B2B vs. B2C – What are the Digital Marketing Differences?

03.09.18 // Emily Larkin

One of the most common questions we hear in digital marketing is, “What’s the different between B2B and B2C digital marketing strategy?” How do Obility’s B2B services differ from mixed or B2C-focused agencies? To weigh in and explore the many answers, here are our Obility panel experts:

Obility Panel Experts B2B vs B2C


What does it mean when Obility says they’re a B2B digital marketing agency

Melissa: For me, what it means is that we have a wealth of knowledge specifically in B2B. We don’t have any B2C clients, we don’t work with B2C clients, everybody here at Obility has had B2B experience in the past, or if not they’ve been very thoroughly trained on the B2B sales cycle when they get here. So to me, it just means that we are experts in the B2B arena.

In determining marketing campaign goals and performance indicators, how might those differ for a B2B company versus B2C? 

Max: For B2C it’s more focused on the front-end metrics than back-end and is a more direct purchase.  For us (B2B), we also look at MQL’s, the marketing automation, the CRM, and we pair that up with the front-end data, taking it a step further. We know that customers for B2B don’t typically come the day of, week of, month of…it’s usually 6-12 months later. So we can map up our campaigns on the front-end to the back-end. Once that converts to revenue for the client, we can attribute that performance to our metrics.

Michelle: For social, B2C is a lot more of an awareness play. If you’re talking about e-commerce or selling directly, it’s a bit different. But if you look at restaurants, breweries, etc., they’re using social for awareness. You can’t go from the Bridgeport brewing Instagram page and buy a bottle of beer, they drive towards them events and awareness. One of the other big differences is that when I’ve worked with very small B2C companies, you have to get a lot more creative with how you use your budget, you might have a hundred dollars in ad spend for the month versus ten thousand dollars. Obviously, you’re always careful in budgeting, but you definitely have to make different types of decisions.

Bryce: It’s really important in B2B to be more integrated strategically so you understand the goals, and it’s not just based on a transactional basis but you really understand that brand and new initiatives that B2B clients are pushing. Because usually they’re things that people haven’t heard of, and they’re trying to define their own new vertical, metric, or keyword to go after. So I think that’s an important part of a B2B agency – to be pretty closely integrated into their goals and align the strategy tactically towards that.

Is there a difference in B2B customer journey and lifetime value that impacts your PPC strategy?

Max: B2C is a more direct purchase. With B2B, instead of the opportunity to buy the product, we have to help them understand the benefits of the product, because we know they are not going to spend a hundred thousand dollars for this product right away. There’s an education process that takes place up front, far more than B2C. The consumer today does most of the research on their own before they’re ready to speak with anyone. It’s definitely easier for paid search because you know their search intent based on the keyword. With the audience you’re building through remarketing research, search and display, you can get a feel for what their intent is. Based off that you can offer them the right asset, like with a keyword that is higher funnel intent, you probably want to give them an ebook or white paper. But if you have someone who is looking for a specific software, you can give them a demo, a trial, or a webinar. Based on their different actions and behaviors, you’ll know which asset to give to them, and the more engaged they are, the more personal of an asset you can give to them.

How might B2B content marketing look different when compared to B2C?

Melissa: In B2B, we talk a little less about price. In B2C, oftentimes, they lure you in with the sales and discounts.  Whereas our process in B2B is really about educating them about the benefits and value of the product, and the price is something that comes much later in the process. You’re contacting the salesperson, they’re trying to figure out what you need, and the scope of what you need is larger than a shoe for example. It’s thinking about what you need, reading the content to solve the problem and then the price comes later in the process.

Bryce: Prior brand awareness is a lot higher in B2C, they understand the players. So for B2B, a lot of it is building awareness before they can even consider product service. Even when they’re searching for solutions by product, they’ll find competitors that they didn’t know about. And that’s a really big part of the B2B strategy is to make sure that you’re in that same searches as your competitors, that your potential clients might not be aware of.

What are some of the behaviors that influence B2B Paid Social in comparison to B2C and e-commerce?

Michelle: One of the big things would be the use of ABM strategies because for many, you have an audience but it’s not clearly defined or maybe it is but you don’t have a clear list of people you’re trying to target. Whereas with, for example, only one of my clients runs only ABM and only on LinkedIn because there’s a list of a thousand companies and if a lead isn’t coming from one of those companies they don’t want it. That’s an interesting factor that comes with targeting B2B. Using those customer lists and such, and for more than just lead targeting. The way that you target and define who are looking for is going to be different, targeting based on company versus just demographics.

How would you describe the search behavior of a B2B target audience, and how does that impact keyword strategy?

Graham: For SEO especially, it’s definitely more top of the funnel, because usually the lower you get in the funnel, the less search volume there’s going to be. So a lot of that awareness, maybe you have a list of keywords with solutions for software, but most of the time people are trying to find that’s useful, they don’t quite know what they need yet. You’re just trying to answer what this question would be for them in SEO for B2B, whereas with PPC you could go lower in the funnel.

Max: Paid Search is going to be as specific as possible. You have to put yourself in the mindset of their search. You can have shorter tail keywords for SEO targeted, because it’s organic. But for Paid Search, we’re getting more specific with search phrases like “3+ keywords targeted”, and focused on lower funnel terms such as software. Like “big-end data integration software”, that’s a good keyword.

