Consumers vs. Business: Marketing the Right Way

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June 13th, 2013

Consumers vs. Business: Marketing the Right Way
Let’s get real for a minute: selling business-to-business is pretty different from selling business-to-consumer. You might have already realized that, but have you really considered the extent of those differences?  Ultimately, the end goal is the same: you want to reach sales and revenue goals set for your business.  But depending on who you’re selling to, how you do that will be different.

B2C: Business to Consumer

B2C: Business to Consumer
Selling business-to-consumer (often abbreviated as B2C) is much easier if you can appeal to a very specific customer segment.  If you get asked who will buy from you and you’re tempted to respond with a phrase that starts with “anybody who” and ends with something that you could list on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, that’s not a customer segment.  It’s even worse when you answer with “literally anyone.”  And yes, I’ve heard that before.

So how do you define a customer segment?  An individual customer segment can be defined using differentiators like:

  • Demographic information (like age, race, gender, etc.)
  • They have needs that require and justify a specifically distinct offer
  • They’re reached through distinct channels
  • They represent different amounts of profitability
  • They’re willing to pay for different aspects of what you offer

Consumers are also characterized by certain behavioral buying habits.  For example, a lot of consumers use a passive element to buy from, like a website or a storefront.  Regardless, their buying experience is very important: if it’s difficult to purchase, make a return, or if the staff aren’t pleasant, then you can kiss consumers goodbye.

When you’re crafting your B2C strategy, keep in mind these very important elements:

  • Super-Short Sales Cycle: Grab-and-go buying opportunities are often most effective.
  • Warm Fuzzies: Make consumers feel good about buying from you by delighting them and being careful not to break promises.
  • Address a Benefit: Know what your value proposition actually offers to the customer segment and how it compares to your competition.
  • Be Research Friendly: some consumers are going to look deeply into your offering and how it compares to what others bring to the table.  Oblige them by providing a solid online presence.  FAQs (lists of frequently asked questions) are great, technical specs might be important depending on the offering, and readability is a must-have.
  • Top-Heavy on Persuasion: Even if you need to have the technical stuff available, that doesn’t mean it should be the first thing a consumer sees.  Remember that a list of features is no substitute for a good brand.

B2B: Business to Business

B2B: Business to Business
If you’re selling to other businesses, you’re in what’s called B2B sales.  Business owners and decision makers tend to do a lot of research before they buy something.  Remember, their reputation, budget, or even livelihood is at stake in this decision.  That research may include:

  • Websites
  • Pamphlets
  • Technical specs
  • Comparisons with other vendors in your market for ROI and customer service
  • Product/service reviews
  • Contacting testimonial subjects

With that in mind, it’s a great idea for you do try to educate these people using any of the channels that you can.  It gives you an opportunity to control the information and context, emphasize the benefits that you offer, and build trustworthiness with the people you’re trying to communicate with.

Your focus should be on building and maintaining relationships with these decision-makers.  Get to know their business and their goals:

  • What do they sell?
  • How will they increase their total revenue?
  • How does what you offer make a difference in their organization?
  • Can you save them money?
  • Can you bring in new business?
  • Will you help their brand?

The major emphasis needs to be on forming and crafting your interactions.  The timing and topic of a sales pitch is the difference between being welcomed with open arms and loathed for all eternity.  Take the time to build a relationship with the person (or, more likely, persons) included in the decision making process.  You’re in this for the long haul: there promises to be a good deal of convincing, and you need to have patience.  But your patience may pay off if you’ve got integrity in your service.  A nice, reliable—dare I say boring?—offering that a business can count on will bring you years of buying and healthy relationships.  Surprises and foul ups make people skeptical of you again and will lead you to rebuild relationships.

The Middle Path

The Middle Path
There’s definitely a middle road between some of these groups.  Amateurs who have the resources to take on a professional-style hobby (like photography or cooking), and people who have interest in business activities like finance or publicity are some examples.  If you have the pulse of your customer segments and you know what they expect from you, that’s the basis for a strong marketing campaign.  Click here to find out how we can help you track down your customer segments where they live.

What are your customer segments like?  Do you know what they want and need?  Do you know how long you have to plan to sell to them?  Or, better yet, do you have any experiences that other people can learn from?  Leave those experiences in the comments.

Tags: client profiling, customer segment, marketing, sales funnel

One Response to “Consumers vs. Business: Marketing the Right Way”

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