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What makes a B2B brand different from a B2C brand?

Published on 03 April 2024

Brands, whether Business-to-Business (B2B) or Business-to-Consumer (B2C), are judged on how well they live up to their promise. Whether selling chocolate bars or accountancy, brands exist to create distinction and communicate a promise. You need to know who you’re talking to, what you’re saying, and why they should care, regardless of your market.

So what are the key differences, if any, between B2B and consumer brands and how can you include them in your strategy?

Audience

B2B branding is primarily aimed at other businesses. The B2B brand promise has to primarily address a business audience and their particular operational needs and challenges. Consumer brands (B2C) are more aimed at individuals. They tend to be built around more individual lifestyle benefits and emotional, personal needs.

Decision makers

In B2B buying decisions, there tends to be more than one stakeholder involved in the buying process. As a result, B2B brands have to build more rational thinking into their brand and marketing, building a sense of trust and credibility. B2C decisions are usually made by individuals, driven by their preferences, emotions, and perceptions of value.

Relationships

Typically speaking, a B2B relationship will be longer-term and of higher value. Trust and reliability are paramount, recommendations and referrals go a long way. B2C brands place great value on customer experience for loyalty, but relationships are less personal, more vulnerable to changes in lifestyle/trends.

Messaging

The golden rule of B2B marketing is to not talk about what you do, but instead the value you bring to your customer – how you help solve their challenges. Clarity wins. B2C brands focus more emotionally – looking at lifestyle improvements, aspirations and more emotional benefits.

Marketing channels

Marketing strategies for B2B brands will be more typically industry specific. Websites are key and effective use of digital content and email can be very effective. Consumer brands will typically use a broader spectrum of channels and advertising campaigns to reach a wider consumer audience.

Social proof

B2B brands will take a different approach to relevance and credibility. Often showcasing successful partnerships and case studies – think ‘Who we work with’. Consumer brands rely more on lifestyle advertising, influencer marketing, user-generated content, social and cultural trends.

Whether B2B or B2C, your brand strategy starts with a promise. After that, tactics change depending on your audience and their needs. Thinking about the above points can help to build a more effective B2B brand strategy. If you want to give your brand a self-audit, have a think about these five questions:

  1. How clear is everyone on your brand promise?
  2. Does your brand and communication reflect it?
  3. In the last five years, how have you adapted to changing customer needs?
  4. Is your strategy B2B focused?
  5. How well does your brand live up to its promise?

Bonus Resources

Here’s a quick exercise to help get you started with your brand promise – fill in the blanks:

Business: “We have _____ (Thing) ______   to sell.”

Market: “Cool, but can’t I get something like that elsewhere already?”

Business: “Yes, but ours/we   ____ (points of difference) ______ which is of real benefit to our audience because ___ (need you’re addressing) ______.”

Market: “Take my money.”

If you’re interested in taking it a step further, this article from Harvard Business Review looks at steps B2B businesses can take to improve their value proposition in line with customer wants and needs: The B2B elements of value

dan bradfield

Guest post by Dan Bradfield at Naked Marketing

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