When it comes to Business-to-Consumer marketing, or B2C marketing, the consumer is in charge of pretty much everything. The proliferation of channels, like social media and mobile marketing, has provided the consumer with unprecedented power and control over a given B2C brand, such as yours. What this means to B2C marketers is the stark realization that they are no longer driving the proverbial bus. The consumers are, and thus, B2C marketers have to put customers and prospects at the front and center of everything they do.
Words such as “relevance” and “relationship” have taken on a whole new meaning when it comes to B2C marketing. Consumers today want only marketing messages that are relevant to them. They know full well that you, as a B2C marketer, have information or, in marketing parlance, data, on them. So, they expect and demand that you more directly speak to them. They want you to take what you know about them and deliver a highly personalized shopping experience across every channel possible based upon that information. Amazon has been doing this for years, taking what they know about their shoppers and visitors to their website and in turn using that data to personalize the customer experience. Making the customer journey a more delightful experience for the shopper due to their preferences leads to repeat business and strong word of mouth as well. It grows your brand.
Whereas B2C markets to the general public, Business-to-Business, or B2B, markets to other businesses, institutions—such as hospitals or universities—and government agencies. B2B tends to take longer and is a more involved process. It depends greatly on building and utilizing the relationship between the seller and buyer. While a relationship exists between the buyer and seller in B2C, transactions are usually faster and can occur within in the moment. For example, someone might wander into a store and, on the spur of moment, decide to buy a new set of clothes. For B2B, however, a larger company selling another a few thousand computers requires more time to market the product, close the sale, and set up the delivery. It also will involve far more money. In both B2B and B2C, providing a positive customer experience can lead to repeat business and a strengthening of the relationship between the seller and buyer.
B2B marketing has the advantage of a target market that stays in place. After all, companies need products and services to stay in business themselves. Some products and services are better suited to B2B as well. The average consumer likely doesn’t have a need for raw materials or commodities sold in bulk. Of course, a B2B market is smaller than the general public, but that is where strong relationship building comes into play. By building and strengthening a relationship with a business, a B2B marketer might sell them additional products and services and have them as an advocate to recommend their business to other customers.
On the other hand, B2C sells to a large and varied market. They might try to market to the largest group of people possible or specialize in only a niche audience. However, a massive audience, such as the general public, can be difficult to break down into a segmented customer base. It is not impossible, though. Having proper data and understanding your customers can help greatly. The more you know you about your customer base the better you can decide whom specifically to market to and how to capture their attention.
Some businesses choose to do both B2B and B2C marketing. For example, a cleaning service, IT repairman, or exterminator might do work for both homes and large businesses. You could even have separate divisions for B2B and B2C. For example, a creative agency might mass produce art for general consumption but also have a graphic design department to work with businesses. Whether you do B2C, B2B, or both depends upon your business, your supply chain, and your customer base.
A key difference between B2C and B2B marketing is that in a B2B a customer will make a buying decision based mostly upon profit and profit potential. In B2C though, a customer will might make a buying decision based mostly upon an emotional response. Price and value factor in as well, but inspiring an emotional response can attach a customer to a product or service and make it much more likely that they will make a purchase.
Emotions are the most powerful tools a B2C marketer can wield. When personalizing a customer experience and content, the more you can stir a customer’s emotions the better chances you have of intriguing them, holding their attention, and interesting them in what you are selling. Having a large amount of data on a customer aids greatly in provoking the right emotional response.
You need a high level of personalization to stand out, as a customer might encounter thousands of different advertisements in a given day. Therefore, B2C marketers need to make a connection with customers, stir their emotions, and excite them. By hitting the right emotional cues, you can make a sale and also begin building some brand loyalty between you and the customer. Satisfying an emotional need goes a long way in developing a bond between the customer and your brand.
