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Busting the B2B Myth: Why B2B isn’t all that different to B2C

September 30, 2013


I often get told, particularly by those who have only worked in B2C companies, that business-to-business (B2B) marketing is completely different to business-to-consumer (B2C). And often it is said in a way that makes me feel like a red-headed stepchild. Looking from the outside in, B2B may appear to be some kind of old-time, mystical creature that is slow (I wish), boring (far from it), and terribly behind the times (ok then). But is it really that different?

Here are three common misconceptions about B2B marketing.

Myth 1. B2B only markets to businesses

It often surprises me how using the word, “business” can lead to some interesting assumptions. The most common being that B2B marketers only market to businesses, not people… almost as if you are trying to sell something to a concrete building. But here’s the thing, businesses are composed of people who make decisions to buy just like ordinary consumers do.

Just like consumers, these people have to work within a budget, have branding and emotional preferences, must decide between price and quality trade-offs, and often consult others as part of their decision-making process. Is there much of a difference between whether it is your boss or your wife who has final say? You tell me.

Myth 2. LinkedIn is the only type of “social media” that works for B2B

Let’s face it, LinkedIn is full of boring business stuff (resumes, company profiles, networking groups) so it must be the only social media channel that works in B2B. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube? Bah! That’s only for the cool B2C kids.

Some argue that Facebook only appeals to younger users, often in school or college. But as Business Insider recently reported, the number of 45 to 54-year-old users on Facebook have grown by 45% since 2012. Even more surprisingly, these users command incomes of over $75,000. Yes, these people actually work for a living, are relatively senior, and most likely have jobs working for very good companies. Most importantly, just like you and me, they don’t switch off from work when they get home at night.

Whether I am watching TV, in the shower, or lurking on Facebook, I always have work on my mind, and I’m not the only one. This is why I’ve seen well-targeted Facebook ads converting 30% higher than PPC in B2B markets.

Myth 3. B2B marketing success is only based on tracking leads, not sales

Sure, leads are definitely important in a B2B environment. Because B2B products are commonly more complex, the buying process can span many months – even years – and often requires additional assistance from a knowledgeable sales person. But leads are only a precursor. Leads are important because they allow us to track (and fill) the marketing funnel now, and in the months and years to come. But this doesn’t mean that B2B companies don’t also track orders/sales. Afterall, any business does not survive off leads, it survives from revenue.

The process may not be as straightforward as most B2C companies with an e-commerce operation, but it isn’t impossible. And even if B2B companies aren’t able to track offline sales, it is what all companies – B2B and B2C alike – strive to do in order to become more effective in tracking marketing investment. Yes, even B2C marketers often struggle to figure out what offline/retail sales were influenced by their marketing activities.

Finally, don’t just assume that B2B marketers don’t sell online. At last check, around 25% of B2B websites also have e-commerce functionality.

So the next time you meet a B2B marketer, don’t turn up your nose and walk in the other direction. Speak to them with an open mind. You may find that you share more in common than you realize.

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