How B2B Paid Media Differs from B2C


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  • Consumer decisions tend to be more emotional than business decisions. This means the most effective consumer-targeted ads are typically aesthetically pleasing, to-the-point, and somewhat personal.
  • Financial decisions made by a business must be justified with clear demonstrations of how the decisions will affect profits. This means B2B marketing strategies focus more on proving ROI than emotional appeals.
  • When it comes to paid media, Forbes suggests B2B marketing strategies should be laser-focused on their target audiences.

Though both rely on search engine optimization, paid media, content marketing, and social media marketing to some degree, there are fundamental differences in the purposes of B2B and B2C marketing that have implications for the marketing strategies behind each. While B2C marketing focuses on quick solutions and an element of fun, B2B marketing is about building trusting customer relationships and proving ROI. This means the audiences and messaging of B2C and B2B marketing often differs pretty significantly.

Of course, it should be noted that B2C and B2B aren’t mutually exclusive. Many companies are both B2B and B2C, including some of our own clients. But a company providing both business solutions and consumer solutions still needs to take a differentiated marketing approach to each.

That’s why today, we’re talking about the difference in paid media strategies for B2B and B2C marketing.

B2B and B2C marketing: Paid media

Paid media for B2C

Consumer-targeted marketing has long had a reputation for appealing mostly to emotions. While American consumer sentiment has shifted in recent years to a stronger concern for authenticity, trustworthiness, and quality solutions over the feeling of being marketed to, it’s still true that marketing for consumers requires an element of fun that is deemphasized in B2B spaces.

As noted in The Balance, consumer decisions still tend to be more emotional than business decisions. This means the most effective consumer-targeted ads are typically:

  • Aesthetically pleasing – They need to cut through the noise and catch your target audience’s eye as they’re scrolling on their computer or phone.
  • Short and to-the-point – In some ways, our audiences are pulled in more directions than ever before as many of us navigate new work-life balances amidst the pandemic. When they’re looking to make a purchase, customers want to know upfront why your solution is the right one.
  • Personal – As mentioned above, consumers are more sensitive than ever to marketing that feels too overtly salesy. One way B2C companies combat this is through marketing that makes a personal connection by showing customers their unique needs are understood. The use of buyer personas can help B2C companies communicate this understanding.

The bread and butter of B2C marketers working in paid media are PPC, display ads, and retargeting campaigns.

How B2B paid media differs

Don’t get us wrong: PPC, display ads, and re-targeting can be elements of B2B marketing strategies too. However, the profit-driven nature of operating a business makes the decision-making process of business purchases fundamentally different from that of consumer purchases.

Any financial decision made on the part of a business must be justified with a clear demonstration of how the decision will affect profits. This means B2B marketing strategies must focus more on proving ROI than B2C marketing. So while content is important in both B2B and B2C marketing, the most effective B2B marketing content is typically longer, more detailed, more technical, and more focused on the numbers than B2C content. Think white papers vs. blogs, or webinars vs. Instagram reels.

But what does this mean for paid media? Again, it call comes down to how purchase decisions are made in businesses vs. by individual consumers. Not only do businesses have a hierarchy of stakeholders who will all have different levels of involvement in the purchase process, but B2B solutions – such as an appointment scheduling software – typically require an extensive onboarding process.

These factors contribute to a much longer buyer cycle and a sales process that features more demos and trial periods than might be expected in the B2C space.

To recap, B2B marketing strategies in the paid media sphere need to:

  • Foster strong, trusting relationships with customers – B2B customers are making purchase decisions on behalf of their entire company. B2B companies that can demonstrate long-term commitment to quality service are much more likely to hold the attention of the higher-ups these customers will need to persuade.
  • Demonstrate the solution’s financial value with clear evidence – Again, B2B customers have to get buy-in from stakeholders whose eyes are on the bottom line. Your B2B paid media strategy can’t just claim that your solution will save your customers money or help them earn more – it has to show exactly how it will accomplish this.
  • Support a longer buyer cycle with more intensive decision-making and onboarding processes – Paid media for B2B companies is more of a marathon than a sprint. Getting a B2B solution up and running for a new customer can be complex, which creates lots of opportunities for wasted time and money. B2B marketing strategies need to show customers that they’ll be supported throughout the entire process, from research to conversion to onboarding.

Tips for B2B paid media success

A recent article in Forbes has highlighted the expectation that B2B marketing budgets will increase in 2021 after taking a hit from the COVID-19 pandemic. With these budget increases in mind, Forbes suggests the following tips for B2B paid media:

  1. Shift from display, social, and search toward more ideal accounts, target buying groups, and buyers indicating buyer signals.
  2. Utilize audience-centric entity resolution to meet B2B customers where they are.
  3. Invest in native advertising and content syndication to boost your authority and strengthen industry relationships.
  4. Make more video ads to distinguish your brand.
  5. For PPC, bid on both keywords and audiences.
  6. Leverage role-based targeting, retargeting, and look-alike personas when launching account-based ads.

The through line here is that B2B is all about recognizing the unique qualities of your target audience and making sure your paid media strategy speaks to that.

Learn more with RMG

At RMG, we’re lucky to work with a range of amazing clients in both the B2B and B2C spaces. If you still have doubts about your B2B paid media strategy, we’d be happy to connect with you. Reach out to the paid media experts at RMG today to find out how we can help!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mauricio has close to 20 years of digital experience and a core foundation in the technical side of SEO. He’s led and executed strategy both in-house and on the agency side and enjoys defining successful strategies for our clients.
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