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B2B vs B2C PR: What’s the Difference?

As with most things in life, when it comes to PR and comms, one size doesn’t fit all. There’s no magic formula that works for every business. The PR approach that’s right for yours will depend on a number of variables, from your company goals and objectives, to the challenges facing your industry. But one of the key factors is your target market.

Defining your target market: B2C vs B2B

The acronyms B2C and B2B represent two major types of marketing: Business to consumer (B2C) and business to business (B2B).

Business to consumer (B2C)

Close up of man's hands browsing clothes on clothes rack

B2C businesses sell products and services directly to the end user. That chocolate bar you bought from the corner shop? B2C. The latte from Starbucks? B2C. Those killer heels you bought on eBay? B2C. You get the idea.

Business to business (B2B)

Modern open plan office occupied by workers on laptops

B2B companies sell products and services to other businesses. The company that did your office refurb? B2B. Your advertising agency? B2B. Your business accountant? B2B.

Can a company be both?

Yes. A growing number of businesses cater to both. Mobile phone behemoth O2 sells contracts to the average joe and delivers managed network services to corporate clients. And tech giant Google has both its standard search engine for consumers, and Google Enterprise Search for businesses.

That’s B2C and B2B, all under one roof.

What you need to know

We’ve established that the main difference between B2B and B2C is who you’re selling to, businesses or consumers. But there are other differences, and they’ll all have an impact on your PR and comms.

Humans are emotional creatures. Every decision we make consists of many conscious and subconscious emotions. We all have the same basic emotional triggers and needs that drive action. Needless to say, the triggers for B2C and B2B buyers are different.

So when it comes to the difference between B2B and B2C PR, understanding those triggers is your key to success.

Let’s look at B2C first.

The power of fear in B2C

Close up of man's hands typing on Apple Mac in hipster cafe

Fear is a powerful emotion. It can drive us to do things we otherwise wouldn’t. And FOMO (or ‘fear of missing out’) is a way to tap into it. FOMO refers to a general anxiety that other people are having more fun, living better lives, or experiencing better things than you.

We’ve all experienced it: It’s that pang of envy you get when you see photos and status updates on Facebook of your friends doing incredible things: watching an England match from a company box, brunching at an exclusive restaurant, or sipping mojitos on an exotic beach.

FOMO is a powerful psychological trigger that we can’t help responding to. Savvy brands have cottoned on to this and play on it in their comms.

The king of FOMO marketing is tech giant, Apple. In the lead-up to product launches, they use social media to build hype. They deliberately leak product details which Apple fans excitedly share with the world. A side effect of FOMO is the desire to be the first to know. Once the hype is at fever pitch, Apple release a limited quantity of each product, making people want them that much more. This is a textbook example of FOMO marketing.

Instant gratification with B2C

Woman takes a selfie for Dulux campaign

Dulux Paint Visualiser

In the age of the internet and social media, consumers expect to find services, products, and information on demand. As a result, we no longer have to go to a shop to rent a movie. We have Netflix. We no longer have to wait until our favourite artist’s CD is on sale in the shops to listen to it. We have Spotify. We can get pretty much anything we want, instantly.

The moral of the story is: don’t keep your customers waiting. Make it crystal clear in your interviews, editorials and interactions with your customers and the media, how your product or service can fulfil an immediate need.

Take, for example, paint brand Dulux. To satisfy the need for instant gratification, they created and marketed a paint colour visualiser function on their website, which enables users to virtually ‘paint’ a room in their house with any Dulux colour before committing to buy.

It’s a great example of a business marketing to our desire for instant gratification. Incidentally, instant gratification often leads to instant purchases. Bonus.

So how about B2B?

The emotional triggers of B2B

B2B customers are triggered by different emotions. They’re looking for ways to save time and money while boosting productivity. They’re looking for reliable, credible businesses to work with.

Risk averse B2B purchases

Small boy at the edge of a swimming pool reaches out to mother

Hiscox ‘Encourage Courage’ campaign

The stakes are high for B2B buyers as the purchases are typically worth more. Jobs, reputations and livelihoods can be on the line. For this reason, B2B buyers tend to be risk averse. Anything you can do to reassure them that you and your business are reliable will work in your favour.

Computer hardware brand IBM is renowned for using this tactic. Their former tagline, ‘nobody ever got fired for buying IBM,’ put them on the radar for business owners around the globe.

Meanwhile British insurance brand Hiscox played up to the security emotion with their ‘encourage courage’ campaign, where the key message was ‘it’s ok to take risks as Hiscox has your back’.

How can you convince your prospects they’re in safe hands with your business?

Building trust in B2B

Trust is one of the most effective triggers in emotional marketing. Trust leads to brand loyalty, which ultimately leads to repeat business.

