B2B vs. B2C: What Does It Really Mean?

I’ve been having an identity crisis of sorts lately., B2B vs. B2C:  What Does It Really Mean?

I’ve spent my career working in B2B. This blog and the LinkedIn group to which it’s connected are all about B2B lead generation.

Problem is, I don’t know if B2B is an accurate acronym anymore. David Meerman Scott in this interview insists that B2B and B2C are essentially the same: “Ultimately it’s people doing business with people…I think a lot of business-to-business companies forget that and they think they’re selling to Xerox and IBM and Cisco. No, they’re selling to the people at Xerox and IBM and Cisco.”

In contrast, Kristin Zhivago, who is going to be one of our keynote speakers at MarketingSherpa’s B2B Summits this fall, points out that B2B and B2C are as similar as a hysterical Justin Bieber fan and a Fortune 50 CEO. Read more in her recent Revenue Journal blog.

Here’s the paradox: I think Scott and Zhivago are both right.

B2B and B2C both have a common ground: relationships. But I don’t mean the “let’s play a round of golf” or “BFF” kind of relationship, I mean relationships that create professional trust, where “you’re in sync with your customer,” as Zhivago puts it. After all, in today’s economic climate, there’s just no room in anyone’s budget for a bad purchasing decision; jobs may hinge on solutions selected. That’s why marketing has to be more targeted than ever. We must identify precisely who our customers are. We must know how to speak to them and give them the information they want and need in a way that makes them pay attention and take the right action.

Consider this just-published MarketingSherpa case study.

In short, Central Desktop, a B2B software company, launched a cloud-based project-management platform. They determined their target market was executives in top advertising agencies and their affiliates. They developed a campaign encompassing email, direct mail, landing pages, and social media that were “in sync” with the mindset of this target market and engaged them in a conversation that was carried across multiple channels. (If you want to learn more about how to do the same, read this article.) It ultimately ended with a phone call from a sales professional to the warm leads. (This is where I would advise having a professional teleprospector make the initial phone call to qualify opportunity. This will increase the productivity of sales professionals whose time is more valuable. Dave Green explains more about this here.) Nonetheless, the campaign resulted in an increase in pipeline verging on 30 percent.

But here’s the point: their effort wasn’t B2B or B2C, it was B2CMO and B2VP.

Certainly, broad terms like B2B and B2C have their place – like big networking groups such as the B2B Lead Roundtable. But they’re not going to define my company’s marketplace and they shouldn’t define yours either. Do you agree? I welcome your thoughts.

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