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How Similar are B2B and B2C Sales?

By | August 11, 2010 9:03 am

Some people might think, sales are sales, and it doesn’t matter who your customer is along the way because you’re looking for the same result in the end. However, you wouldn’t market to a 5 year old the same way you would to an adult, so why market to a business the same way you would a consumer? Clearly, the main difference between B2B and B2C sites is their focus on the consumer and the type of consumer they sell to.  B2C sites sell directly to the customer, yet B2B is geared more toward businesses which then supply the customer with goods or services.  With this in mind, the sales process is markedly different even though the end result might be the same.

B2B Differences

  • Business to Business marketing concentrates on customer retention and ultimately has a much longer sales process.  Larger orders are the norm, and orders tend to happen at regular intervals (think buying office supplies for your company).
  • B2B sales are driven by facts and numbers.  Because of the slower sales cycle (often taking months or even years) B2B sales can potentially be worth millions of dollars.  Likewise, the ordering process takes more time and is more involved.  A B2B sale typically won’t be a one-off credit card order online, but rather a purchase order process with approval from top decision-makers.
  • B2B primarily focuses on customizable products or items that can be configured, such as building custom computers for a large office.  The recipient in a B2B may never have heard of the company they’re ordering from, so brand loyalty generally isn’t a manageable factor.

B2C Differences

  • B2C typically involves one person (the customer) making the purchase from one vendor. Orders are shorter and are less likely to repeat again in the future.
  • B2C sales are primarily governed by emotions.  Brand recognition and loyalty play a key part on the success of the sale.   Orders are processed online and the transaction is generally completed with a credit card.
  • B2C products are generally not customizable and are more readily available for instant purchase.  The total amount per sale is considerably smaller than B2B transactions.

Both types of sales cycles include some degree of customer management, but how they approach and work with the customer are completely different.  For a B2C website, writes CRM Buyer, a customer relationship management system for a B2C business would require that company to deal with a lot of needless overhead for every single customer (of which there may be tens of thousands).  On the other hand, a B2B company would get much more value out of such a system because the client list is considerably smaller and the value per customer is much larger.  This kind of “hierarchical structure” allows the B2B company to cultivate and grow their client relationships over time.

What Are Their Biggest Concerns?

A survey conducted by SilverPop in April of 2010 showed that B2B and B2C have some similarities in terms of customer loyalty goals. From over 1,800 consumer and business email marketers, the survey learned that both groups were interested in leveraging social media and mobile applications, as well as increasing up-sells and cross-sales as part of their promotions.  However, “increasing customer loyalty” was a main concern for only 27% of B2B marketers, compared to 45% of their B2C counterparts.

Not surprisingly, because B2B has such a lengthier sales cycle, moving customers through the sales pipeline was a major concern for 51% of B2B’ers, versus just 27% of B2C businesses.  Since orders tend to follow the same amount and frequency, email marketing reminders can be an excellent way of boosting sales.

Reaching and Retaining Customers

In order to capitalize on the differences between the two types of markets, B2B companies should focus on the points which help strengthen the business-to-business relationship and keep communication channels open. B2C companies, on the other hand, will need to concentrate their efforts on what drives customers, such as coupons and storefront displays.  B2B sites should pour their efforts into lead generation, with the knowledge that only a few of those leads may turn into genuine and regular contracts.  Businesses who market to consumers need to be more concerned with customer acquisition, and should continually ask themselves, “How can I keep them coming back?”

Can a Company Be Both B2B and B2C-Oriented?

Yes – but the marketing approaches will need to be tailored to each particular marketing segment.  Dell Computer is a perfect example of a company which serves both B2B and B2C clients.  Their “Dell for Consumers” site has all the features you’d expect of a user-friendly site:  popular deals, desktops for gamers or for the family, and a “help me choose” option to let the customer narrow down their options.

The business component of Dell offers customizable options with added filtering and sorting by price, operating system, and so on.  Other add-ons, such as printers and upgrades, are also prominent.  The B2C side of the site focuses on what customers want – the best value for their money, bundled offers and support along the way.  The B2B version understands that businesses are more likely to invest in more expensive solutions because of their perceived quality and durability.

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