B-to-B vs. B-to-C – Part 1

by Marc Diebold, President & CEO

When I’m in a social situation where the conversation turns to work-related subjects, I’m often asked what I do for a living, as we all are. If the person I’m talking with is engaged somehow in this and the conversation expands, it can lead to questions about what business-to-business marketing is about, and how it’s different from consumer marketing. I believe this curiosity stems from the fact that most people who took any classes on marketing were studying consumer marketing examples instead of business marketing examples. This in and of itself is a beef of mine with the academic world that I’ll try to address in another blog post, but suffice to say that from my experience interviewing recent college graduates, few of them have ever been exposed to anything other than consumer marketing as part of their school curriculum. Add to that the reality that you rarely see business-to-business advertising campaigns in mainstream consumer media, and what you’re left with is that people just don’t see b-to-b marketing unless they themselves are a target audience in their work lives. So, when I’m asked about the differences between these two categories, I usually try to start by explaining what motivates people to buy things. In everyday life, as a consumer, you have needs that range from basic ones like ‘I need to eat to survive so I’m going to buy food’ to emotional or status-driven ones like ‘I think I would look more attractive in that shirt or blouse so I’m going to buy it.’ In the b-to-b world, what usually motivates people is a need to solve a problem, pursue an opportunity, or make a company more efficient. It’s really about having a different mindset. From my perspective, business-to-business marketing is much more difficult, especially when the subject matter is complex and the buyer is a technical person, which is what we deal with on a daily basis here at dgs Marketing Engineers. It may not be as glamorous as consumer marketing, but it can be more rewarding. More on the differences between b-to-b and b-to-c marketing in a future blog post.

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