Clients are clients are clients, right? Pretty much, except when one of your clients is a 'B2B' client and one is a 'B2C' client.
B2B stands for business-to-business, and B2C means business-to-consumer. B2B clients will market their products and services to business-focused people (e.g. advertising agencies, office furniture manufacturers and commercial real estate companies), and B2C clients will market to consumers (e.g. restaurants, retail stores and tourist attractions). Some (such as a cleaning company that cleans both commercial office spaces and private homes) will market to both.
Whilst your experience of working with B2B and B2C client contacts will be very similar, the strategic output that you produce for these clients will be very different.
Jargon: For B2B communication you will be able to swim in a sea of industry-related jargon, and use that to excellent effect; but for B2C communication your 'voice' must be more relatable to a wider range of consumers - less jargon and more simple language.
Drivers: The B2B audience is more concerned with efficiency and expertise whilst a B2C audience wants deals and entertainment. The purchasing process for B2B is usually rational, unemotional, and logical; and the B2C process is driven by emotions (hunger, desire, status, cost). B2B is relationship-driven; B2C is product and offer-driven.
Meeting needs: B2B customers want to gain prestige in their workplaces (via making wise purchasing decisions, or by obtaining knowledge); B2C customers just want to enjoy their purchase and feel content that the purchase satisfies their emotional drivers (as per above).
Content: B2B content is usually more wordy and highly detailed than B2C, which tends to be brief, attention-getting, and shareable.
Building relationships: A B2C consumer who follows a brand is not necessarily wanting to build a close relationship with it; whilst a B2B consumer seeks out more information about a brand or company in the hope of building a close relationship with it.
Purchasing process: B2C consumers can make a purchasing decision on the spur of the moment and the sale is then complete. B2B consumers have a much longer chain of command to deal with, where purchases often need to be thoroughly researched, justified and the approval of others sought before a sale is made. B2C buying tends to satisfy immediate needs, and B2B decisions are usually made to fulfill long-term goals.
Contracts: The majority of B2C purchases are made without a contract being signed and the purchase may or may not be repeated. B2B consumers are more likely to sign a contract for the purchase, which may include a repeat business commitment that could last for months or even years.
Both B2B and B2C clients will require your agency's input into their advertising, promotions and publicity exactly the same (though the tactical execution of the campaigns will be different); and both B2B and B2C end-customers want quality customer service; and to know they are purchasing from a reliable and trusted source.
However, the key similarity is that all of your campaign work (whether it's B2B or B2C) is simply P2P (person-to-person), a.k.a. H2H (human-to-human).
Agencies are realising that businesses don't make decisions, people do. No matter what kind of industry your client is in, they deal with people. P2P promotions should move past simply promoting products and services and let customers know how much your client can actually help them.
This concept works well for B2C clients, but is much harder to communicate for B2B clients (when conveying 'boring' facts plays an important role in how you communicate to the customer). Even in a world where you are helping your client to sell widgets (that require the inclusion of specifications and data) the people buying the widgets are still people. By thinking outside-the-box in the way you communicate to these B2B customers, you can appeal to their emotions just as much as if you were selling softdrink to a teenager.
When you are thinking about B2B and B2C strategies and tactics, don't forget the people of the P2P and your campaign will be richer for it.
Sarah Ritchie is the founder of AM-Insider - a website bursting with tips, tricks and resources to create account management superstars in the advertising, design, PR, experiential and print industries. Sarah has been involved in account management for 25 years and has a passion for encouraging, mentoring and helping others succeed.
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