B2B or not B2B 

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For someone who has spent many years in business-to-consumer (B2C) PR, switching to the business-to-business (B2B) model of Nielsen McAllister was an interesting challenge, an opportunity to understand first-hand how they differ and to get rid of stereotypes.  

B2C actively uses emotional triggers aimed at reaching the audience, stirring up desire. Consumers often make purchases with their heart rather than their mind, following their inner feelings. That’s why when I worked in projects aimed at the end consumer, I felt like an Oompa-Loompa, inventing ever more sophisticated flavours in Willy Wonka’s unique chocolate factory. You are literally the godfather of emotions.  

Yes, in B2C there is room for imagination. For example, when the Ukrainian PR agency, where I worked, was preparing a concept to celebrate the 100th anniversary of a hotel for 300 Ukrainian and foreign guests, we decided to play retro and include a programme of entertainment from the early 20th century: an exhibition of retro cars, instant retro photos, service of silhouette artist, fortune-teller, performances of an illusionist, strongmen and a performer of romances and – last but not least –  a pig race! I still remember what a quest it turned out to be to find photogenic piglets, get the appropriate permits and organise safe logistics for the “runners” to and from the site. 

Or let’s take the idea of a social communication project of a company producing mineral water – creation of a three-metre-high sculpture of a Carpathian lynx made of ice weighing 3 tonnes, which was installed in the centre of Kyiv (Ukraine). The sculpture melted for several days until it completely disappeared. Lynx cried icy tears, fading away. So, the customers of the emotional project drew the audience’s attention to the importance of protecting the endangered species of animals that live in the Carpathian Mountains and increased the popularity of the brand of mineral water extracted in the Carpathian Mountains. So, yes, B2C is a factory of emotions. 

Naturally, in both cases, in both B2C and B2B projects, the sale is aimed at a person, however, as with any communication, there is a nuance. The cardinal difference between B2B and B2C is that B2C buyer is guided by emotions, in the case of B2B sales are conditioned by a specific task and a reasonable decision, that is, they cannot be a priori spontaneous. 

In general, those who have not worked in B2B may mistakenly think that this field is too complicated and unemotional. Meanwhile, the agency that promotes such a business is also a factory that produces an uNMatched PR service. Accounts are immersed in the clients’ business, like scuba divers, literally know what they breathe, where they’re going, what their goals are, essentially being their voice and managing their priorities. The level of involvement and responsibility is, like the ocean, deep. And yes, you must be devilishly creative to regularly write interesting social media posts, or blogs about tree protection tubes or pharmaceutical cold chain supply, or lovingly describe the benefits of this or that packaging device in a way that is useful, informative, lively and doesn’t look like an advertising booklet. 

With classic hardcore B2B, when expensive and complex products and solutions are sold to big business, I’m sure you won’t be bored. Any solutions that are developed for a specific company, such as the same packaging solutions, can fall into this category. In hardcore B2B, simple single-channel promotion schemes don’t work. B2B PR people are like samurai, professing a state of minute-by-minute readiness, they must constantly think about which channels are better to use and how to present this or that product.  

So, what is the difference between B2B and B2C? 

B2B hints & tips 

  1. Specific target audience. There are fewer entrepreneurs than regular people. And your product is most likely suited for a highly segmented industry. 
  2. Long buying cycle. It takes a long time from first contact or interest in your product to purchase. In large organisations, agreeing a deal can go through ten hands.
  3. Focus on the benefits of the purchase rather than the emotionality.
  4. The B2B segment particularly values professional knowledge, competence, and high market position. Business leaders follow the achievements and want to be sure they have an expert before them.

B2C hints & tips 

  1. Playing to a wide audience. It is important that the product attracts the attention of more and more people.
  2. A short buying cycle, like the life of a mayfly. In the B2C segment, the decision is usually made by one person, sometimes on the advice of family and friends. The consumer does not need to agree on anything, they just go and buy the product in the shop or make an online order.
  3. Emphasis on emotionality. An important part of marketing for B2C is building an emotional connection. People are not interested in the expertise of the seller of the product, they are attracted by design, pleasant associations, nostalgia, “just want”.
  4. The customer is incentivised by promotions, discounts, sales, savings cards, etc. Show them the benefit – and the audience is yours.

Therefore, the number one task for B2C is to create a WOW-effect, sell an emotion, win a new audience, increase brand awareness, and for the B2B segment it is important to systematically demonstrate WOW expertise and market position. 

A curious story happened to us when we worked for a large manufacturer of alcoholic beverages in the format of an outsourced PR service in the B2C segment. Already in the second year of our work together, we managed to increase the company’s brand awareness in the media to such an extent that the owner received an offer to sell the business on very favourable terms. In other words, we worked too well. Which proves once again: if you understand the essence and objectives of your client and can correctly convey to the end audience (and, as experience shows, not only) the key messages of the company, but you will also be comfortable with both B and C. Besides, the emotional message is important in any market, it just needs to be added like spices – to taste.

The main thing is not to overdo it, so that the dish does not turn out inedible. 

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