B2B vs. B2C content marketing: what you need to know

October 13, 2016Content marketing

Since the dawn of target marketing, we’ve been taught to focus on the customer and not the broad demographic. Brands today invest time and money into obtaining insight into the buying and lifestyle habits of their customers. But is there a difference in how B2B and B2C content marketers sell their product or service?

This is a long read so you might want to save it for later – here’s what we’ll cover:

  • The difference between B2B and B2C content marketing goals.
  • What content marketing looks like for B2B and B2C marketers, and what we can learn.
  • Content marketing tactics that work for both B2B and B2C.
  • The B2B and B2C content cycles.
  • The importance of analytics in driving the results you want.

The goals at both ends of the field

Guess what? The fundamentals of B2B and B2C marketing are precisely the same. All marketers want to:

  • Successfully communicate and match a business’s strengths with the needs of its target market.
  • Favourably position a brand/product/service in a way that inspires trust, reliability and loyalty.
  • Demonstrate value to the target market.

The Content Marketing Institute 2016 report on B2C content marketing identified the top organisational goals for B2C and B2B content marketing.

What are the top four goals for B2C?

  • Sales (83%).
  • Customer retention/loyalty (81%).
  • Engagement (81%).
  • Brand awareness (80%).

What are the top four goals for B2B?

  • Lead generation (85%).
  • Sales (84%).
  • Lead nurturing (78%).
  • Brand awareness (77%).

Key takeaway: B2C tends to focus on content that will create customer retention/loyalty and engagement, whereas B2B primarily focuses on content that will create lead generation and sales. However, at the end of the day sales is a common top goal for both.

How many people does it take to choose a supplier?

Whether a business is looking for software or different paper stock, choosing a new supplier can be a headache. The idea of getting something new is usually raised by an end user or an executive – and getting approval isn’t necessarily easy.

This is why B2B marketers need to deliver a logical, long-term solution for a business problem. Content Marketer Sujan Patel states that B2B content should inform and educate, as customers care most about securing a product for their needs.

Compare this to B2C who focus on the desires, wants, needs and problems of the individual. They concentrate on benefits over logic – lifestyle over streamlining processes or boosting profits.

B2B marketers are increasingly turning to the traditional stomping ground of the B2C crowd, seeing humanisation as central to overcoming many of their challenges.


Adopting B2C strategies for your B2B content marketing

What can B2B marketers learn from B2C?

B2C and B2B share the common goal of trying to build awareness of their brand. Core to building this awareness is a deep understanding of your audience – an area where B2C marketers have been highly innovative. According to a 2016 B2B marketing benchmarks study by Cintell, the most successful B2B companies were 2.2 times more likely to have and document buyer personas than companies that missed their leads and revenue targets. It stands to reason that B2B marketers can benefit from a better understanding of their target markets.

While B2B marketers excel in presenting a business case full of facts and figures, they tend to forget to let their hair down (unlike their B2C counterparts). As a B2B marketer you can’t just focus on facts. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 71% of buyers who see personal value will purchase a product. It makes sense then that you need to find a good balance between data and emotional triggers so your content is both engaging and informative.

Patel also argues that B2B needs to take a page out of B2C content by providing consumers with content that solves problems and targets long-tail search queries.

By integrating B2C strategies with your B2B strategy, you can create content that will better serve and understand your audience in a highly engaging and compelling way, which is also personalised.


Start with a documented content strategy

In 2014 the Content Marketing Institute surveyed B2B marketers and found that 83% of B2B businesses have a content strategy, but only 35% have documented it. So let’s start by documenting our strategy. To do this, you’ll need to:

  • Invest in buyer research and create detailed buyer personas.
  • For each of your buyer personas, think of at least three questions crucial to their decision-making process, creating a content vertical for each buyer persona and filling it with content that addresses each of those questions.
  • Ensure your content is designed on a continuum. There should be two extremes – the uninitiated through to the several-year user. Each piece of content should expand the ideas, techniques and benefits explored in the previous piece. Each should provide more proof to your lead that you’re a thought leader, a problem solver and a business destined to be of benefit to their own profits and productivity.
  • Plan to gradually drip-feed this content to your leads, introducing more advanced or tailored pieces as they move through the buyer’s funnel.
  • Determine a set of key metrics to monitor what content is successful and which leads are worth pursuing.


