Until our A.I. overlords takes over the world, businesses are all about people. The disappearing milk bars, once a ubiquitous feature of the Australian suburbs, cater to people. Large multinational banks cater both retail customers and corporate clients. But you know what’s behind those large corporations? More people. B2B and B2C marketing aren’t diametrically opposed to each other like the Montagues and the Capulets, they’re more akin to first cousins once removed.
Understanding the subtle and the obvious differences between the two is a critical factor in marketing. While there are a lot of similarities between B2B and B2C marketing, the balance between the subjective and objective varies between B2C, B2B and companies that cater to both. In web design, now considered to be the frontline and most important part of marketing, these differences manifest themselves in a number of different ways.
The tone and aesthetics
The basic difference is of course, the look and feel of the website itself. B2B websites are usually sanitized, adopting a cooler color tones and minimalist design. B2C websites on the other hand is usually loaded with personality, especially those targeting a younger demographic.
For a direct example, take a look at the website for MSI, a Taiwanese company specializing in computer hardware for both retail and enterprise customers. The main page for retail products is heavily stylized, featuring personalized fonts and colorful banners with a black background and splashes of red. By contrast, the main page for enterprise products is heavily muted, adopting a clean and minimalist design with only the banner displaying multiple colors, which are nowhere near as eye-catching as the one from the retail page.
The call to action
If you’ve ever been in the middle of a tendering process or have worked in a procurement division, you know how laborious business purchases can be. Even for relatively small purchases, the process of bargaining with a vendor can take quite a while. B2B marketing is a slow and methodical process and as such, B2B marketing is usually independent of the sales department, compared to how B2C marketing practically doubles as the sales department.
In web design, this translates to the prominent of the call to action button in product pages. For example, take a look at this page for one of Juniper’s core routers and compare that to this page for Microsoft’s latest Surface Pro tablet-notebook hybrid. You can’t just go and buy Juniper’s routers but look at how the ‘Request a Quote’ button is placed compared to the prominence of the ‘Buy Now’ button in the page for the Surface Pro. In B2B marketing, closing the deal is usually not part of the job description.
Differentiating between choosers and users
In B2B marketing, there are moments in which the people charged in acquiring the goods aren’t the intended users. Proper division of labor is after all how large corporations work. An employee of the engineering division might be the one doing the research but the decision has to be signed off by the managers or the procurement division. As B2B marketers, understanding how to appeal to this divide is important as this is never an issue in B2C marketing.
The engineering team (the users) is purely objective, their primary goal is finding the best product they could find. The manager (the decision maker) have to look at the bigger picture and have to take into account a myriad of other factors, like cost-and-benefits or potential return of investment, product integration issues or technical support. Making sure that your product page is loaded with the relevant information could help in convincing your potential customers.
The subjective and objective appeal
In B2C marketing, appealing to the emotional core of your audience is usually the right approach. Individual customers aren’t looking for productivity; they want something that makes them feel good. That’s not to say that they lack objectivity but since doing a thorough objective evaluation of two competing products is close to impossible, they gravitate to brands that they like, brands that they feel understand them.
B2B customers on the other hand are looking for an objective valuation. They are looking for goods and/or services that could best meet their needs at a certain price range. Brand cachet is less of an importance in B2B marketing; I’ve attended enough tender bidding process to know firsthand that the value proposition is always number one.
In web design, this difference translates to what contents are displayed. Educational contents, statistics-laden contents and case studies of how your company has helped other businesses are a staple of B2B marketing. For B2C marketing, contents involving emotional storytelling are more preferable. This does not mean storytelling have no place in B2B marketing, framing a case study as a story, like the work of chipmaker Qualcomm with helping Saipan’s water problem, is one method we’re seeing more and more.
Whether it’s to a business or directly to a customer, people are the one doing the browsing, which means that the standard arguments apply. Website usability and functionality is still a key. For marketing, having a dedicated chat box for customers to drop a question or two could be particularly helpful, so long as you make sure that the response will be swift. If your business serve both B2B and B2C sector, it is advisable to have sections dedicated to both like the MSI example from above.