.
Marketing automationB2B companies need a marketing automation platform to generate leads and nurture them through the sales cycle.B2C companies use marketing automation software to retain customers.
Buying cycle lengthSales cycle is longer since multiple stakeholders have to give the green light before making a purchase.Buying cycle is shorter since one person typically makes the purchasing decision.
Content marketingB2B buyers want valuable content to help them make informed purchasing decisions for their companies.B2C customers need content that provides an immediate solution to their problem or need.
Social media marketingSocial media strategy focuses on building long-term relationships with prospects and customers.Social media strategy aims to entertain and drive traffic, sales, and brand awareness.

1. Target audience

There’s one standout distinction between B2B and B2C customers: The former buy products for their company, and the latter buy items for their personal use. 

In that sense, the person you want to reach with your marketing efforts for each audience is completely different. 

B2B: Key decision-makers within a company

The target audience in B2B marketing is a company’s key decision-makers. They include CEOs, product managers, and department leaders. 

These B2B buyers make purchasing decisions on behalf of their organization. Therefore, they consider the long-term value and impact a purchase will have on the company.

B2B customers are savvy and often know exactly what they want. A Bain and Google study shows that 80% to 90% of B2B buyers will create a list of potential companies to purchase from before researching any product. And 90% will eventually select a brand from their initial list. 

On top of that, these buyers are more skeptical and have higher expectations for solution providers and B2B sales reps. In fact, 36% of B2B customers dropped a software provider that gave them confusing information or had a bad sales presentation.

B2B customers also selectively choose solution providers who offer them the most value during the buyer’s journey. In the Bain and Google study, 72% of B2B buyers said they ultimately purchased from vendors who provided the best product demos and trials.

These stats show the difficulties that come with selling to B2B buyers. You must prove yourself as an authority in your industry and clearly demonstrate the benefits and value of your product or service to gain the trust of these savvy customers.

B2C: Direct consumers

B2C marketing targets consumers looking to buy personal items. Factors like cost, enjoyment, and convenience typically motivate these customers. 

According to a WARC report, more than 70% of shoppers like the convenience of buying products instantly from the platform they’re browsing. And Shopify’s Commerce Trends 2023 report found that consumers want a personal and responsive experience — everywhere they shop.

They’re also concerned about the value of their purchases. According to Insider Intelligence, 66% of shoppers who switched brands in 2022 were looking for better deals. And 58% were searching for better product quality.

As a result, offering consumers a great shopping experience and the best value should be a top priority for B2C marketers.

2. Marketing automation

Marketing automation refers to software that automates your marketing campaigns based on predefined rules. It helps you create ongoing conversations with customers and build brand loyalty automatically, thus saving time and resources.

B2B: Lead generation and nurturing leads 

B2B marketers use marketing automation to:

  • Generate leads and nurture them with content tailored to their specific goals while displaying the company as an industry thought leader.
  • Set up follow-up workflows after prospects visit high-intent pages, such as the pricing and product pages.
  • Automatically distribute onboarding content, like how-to articles, videos, and knowledge-base articles meant for new customers.

Email and marketing automation platforms like GetResponse MAX let you streamline your tasks through advanced automation tools and workflows. They also help you stay efficient and productive while nurturing leads. 

Some GetResponse MAX features that align with what B2B marketers look for in automation software include:

  • Interactive webinar solutions to connect with prospects who want to learn more about your B2B products.
  • Real-time digital marketing reports to analyze your campaigns and optimize your marketing strategy with data-driven decisions.
  • Lead scoring to determine your customers’ value based on their scores. That way, you can create rewards programs for your most valuable subscribers and win back less engaged customers.
  • A Customer Experience Manager to help you optimize your marketing campaigns and solve specific issues before they affect your business.
  • An onboarding team that offers 1-on-1 training sessions using walkthroughs and real examples to show you how to maximize your new account’s potential.
  • Advanced segmentation to group your target audience appropriately and act based on their engagement, interests, and behavior.

B2C: Retaining customers

Marketing automation for B2C is meant to help you send personalized and highly relevant marketing messages to consumers at various customer journey stages.

B2C marketers use marketing automation to:

  • Track customer data to provide more personalized service or product recommendations.
  • Keep their brand top-of-mind of potential customers.
  • Send personalized, targeted emails without manually tracking users and writing content repeatedly.
  • Increase the efficiency of their marketing teams.

Some GetResponse MAX features that check the boxes of what B2C marketers look for in an automation platform include:

3. Buying cycle length

The buying cycle (or sales cycle) is the process prospects go through before making a purchase. The time it takes to get them from the first stage (awareness) to when you close the deal determines the length of the sales cycle.

B2B: Longer cycles

The purchasing decision in B2B is meant to achieve long-term goals for the organization, so it involves multiple stakeholders. As a result, the process of evaluating your services or products is much more complex than in B2C. 

Your marketing campaigns should target key individuals and decision-making committees, which requires more preparation and research.

Once you understand your B2B audience, offer them high-quality content that they’ll consider valuable, such as case studies and thought leadership. That way, you can establish your brand as an authority and gain credibility. 

You’ll also be able to guide them through the customer and may even shorten the sales cycle.

For example, the American Express website offers myriad thought-leadership content from industry experts and business owners. The articles cover company culture, marketing and sales, productivity, and cash flow.

