How Big is the Difference Between B2B and B2C Marketing?


For some time a question has lingered in my mind: is there truly a difference between B2B and B2C marketing? Most articles on the topic are set on the idea that both types of marketing campaigns are fundamentally different – but considering the goals and strategies one sees in so many campaigns, there’s more overlap than one might initially recognize.

As a marketing professional who’s worked in both disciplines, it’s becoming clearer to me that there isn’t much difference in campaign architecture. Of course, when you get down into the marketing funnel and the decision-making tree, there are key differences. But, in the main, campaigns utilize many of the same building blocks.

Still skeptical? Let’s take a look at key pillars found in every successful campaign – regardless of whether it’s B2B or B2C.

Focus on Audience Reach

The first objective of any brand is to increase audience reach and awareness – no matter if we’re talking B2B or B2C marketing. Psychographics may differ drastically, as you’re moving from your everyday individual to business owners and decision makers. However, everyone you’re targeting still qualifies as a purchaser – or consumer – of a product or service. Messaging must be targeted across the matrix (which we discuss later) – but, at the end of the day you’re still targeting an individual for purposes of getting them to purchase – or consume – your offering.

KPI’s to Measure Effectiveness

Key performance indicators (KPIs) are set in every marketing campaign to ensure the team is meeting marketing goals effectively. It’s the best way for a company to understand ROI. Specific indicators will vary depending on industry, but, marketing and communications metrics are pretty well standardized, regardless of channel application.

Goal: Increase Sales

When it’s all said and done, the overall company goal usually boils down to one data point – increased conversions and sales. These are the ultimate objectives of any marketing team, and the job never really changes – although the prospective buyer may. Regardless, we want the target audience to do exactly the same thing in both cases – be aware, engage and ultimately respond to a particular call to action.

Content, Content, Content

Every great marketing campaign has compelling content being pushed out on a regular basis – it’s what draws an audience and keeps them engaged. In the case of B2B brands, the content tends to be more educational (not always, however!) and focused on solutions. B2C brands rely more on emotion to engage their audience. Either way, without content that resonates, a brand can fall flat and fail to find relevance.

Measure Results

 More than ever, marketing campaigns today must measure results to gauge their effectiveness. Otherwise, we’re operating in the blind, with no sense of what’s working and what isn’t. The measurement technologies we employ today through the technology stack don’t vary much, either. Most platforms rely on logarithms and Boolean search to measure everything from audience reach, frequency and engagement to behavior and more.

To summarize, when looking into the specific tactics of a marketing campaign, there are obvious differences in the way they are managed and deployed. And your target audience may change, as it does with nearly every campaign, with appropriate messaging for that segment. However, the bottom line of any marketing campaign  – whether you’re soap or enterprise software – remains the same. You either moved the needle. Or you didn’t.

Michael Shepherd

Michael serves as Managing Partner of The Shepherd Group, a brand and communications firm with offices in Seattle and Newport Beach. A former journalist, he specializes in building narratives through discovery, design, and development of branded editorial and visual content.