B2B Marketing vs Consumer Marketing

(This article was originally posted on the Engagious Blog.)

How is marketing to B2B different than marketing to consumers?

B2B marketing is more complicated than consumer marketing because of three key differences.

In all cases, your success in B2B hinges on doing your homework, asking all the right questions, and crafting the perfect message.

Products and/or services are more complex, with more barriers to switching

Many products sold to businesses are further transformed into a different product that is sold to the end customer. For example, before a shampoo maker can change the vendor of one of its raw materials, it must complete sufficient attribute, performance, and stability testing to make sure it is compatible in their formulation.

Often one purchase in a business ecosystem prompts other changes. For example, a software purchase may require an upgrade to a network’s operating system, which may lead to a new laptop, so the purchaser must consider all these costs together, not just the software purchase cost.

Some business purchases require time or labor costs, such as training. When a hospital starts using a new brand of catheters, every nurse on every shift must be trained how to use it.


“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
-Albert Einstein

Approach: Focus your value proposition on the ‘utopian’ view of how their world will look if they make this change. Demonstrating a positive seismic shift in their business makes these ancillary changes seem less significant and more worth the long-term investment.



More people are involved, in different roles with different needs for information

Many people and functions may be involved in the purchase process, as decision-makers, influencers, or end users, with each function having different consideration criteria. Most hospitals have a multi-functional value analysis committee that evaluates purchases, often with the goal of standardization over physician preference.

Multiple decision-makers add complex dynamics of differences in personalities, authority, and implied power, which all need to be dealt with diplomatically.

A decision made solely by a procurement function may be driven solely by cost, with little or no consideration of the end-user’s specific needs or the impact of the purchase on the customer experience.

group meeting with woman talking and gesturing


“We look up at the same stars and see such different things.”
-George R.R. Martin

Approach: Know your audience. Ask questions about the decision-makers learn what really matters to them. What makes them tick? Focus on communicating the decision as an easy win and one that makes them the ‘hero’ (this could be personal recognition, or cost savings, or Innovation leadership, etc.).


Sales cycles are longer and limited with fewer opportunities to make a sale

Fiscal year cycles, budgeting processes, and contracts may limit times when a business can make a new purchase, including times when they are open to learning about new products and services.

Internal procurement-driven processes often lengthen the process, requiring scheduled committee reviews, multiple competitive bids, and extended negotiations.

Industry-specific cycles may also impact timing. For example, you would think twice about setting up a sales call with an accountant during tax season or a retailer during the holidays.



“The strongest of all warriors are these two — Time and Patience.”
-Leo Tolstoy

Approach: Do diligent research. Know their fiscal cycles, ask about the procurement process, know the industry cycles and universal events around which companies coordinate product announcements, sales quotas, etc.




So what does that mean for your messaging strategy?

You need to SIMPLIFY the needed information to influence the right PEOPLE at the right TIME, so they choose YOU!

To do this, there is no shortcut. But if you put in the work, as with most things in life, success will follow.

Let me know which challenges you’ve found to be most difficult.  I’d love to chat about how we can address them together.