Invest in automation

As a B2B content provider, you’re producing a lot of well-researched content and giving it away for free. That means your lead-capture forms are going to be populated by everyone from the intern to the CEO.

Your marketing automation platform will ensure you’re able to invest your time in creating useful content and closing on leads that are ready to talk, as opposed to chasing up every person who clicked ‘download’. If you want to know how to approach your content marketing leads and use automation to streamline the process, read our article ‘How should sales treat content marketing leads differently?’. Access email templates to help you get started and find more detail on how you can use the data captured to inform your decisions and generate a picture of who your lead is and what they’re responding to.


Create content for people, not businesses

Many B2B marketers are transitioning from creating for businesses to creating for people. From Contently’s The Content Strategist to GE humanising B2B marketing, companies are putting the human experience at the centre of everything they do. This is a significant shift, as it means moving away from the cult of the product and towards the cult of the people.


The buying cycle of Modern Mark (getting from content to contract)

In a saturated content market, people are increasingly familiar with great content. Video, for example, doesn’t have to be an expensive production or artfully directed. It does, however, need to answer questions, make us a laugh and show us how a feature or service can revolutionise the way we work.

Take for instance, Eloqua’s marketing automation video, which tells the story of Modern Mark – a marketing professional working in the trenches of data, email and executive demands for return on investment (ROI).

Modern Mark’s story taps into one human not even at the top of the corporate ladder. He’s someone that Eloqua has identified as facing challenges and demands that its software can help overcome.

Modern Mark will be targeted on social media and on his favourite publishing platforms with more content about overcoming his personal challenges in the workplace. It will eventually approach him with something even more tangible – perhaps a downloadable template for putting together a business case for marketing automation. Only this time, they’ll ask Modern Mark for something in return.

Hopefully, Modern Mark will download this piece of gated content, handing over his email, business name and sector. It’s from here that the marketing automation platform will start to approach him through email, potentially getting closer to a phone call or meeting with Modern Mark and his boss to explain the potential of their solutions.

That’s B2B content marketing in action, but it means nothing if you’re not measuring your results.


Use data to measure your success

We’ve explored how B2B can learn from B2C, and the special challenges B2B marketers face. But both sectors struggle with measurement. According to the B2C Content Marketing: 2015 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends – North Americaonly 23 per cent of B2C marketers are successful at tracking the ROI of their content marketing program. Additionally, 51 per cent say measuring content effectiveness is a challenge.

So what can you do? There are a few key areas you can measure.

Website metrics

The backbone of your content measurement should revolve around your website analytics. We recommend analysing and reporting:

  • Page views.
  • Time on site.
  • Crawl rate.
  • Bounce rate.
  • Inbound links.

Social media metrics

Between engagement, reach and participation, social media is one of the largest deposits of data and insight. Social signals are also tied to SEO, so it’s important to measure how well your content is received. Social media tools, such as Hootsuite or SproutSocial, are a great way to keep track of your analytics on one platform.

SEO metrics

Measuring your SEO lets you know if your content is working, and if you’re hitting your KPIs. Tracking SEO can also help:

  • Increase page authority.
  • Improve keyword rankings.
  • Generate increased click-throughs from search results.


Content marketing isn’t easy but it’s worth it

It’s hard work to deliver consistent, value-add content in a personalised way. Automation helps, but your marketing automation software is only as good as the content you’re putting into it.

For B2B and B2C marketers, there are positives to content marketing but there are also some serious challenges, such as multiple stakeholders and longer lead times. If anything, you should have learnt that to thrive in a saturated market, your content needs to shed the shackles of the product benefit pitch and move towards personalised content that highlights how your business solutions make for happier people.


What we’ve covered

  • B2B marketers face the unique challenge of targeting multiple people in a business who all have some stake in the introduction of their product. You won’t reach all these people at once. And they’ll all have their own needs and questions. It’s your mission to create content to answer every question for every person.
  • In the next couple of years, B2B marketers will struggle with humanising and personalising their content marketing experience. Marketing automation can help with this, but they’ll need to learn from their B2C counterparts about how to focus on experience over product.
  • B2B marketers aren’t measuring the effectiveness of the content. If you’re going to invest in content, you’ll need to prove how content marketing impacts the bottom dollar and the greater objectives of your organisation.



If you’d like to find out more about how to engage your audience, or have any other questions, contact one of our strategists today.