The most basic way that businesses make a profit is to sell their goods and services. To do so first requires that businesses provide a good or service, then to market that product and make sales. However, there are two very different channels that businesses can sell through. Selling directly to consumers, or “business-to-consumer” (B2C) marketing, is an entirely different operation than selling directly to other businesses (“business-to-business”, or B2B).
Knowing which of these is your major focus is important since both require different technologies, strategies, delivery systems, and more. So, let’s look at just how B2B and B2C marketing are different, and how to optimise your strategy for each of these channels.
The value of one transaction
To increase the value of your company’s sales, you can work to increase either the number of sales you make or the value of those sales. How much is one transaction worth to your business? While there is no hard and fast rule – some businesses market super-high value products directly to ultra-wealthy consumers, while other businesses supply other firms with office essentials – B2B marketing generally focuses on fewer, higher-value contracts, while B2C marketing involves more transactions costing less money each.
When selling to consumers, your product is generally available for a fixed price at certain points of sale. You’ll know exactly how much of a return each sale will net you, so your marketing will focus on trying to get more consumers to buy your product. Relevant strategies could include advertising campaigns, building a brand image, and expanding your product’s availability to new stores and areas.
In contrast, B2B sellers are often acutely aware of how valuable big contracts are to their bottom line. Winning a contract to supply another business with a large volume of goods or services on a regular basis can be worth more to you than a lot of smaller contracts. So, B2B marketing often involves a larger focus on adding value to sales.
Navigating price points
In B2C marketing, the price of a product or service is generally fixed. Part of the marketing process involves finding out what certain markets will be generally happy to pay for your product and setting a price point that reflects that while still maintaining profitability. In contrast, prices for B2B goods and services vary considerably from contract to contract. Businesses often negotiate lower prices for products when purchasing large contracts. The lower price is a reward for purchasing a high volume of goods or services from the supplier.
B2C marketing increasingly reflects this through loyalty card schemes and membership deals, showing that maintaining loyalty is important for both B2B and B2C marketers. However, running these schemes is different from operating on that basis on a day-to-day level, as B2B marketers are used to.
Consumers often value convenience more than businesses do. While B2B transactions are usually fulfilled through agreed distribution channels that are mutually agreeable to both parties, B2C transactions occur at points of sale. Traditionally, these are brick-and-mortar stores, so a consumer’s decision will often be motivated by what products are available in the stores nearest to them. With the rise of online retailers, consumers can purchase products from the comfort of their own home. Advantages are then conceded to businesses who can offer quicker shipping, and whose products are available on more popular websites.
B2B marketers focus less on the convenience and quickness of points of sale and overnight shipping and are more focused on delivering messages about the benefits their products can make on a potential customer’s business.
Aiming messaging correctly
B2C marketers are usually more focused on engaging consumers’ emotional decision making, as their purchasing decisions are more frequent, less consequential, and more motivated by spur of the moment feelings. When businesses make purchasing decisions, there are often multiple people making the same decision. The relative merits of different product options are discussed internally, and decisions can take much longer to make. As a result, B2B networking plays a large role in B2B marketing as businesses share their experiences with certain suppliers with each other – a good reputation can be great currency here.
B2C marketers are trying to convince each consumer individually. Since consumers are generally exposed to an environment that is over-saturated with marketing messages, they give very little time to each message. So, the B2C mentality is much more about making quick value propositions and engaging emotional reasoning.
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