The insights have established American Express as an authority that offers actionable tips and inspiration to help companies adapt and succeed. 

As a result, the financial services corporation can leverage its influence and attract potential customers to purchase its services.

B2C: Shorter cycles

The B2C sales cycle is shorter, especially for lower-value items. Customers typically navigate the buyer’s journey on their own, but they may rely on reviews and testimonials. They may also consult with friends, partners, or family when making expensive purchases, like a home or a car. 

Price heavily influences the purchasing decisions of B2C shoppers. The Intelligence Node report found that almost 40% of buyers consider cost the most important factor when picking between third-party and direct-to-consumer (DTC) marketplaces. 

Intelligence Node report answer results for "What sways your decision between DTC and third-party marketplaces like Amazon?"

After the price, consumers look at the product’s quality, shipping costs, and the platform’s convenience. 

The same report found that shoppers highly value discounts, especially in the grocery, consumer electronics, and fashion categories. 

Therefore, closely monitor your competitors’ promotional activity to ensure your pricing, discounts, and product value meet customers’ expectations and outshine your business rivals.

4. Content marketing

B2C content targets an individual consumer. But B2B content has to convince a group of people that your product or service is the best option and can address a wide range of pain points.

B2B: Content for education

B2B content marketing aims to build trust with customers. It does so by focusing on the pain points of hyper-specific buyer personas and educating them on solving their problems. 

In fact, 62% of B2B marketers use content marketing to generate sales and revenue. Creating content in a specific niche throughout the entire buyer journey can persuade customers to make more significant purchases.

For example, TechSoup Polska Foundation — a technology company for nonprofit organizations — used GetResponse to segment its audience of nongovernmental organizations, libraries, and museums. 

TechSoup then consistently sent valuable newsletters on training invitations, new offers, and tips to choose the right tools for remote work to its audience.

TechSoup Polska Foundation case study

As a result, the company achieved a 1,200% increase in order value from its newsletters within a year. 

B2C: Content that offers immediate solutions

B2C content marketing persuades customers to buy by appealing to their emotions and helping them solve their problems. That’s why 40% of B2C marketers use content marketing to generate sales and revenue.

LandCafe.pl — an online store offering artisanal coffee beans — wanted to increase product awareness, speed up buying decisions, and increase sales. 

The ecommerce store used GetResponse to create a welcome email series that educated new subscribers about its brand and products. As a result, it shortened the buying process by helping customers purchase the coffee they liked best.

LandCafe.pl case study.

With time, the brand saw a 41.3% increase in sales using the welcome email series and a 13.3% boost from the discount coupon email.

In a nutshell, create content to educate your B2B audience and build trust, but use it to offer solutions to your B2C audience and shorten the purchasing process. Consumers can become loyal to your brand when they see value in your product or service.

5. Social media marketing 

Social media marketing is a powerful way for brands to engage their prospects and customers and increase sales. However, B2B and B2C social media campaigns have significantly different content, strategies, and goals.

B2B: Build long-term relationships

B2B social media marketing aims to promote informative and educational content to your target audience so they get valuable information frequently. That way, you can build relationships with prospects who may eventually become customers.

Some of the most useful social media channels for B2B marketers include LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. 

Of those, LinkedIn stands out as the most effective channel. In fact, 4 out of 5 people on LinkedIn help make business decisions. So, you can leverage the platform to engage your audience and distribute your thought-leadership content.

Here’s an example from McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm:

 McKinsey & Company LinkedIn post
Image Source

McKinsey & Company consistently uses LinkedIn to share its thought-leadership posts, adding to its reputation as one of the most credible brands in the world.

You can also use LinkedIn to educate your audience about how your newly launched products can improve their business. GetResponse does this well by announcing its new AI email generator on LinkedIn:

GetResponse LinkedIn post
Image Source

 The post generated a positive reaction from potential customers, who learned how to create engaging emails with a GPT-powered email generator in record time.

B2C: Drive traffic and sales

Because the buying cycle is shorter, special offers and direct contact work great for B2C social media marketing.

In other words, B2C social media marketing is usually less about educating and more about selling and entertaining.

Some effective social media channels for B2C marketers include Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.  

Instagram stands out with nearly 1.3 billion monthly global users in 2022. The platform focuses on pictures, letting you give a personal face to your brand and attract customers with eye-catching product images.

Here’s an example from Starbucks:

Starbucks’ Instagram post
Image Source

Starbucks posted a colorful picture of a matcha drink that attracted a lot of positive comments from consumers — with many commenters wanting to know how to order it. 

The company uses attractive images to create a strong brand identity, connect with its followers, and increase sales.

Final thoughts: B2B vs. B2C marketing — 5 primary differences explained

Understanding the differences in B2B vs. B2C marketing is crucial to creating successful marketing campaigns that meet your customers’ unique needs.

Choosing the right marketing automation platform will help you effortlessly send your campaigns to your clients’ preferred channels. 

If you’re looking for a customized solution to help you cater to your B2B or B2C audience, GetResponse MAX can help. 

Anna Kvasnevska
Anna Kvasnevska
Anna is a content marketing specialist and a proud member of the GetResponse team. With more than 5 years of experience in content creation, as well as her intercultural background and cross-industry perspective, Anna is happy to share her insights into the latest updates from the world of online marketing, eCommerce, and technology. Connect with Anna on LinkedIn.