Remember that marketing is storytelling, and storytelling touches an audience and leaves an impression by evoking the right emotions and giving the audience something to come away with. Perhaps it is a moral or message, an idea for them to chew on, a powerful image, information, or a cautionary tale. Your task as a marketer involves determining what your customer finds useful and insightful and putting that to good use.
How can you, the B2C marketer, make an emotional appeal? How can you properly tug on a customer’s heartstrings? There are a multitude of ways, just like there are a multitude of ways to tell a story. Here are a few ideas that you might consider.
Reminding someone of good times and achievements can help them form an emotional attachment. Does that guitar remind them of playing in a band and how they always wanted to get back to playing music? Does a song make them think of their first love? Maybe you used to have lunch with your favorite uncle at a certain restaurant, and you always ordered a tall glass of raspberry iced tea. If raspberry iced tea always make you think of your uncle, then you are likely to purchase some.
People want to feel like they belong, that they are cool, and people like them. Will that leather coat make them look hipper and more attractive? It could change their look and make them feel more confident, so they could be more inclined to buy it. Is everyone else checking out this one song-sharing website? Signing up for the site might someone feel like they haven’t been left out.
Can you help someone erase their debt? Get into good shape? Become a better public speaker? If you can help solve someone’s problems and improve their lives, you need to show them how, which will definitely pique their interest.
Drive some people to action by giving them the chance to help somebody else. Is there a cause they care about? A charity they might be involved in? Do they want to make the world a better place? Can you help them do so? Can your grocery store ask them to buy bags to use over and over rather than opt for paper or plastic bags that they throw away after only one use? It could help the environment little by little, and the customer might be thrilled that you care.
We all have ties that bind us and people we care about. How can your products and services help better connect someone to their loved ones? A smartphone is a great device, but if it comes with a camera that can snap and store pictures of nights out with your friends that can make it even more special. If you remind someone that they can use the smartphone to Skype, message, call, or Facetime with their parents who live across the country, they might see how the phone can better connect them to their family. That can influence their buying decision.
Take care when crafting emotional responses though, as you do not want to go too far and manipulate people’s emotions. You should strive to be as genuine as possible, as people will eventually see through any façade and will feel betrayed, which will certainly have a negative effect on your marketing and brand.
Another advantage that B2C holds over B2B is that B2C have more ways to reach their customer base, which makes sense, as their customer base is much larger and varied. Both B2B and B2C marketers will take advantage of the internet and digital technologies. They will both use emails, social media, and a web presence to their advantage. However, while B2C might not write white papers and submit articles to major publications, B2B will not rely upon radio ads, TV commercials, or fliers. B2C can and will use radio, TV, and fliers.
B2C can allow you to get extremely creative with your content. B2B often calls for a more business-like voice and tone to content, though that isn’t to say there isn’t room for some clever creativity and say, a sense of humor. Still, you should tailor your marketing for your audience, and B2B tends to call for more professionalism. However, B2C gives you more of a chance to stretch your creative talents, as you are looking to catch the eye of the general public and spark their imagination, rather than show a business how they can improve their profit margins.
A song or jingle might not be appropriate for a B2B customer, but could work great with the general public. You might run contests with B2C or create loyalty and ambassadorship programs to reward and empower your customers. Having an employee dress up as your mascot and doing card tricks for your customers is even a form of B2C marketing.
Whether a customer is reading an email from you, going onto your website, or dropping by your store, do not discount the power of making them enjoy themselves. Joy and love are the most powerful emotions. If they have a good time interacting with you, customers will remember it and come back for more.
How creative should you get? Should you use a song in a radio ad? Should you send a Christmas card email that rhymes?
It depends on your business and your customers. What will your customer base respond to, and what kind of business are you? How can you reach them? How can you connect with them?
What do the metrics say? What are people responding to? The results will tell you what you need to know.
Allow for flexibility in thinking when crafting your B2C marketing strategy. You might stay the course or change direction entirely. It all comes down to your customers and listening to them. Your marketing should reflect their needs and wants, as it is all about them.