Graham: Yeah, there may be only 50 people searching for that, but for SEO, even if you’re ranked first you’re not going to get nearly as many clicks as you would PPC.

Max: And that’s where it gets complicated between PPC and SEO. For keywords that he’s not going to want to rank for, whether because it’s too much work or there’s not enough volume, it’s easy for us to bid on it. So they complement each other and together it’s really thinking about the intent of the user and what they’re looking for. The other thing we bid on is not only product keywords, but people who are looking for pain points, something that’s going to help them solve their problems. Those are keywords we bid on as well.

Graham: Yeah, they don’t know what to look up for, they just know what their problem is. Whereas B2C they usually know what the solution to their problem is. “My feet hurt, I should get something to put on them!”

For link building and optimizing specifically, what would an SEO expert for B2B do differently?

Graham: Link building is a little different, but the principles are the same. You can still do thought leadership with B2C just like you would with B2B, and you can do content marketing similarly, like have sharable stories or guest posts. There is easier opportunity to get direct links if you have a specific product; people will link to that because of the brand awareness they already have. On-page optimization is quite a bit different. In B2B there’s probably a lot more content associated with our product pages and our solutions pages because that’s a good ranking factor, you want to have a lot of content written about it (thought leadership, blogs, or “what is” pages). You’re probably not going to see a lot of glossary or “what is” pages on B2C as much, unless it’s very product specific, and that’s probably the biggest difference. It’s easier to write more content for because that’s just how you’re going to rank for it rather than someone looking up a specific type of product already.

Bryce: Also for link building, when I think of B2C vs. B2B, one of the great low-hanging fruits for B2B are partners. Usually, they have close partnerships with other B2B companies that they can reach out to in order to get links to their website, and that doesn’t usually exist or isn’t as easy to get links from, partners for B2C.

What sort of success and service do clients experience from Obility being a B2B focused agency?

Melissa: The level of our tracking is unbeatable. Agencies that primarily focus on B2C might have a sprinkle of B2B in there, but you don’t have the level of reporting and tracking that we have and I think with traditional media campaigns (radio, TV, etc.), it’s very hard to measure, and that’s why people have been attracted to this new, shiny thing called digital. I think that at the end of the day, clients, whether B2B or B2C, want to know if their money is working for them, and we can offer that as a B2B agency with our level of reporting, tracking, and expertise internally. That puts us kind of a step ahead of other agencies who don’t have that nailed down yet – tracking and measurement is absolutely crucial to the success of a client.

Bryce: I think back-end integration is a huge part of what makes it successful for our clients. A secret for getting that off the ground is the close partnership we have with our clients. There are a lot of B2C agencies that can probably handle B2B clients, but that back-end integration falls through because they don’t have any expertise. They’re relying on the client to do all that and might tell them what they want, as opposed to when we come in and become really familiar with their goals and the process of that back-end integration. We know where there are holes and where we need to give guidance, to get to a point where we can report on the metrics that they care about, as opposed to some of the top-end metrics we want to get through reporting on the pipeline. Something a lot of B2C companies don’t have expertise in. We’re reporting specifically on what they want to know.

Max: We have the talent internally that can help educate the users, our customers, to build their back-end systems, which is something that a lot of agencies don’t have. We also have partners who are experts in marketing automation that set this up so we can work with our clients and our partners and lead that relationship together so we can help them build a more advanced marketing automation or CRM.

Michelle: In regards to back-end integration, I think we really try to position ourselves as an extension of their internal team, as opposed to just consulting here and there with some of our clients. We’re going back and forth with them on strategy and ideas.

Do you have any best practices or final tips for B2B companies hoping to improve their digital marketing? Are there any tricks or overlooked practices?

Max: The most common one I come across in accounts is broad keywords. Don’t target broad keywords. There are different tier types, like broad phrase exact. I’ve seen a lot where people are targeting a broad keyword, and it’s bringing in a lot of irrelevant traffic. Keep an eye out for broad keywords, otherwise, you’re probably wasting your budget.

Graham: Probably marketing speak getting in the way, like your taglines and such. No one’s ever searching for that. It doesn’t have to be used as a ranking signal. That’s one of the common things I see.

Melissa: I would say just listen to your clients, listen to their higher arching business goals. Be sure to work with your internal teams to create strategies and campaigns that actually will work to meet their goals.

Michelle: On social, we either see people who are sending people to ungated landing pages without any type of lead form or we see people who are trying to send people to a demo or trial from social, but for social you really want to send top of funnel content, but you also want to make sure you capture those leads. That’s one of the biggest things, especially for B2B vs. B2C, being able to make sure that you’re not just sending them to your website and then letting them run wild.

Bryce: There’s no B2B company that is doing everything perfectly; every best practice isn’t necessarily funneled by every B2B company. It can be very simple things that they’re not doing, or very complicated. Being aware of the whole funnel and targeting from awareness to bottom of the funnel, using remarketing and competitor campaigns, is all stuff that can go by the wayside if you’re just focused on one part of the funnel or one part of digital marketing.

About Emily Larkin

Emily is the Internal Marketing Coordinator for Obility, and has been leading efforts in social media, event planning, generating online leads, and even brushing up this new website. She is a fan of comedy, dogs, and jazz covers of popular tunes. View all Emily Larkin’s posts >