To earn your customer’s trust, follow these six comms principles:

  • Be open and transparent in your comms. This goes for customers, prospects and the media.
  • Put customer’s testimonials on your website, plus links to your reviews on third-party sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc.
  • Shout about any awards you’ve won on your website, social media and in press releases
  • Reduce the level of risk and show confidence in your product or service by offering a 100% money-back guarantee, or a free trial.
  • People buy from people. So, humanise your brand. Let consumers get to know the people behind your business. Film the CEO talking about your product on camera and stick it on the front page of your website. Put your team in the spotlight. Include pictures and bios of them. Get them to write guest blog posts and hold online Q&A sessions. It’ll make people warm to you.
  • We all love a good stat. If you have some impressive results, figures, stats or facts about your business, post them. If you’ve got loads, turn them into an impressive infographic.


Five key differences around B2B vs B2C PR

1. Short vs long buying cycle

As consumers, we tend to make purchase decisions quickly, if not on-the-spot. We don’t form a committee and take a month to decide between Coke and Pepsi. But this is often the case for B2B businesses. Whether it’s office furniture, a business trip, or a broadband connection, every purchase is carefully researched and considered.

It can be a lengthy process, so you need to find ways to keep your prospect engaged through each stage of the buying cycle. Give them added value content such as eBooks and white papers. Invite them out for lunch. Invite them to seminars and exclusive company events.

The more work you put in to building a rapport, the better position you’ll be in when it comes to decision time.

2. Education vs entertainment

Leading on from the last point, B2B buyers do a huge amount of research before investing in a product or service. They’re looking for credible, informed and respected suppliers. So, you need to wow them with your industry knowledge and expertise.

There are various ways to do this.

  • Invite your prospects to an exclusive webinar or seminar that covers an issue facing their industry or business.
  • Host a live Q&A/troubleshooting session with your prospects and customers on Facebook Live or Skype
  • Create a bank of thought leadership content, from events you speak at, to guest blog posts you write. Go to lectures, seminars and CPD events. The more informed you are, the more sway you’ll hold with prospects.

However, this isn’t so important for B2C buyers. For them, your content needs to be simple, entertaining, and relatable. They want videos that make them smile, blogs that make them laugh, and social updates they can share with their friends.

PR Tip: For the B2B buyers, make sure your owned media channels are packed with educational content. It needs to address their pain points and demonstrate the value of your product or service. Ebooks, white papers and detailed blog posts are your friends here.

3. Long-term relationships vs impulse sales

Once a B2B business finds a supplier they trust, they’ll stick with you. It can be a long and beautiful relationship.

B2C customers, well, let’s just say, they’re just not that into you. B2C buyers can be just as loyal to your brand as business customers, of course. There are people out there who refuse to buy any other soft drink than Coca-Cola and will only wear Nike shoes to go to the gym. However, most of these sales are made on a one-time basis, with the hope of repeat business. That means that B2C organisations spend more time on brand awareness, than customer retention campaigns.

4. Online vs trade press

Zoe Suggs Beauty Blogger

Beauty blogger Zoella

The media channels you approach will be different for B2B and B2C audiences. If you’re promoting a funky new brand of makeup for Millennials, your target market won’t be reading technical trade magazines. They’ll be on Instagram, checking out the latest vlogs from beauty influencers such as Zoella.

If you’re selling accountancy software to CFOs, they won’t be sliding into DMs on Twitter. They’ll be looking for valuable content in the likes of Accountancy Daily.

Do your homework and find out where your audience consumes information and target them there.

PR Tip: Be mindful of your brand voice. Keep it simple for B2C audiences. The industry lingo you throw around in the office might impress B2B customers. But it’s a major turnoff for a B2C consumer.

For B2B audiences, be professional, informative and helpful. You can use industry-specific terminology as your readers will have some understanding of your industry. But don’t overdo it.

5. Instagram vs LinkedIn

For B2C brands, brand awareness is key. The aim with social media is to gain as many followers as possible and generate a buzz and desire for your product. Instagram and YouTube are ideal for this as videos and images are easy to consume and share.

However, B2B social is a different beast. Buyers are looking for content that’s going to help them solve a business problem. The first place they typically look is LinkedIn.

Give them what they want in the form of articles, white papers, blog posts and thought pieces. They’ll love you for it.

PR Tip: An Instagram post may be an effective way to generate buzz for a consumer product like makeup or shoes, but it’s not going to cut the mustard for Cloud accounting software. Conversely, no-one’s going to read a white paper on toothpaste. Make sure your content fits the medium.

Know your niche

Which camp does your business fall into? B2C, B2B? Both? Be sure you know the answer before writing your press release or doing that interview on local radio. It won’t be successful if you don’t understand the needs, challenges and motivation of your buyers.

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