Many find it difficult to grasp the deep and nuanced differences of B2B vs B2C content marketing but, as Samantha Waterworth explores, it pays to know…
Marketers talk often – and at length – about creating the right content and promoting it. There’s nothing wrong with this; in fact, it’s a welcome part of the process of creativity and ideation.
What many fail to realise is that marketing isn’t just marketing. It’s an industry and a discipline, in which B2B and B2C content marketing are crucial categories. Here’s why:
What is B2C marketing?
B2C, or business-to-consumer, is the marketing of products and services towards individuals – a restaurant marketing their food, reputation and atmosphere, for example.
What is B2B marketing?
B2B, or business-to-business, is the marketing of products and services towards other businesses. This could be a phone supplier marketing their offerings for office environments.
Despite sharing some common ground, both B2B and B2C content marketing come with their own unique set of strategies and challenges. Yes, content marketers in both areas need to connect brands with customers through the power of storytelling, but the way messaging is crafted and the tactics used to share it are as distinguishable as the content itself.
It’s all in the strategy
The distinction between content marketing in the B2B and B2C subsets becomes apparent rather quickly when you’re setting marketing goals and objectives.
This makes sense because your audience should clearly dictate your strategy. This means at a base level, B2B and B2C content marketers will approach their content strategies in fundamentally different ways.
B2B marketers have vast stores of industry knowledge at their disposal – Which is probably why 85 per cent of B2B content marketers are using content to build brands via thought leadership.
Showcasing expertise through thought leadership articles, B2B marketers can offer crucial insight into the marketplace, positioning their brands as leaders in the industry. That’s why an effective B2B content strategy is often simply about being the most respected source of industry information in your field.
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In contrast, being a thought leader isn’t necessarily as important if your brand is in the B2C space. Which is why, for B2C marketers, the focus often lies in entertainment value.
It’s unlikely that a consumer would choose McDonald’s over KFC, for example, because they believe McDonald’s understands the fast food industry more than KFC does. As B2C content marketers we don’t necessarily want consumers to think, we want them to feel. While the product and a brand’s knowledge around that product sometimes make an appearance in content marketing, it’s the emotional impact that usually counts.
After all, studies show consumers tend to buy with emotion and justify with facts.
For corporate customers however, purchasing decisions are grounded in reason, which means brands need to get creative to demonstrate the complexities of their products in an engaging way. When it comes down to it, businesses will generally buy when they believe what they’re buying will save them money, save them time or make them more money.
B2B vs B2C content marketing: Content, content, content
Businesses and consumers make their purchasing decisions differently, and this has its implications for content creation.
It all boils down to this: B2B content should inform and educate, and B2C content should excite and inspire.
For a B2B example, take the work we do for Telstra IN:SIGHT. Telstra came to us with the challenge of translating the high-level vision of an established, iconic brand into content that engages with a time-poor, but influential audience.
Through a combination of educational articles, insightful Q&As, video content and thought provoking case studies, this is a platform that informs and educates, connecting the brand with customers through the power of storytelling.
Success for this platform came down to creating content that could strike the perfect balance between corporate messaging, actionable advice and compelling stories.
On the B2C front, take our work for Vitamix. With a global mission to change the way people think about food, for good, we developed a strategy to build brand awareness, inspire people to eat real, homemade food, and cultivate a large and engaged online community.
This culminated in the creation of the Vitamix Real Food Movement – an integrated campaign involving PR, video, social and written content, designed to excite and inspire consumers across Australia and New Zealand, again connecting the brand with customers through compelling storytelling.
When it comes to content type, a report from The Economist shows 85% of business leaders prefer textual content in comparison to audio or video when making business decisions – an interesting finding given the recent hype around video formats.
This could be because video and audio require a bigger commitment from the visitor than a text article and make it harder to multitask. You can quickly scan a blog post or article in way that isn’t possible for video or audio content.
Entrepreneur and influencer, Neil Patel decided to put this theory to the test with an experiment, launching Quick Sprout University. He quickly found that although his videos were well received amongst his audience they didn’t perform nearly as well as he expected them to and actually cost him more to produce than they provided in value.
In the B2C space you can almost flip this result on its head. A study of 1,000 UK adults found consumers were more likely to share a video than a text article.
Similarly, research firm Marketing Sherpa have discovered video can attract between 200-300 per cent more unique visitors and increase time-on-site by 100 per cent, and digital magazine Internet Retailer have reported customers who viewed product videos were 85 per cent more likely to buy than those who didn’t.
When you think about it, it makes sense. Video content in the B2C space has a clear advantage – it’s made to have an emotional impact and emotion resonates. It’s no wonder the average amount of time people will spend consuming online video each day is set to increase 19.8 per cent in 2016.
B2B vs B2C content marketing: Channelling your audience
Channels are another aspect where B2B and B2C content marketing often diverge.
B2C marketers have a broad scope of potential opportunities to reach prospective customers. So much of the content marketing conversation centres on the B2C space and this may be because more it’s more traditional marketing distribution, which sees a focus on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest and blogs. That isn’t to say that distribution opportunities for B2B marketers are any less. Your typical B2B distribution plan might include a company blog and website, guest blogging, LinkedIn, SlideShare and YouTube.
These are valuable channels in their own right. LinkedIn’s Sponsored Updates, for example, give B2B content marketers an opportunity to get their messages in front of highly targeted business audiences.
The depth of the divide
Despite key differences, the lines between B2B and B2C buyers are becoming increasingly blurred. Take the following comment from creative director and co-founder of B2B marketing agency, Velocity Partners, Doug Kessler:
“Sometimes I wonder if the B2B vs. B2C thing is a dead end. It’s funny that we marketers – the experts on segmentation – are still banging our heads against the B2B/B2C segmentation. Maybe it’s not the most meaningful way to segment brands.
Maybe something like ‘long sales cycle’/’short sales cycle’ is more meaningful. Some B2B brands sell off the web page (anti-virus software, say) and some B2C brands have sales cycles that last for months (cars, mortgages). So maybe it’s so hard to nail the differences between B2B and B2C is because they have a fair amount of overlap.”
Whatever your stance on the above comment may be, it serves as a useful reminder – in the end it comes down to how well you understand your audience.
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