Whether you are selling to consumers or to businesses, social media is a well-known tool that will help you reach out to the audience you want to connect with — and influence their buying decisions. But to do this successfully, it’s vital for small businesses to understand their target audience. This comes down to utilising the right platforms, adopting the right tone, and creating and sharing the right content.
A useful starting point involves getting to know the distinct characteristics of the B2B (business-to-business) and B2C (business-to-consumer) markets. This is especially important for those businesses whose services could be catered to both markets. Here, we will outline these differences to set you in the right direction for engaging successfully with these distinct types of customer.
Understanding business and consumer audiences
To highlight the important general similarities between a typical B2B and B2C buyer, it has been said that “business people are still people. It’s just that they’re at work”.
For instance, both types of buyer want relevant information before they buy to make sure they make the right decision. They like to see signs that they can trust the seller, such as a speedy and helpful online customer service department. They are also both more likely to engage with your brand if the content you post is useful, interesting, and speaks to their needs.
There are important differences between these audiences
In the B2B market, for instance, your customers may be a certain niche of companies. Within those companies, there may be more than one person involved in the buying decision, each of whom may have distinct questions to be answered before they commit. So if you are selling a business app, for example, you may need to convince the technical head of the company that the software is safe and compliant, the CEO that it offers value for money, and the manager whose team will be using it that it will do the job. This is as opposed to just selling to one person in the B2C market.
For both the B2B and B2C markets, it is useful to build up profiles of typical customers. This includes the social platforms they use and the type of content they engage with. Successful B2B marketing often involves taking a step further. It draws up profiles of the types of individuals involved in the decision making, including the social influencers, forums, and discussion groups where each of them look for guidance, recommendations, and advice.
Consumers tend not to be constrained by formal decision-making procedures
They might be drawn to your brand above a similar one because it ‘feels right’; because your products are showcased in an awesome way or simply because you’ve shared or said something that chimes with their way of thinking.
Business buyers tend to have different concerns
After all, it’s the company’s money at stake and they need to be able to justify their decision. A quirky or overly-informal tone may come across as unprofessional — depending on who you target. However, companies are more likely to look for signs that you understand their particular niche, and have clear, trustworthy information about your product or service that they can pass on to other people in the firm.
Where to target B2B and B2C customers
Facebook is the world’s most popular social media site, with around 1.55 billion users. It’s also the most popular platform for B2C marketing, used by an estimated 94% of B2C marketers. Its versatility enables you to distribute different types of content, from articles to advertisements. As well as this, most, if not all, of your target audience probably use it. This makes Facebook a natural choice for B2C marketing.
B2B and Facebook
Even though most execs probably count themselves as Facebook users, it tends not to be a favoured option for B2B marketing (just 9% of B2B marketers regard it as their most effective platform, according to one study). This is because it is not regarded as a go-to source of information when making business buying decisions.
LinkedIn, however, should be on your radar if you are selling to business. It tends to be ranked number one by buyers as a source of suggestions and recommendations from other users, for browsing discussions to find out about products, and also to connect directly with potential vendors.
Twitter and Youtube
Twitter (for short, snappy messages, discussions, and news sharing) and YouTube (for video) are both widely in use for B2B and B2C marketing.
How to target business buyers and consumers
Neither type of buyer is looking to be constantly ‘sold to’ via social media. Entrepreneurs should instead aim to create compelling content that speaks to the needs of their audience.
Experience over trying to sell
Depending on your specific niche, your efforts to engage a B2C audience might include content that inspires, excites. It makes it clear to potential customers that your brand is something they can easily identify with. For instance, when you showcase your products on Facebook and/or image-based sites such as Instagram or Pinterest, you might try to do it in uniquely personal and interesting ways to reinforce the idea that your brand is an experience that’s worth buying into.
B2B targeting often requires a different approach
It is important to address the broad concerns and queries a business buyer is likely to have — and to do so in a professional way, rather than something a bit quirky that not everyone is likely to understand. This might include links to articles on your blog and/or ‘white papers’. These are longer informational pieces that can help to demonstrate your understanding of customers’ wider business needs.
Infographics are a useful way of presenting lots of facts and figures in a more digestible and visually compelling way. Case studies of projects can help to demonstrate your track record, for instance.
Understanding the differences
Business buyers and consumers tend to have different characteristics. But marketing to a large multi-layered organisation is often very different to targeting sole traders. Similarly, in the B2C niche, a t-shirt seller’s social media strategy would tend to look very different from that of a landscape gardener. However, understanding the differences in your target market is the first step in getting your social media strategy right.
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