The Difference Between B2B and B2C Marketing Automation

The specific differences between the B2B and B2C marketing automation platform. Learn how to notice the distinctions and how to choose for your business.

Whether we are talking from a Business to Business (B2B) or Business to Customer (B2C) perspective – marketing automation continues to evolve with every new day.

So naturally, it’s not that easy to define something that is continually changing. Moreover, these are rapid advancements, which are sometimes not even possible to track.

But to make things a little clearer, we can use the following definition of marketing automation:

Marketing automation is a technology solution (software) that provides companies with tools to better use their resources (people, time) and processes (emails, campaigns, lead nurturing) to maximise the impact of their marketing efforts (revenue).

Marketo defines marketing automation as:

Marketing automation is a category of technology that allows companies to streamline, automate, and measure marketing tasks and workflows, so they can increase operational efficiency and grow revenue faster.

Marketing automation through time


Looking at the history of marketing automation, we can see how in the beginning only ‘big players’ had the opportunity to utilise one of these solutions.

Due to the cost, implementation complexity and user experience, smaller companies often decided to continue with their practices, without an expensive technology stack.

However, over time, marketing automation has become more accessible and easier to implement and use.

Today, we see the significant impact of marketing technology on the way we market. It has become a ‘must-have technology’ in our businesses.

We also see the incredible growth of the marketing technology landscape and how technology providers are introducing new solutions – climbing from only 150 vendors in 2011 to 7,040 in 2019.

Also, anyone who has had the opportunity to use a marketing automation platform is well aware of how often vendors introduce new features to their existing solutions.

On top of everything, we see customers’ behaviour changing, demanding a more personalised experience across multiple channels. Which means we have to adopt a better approach in order to serve our customers in the best possible way.

So, as a result of this marketing and consumer evolution, there has been a split between B2B and B2C marketing automation, where features are adjusted to allow each sector to get the best out of them.

What is the difference between a B2B and B2C Business?

The critical difference between B2B and B2C is in the customer.

A B2B business will sell its products or services to other businesses, whereas a B2C business sells directly to individual customers.

Both business types can use marketing automation. However, because of the difference in their customer behaviour, they must adjust the way they use their technology.

Keep in mind, however, that both sectors have one ultimate goal – more revenue. To achieve this, they will use different marketing tactics.

To better understand the distinctions between the B2B and B2C use of the marketing automation platform, let’s break down the differentiating factors separately.

How are B2B and B2C Customers different?

The differing approaches of B2B and B2C marketing are mostly influenced by the customers they target. Both have their own buyer behaviours and respond to different marketing tactics.

In the case of B2B, the market they target is usually smaller in size, often a particular niche, while the target in B2C can be quite large as they sell to millions of customers at once.

A B2B buyer will aim to explain his purchasing need rationally and will, therefore, respond better to educational and professional content, while a B2C buyer will react to a more emotion-triggering message.

Also, in the B2B buyer’s journey, there are usually several people involved in the decision-making process, making it a much longer sales cycle than for B2C.

A B2C buyer will often act impulsively, buying a product to try and then never buying it again, while B2B business usually operates based on recurring or subscription-based revenue income.

Considering the differences in the target customer, a marketing automation platform that focuses on nurturing B2B buyers through their long sales cycle will be misused in the case of a ‘snap decision-making’ B2C buyer.

What is the difference between B2B and B2C business focus?

Since the B2C customer makes a quicker buying decision, a B2C business will focus its marketing efforts mostly on branding, which will allow it to increase awareness and traffic.

By that logic, a B2C business will look for marketing automation that will ensure a streamlined social media presence, a true omnichannel experience and excellent customer service.

For instance, take Lululemon, the athletic wear brand known primarily for its yoga and similar collections, which has strategic branding efforts spread across the globe.

In their effort to appeal to buyers’ emotional side and spread brand awareness, Lululemon offers events that target both their existing audience and lookalike audiences.

Through their incentives, they organise ‘Sweat’ events, 10K runs and Yoga Sundays around the world.

Additionally, through their Strategic Sales Europe Programs Lululemon pairs with local entrepreneurs and athletes who are passionate about elevating their communities to spread the yoga love and help raise the level of health in our communities.

So, naturally, if you love yoga, you will have heard of Lululemon.

And if you purchase their products once, you are likely to go back for more. Indeed, you have already formed an emotional connection to the brand and their community.

Whereas in the case of a B2B focus, we have a different story.

A B2B business will focus most of its efforts on lead generation.

Sometimes you will find B2B businesses investing in branding; still, it’s only a fraction of what B2C is doing.

For B2B marketing to operate efficiently, lead generation must be at the centre of their operation. Later on, we will talk about the tactics B2B uses to optimise the lead’s journey, but for now, let’s take a look at lead generation.

Since the B2B buyer needs lots of information to narrow down the chosen providers for the product or service they are looking for, B2B companies offer content that will help them make that decision.

But the most valuable information comes at a price – your details. You may be able to download a document or watch a webinar; however, you will need to leave your details such as business email, industry and job title in return.

So the marketing automation that enables B2B business to do this will have to be focused on creating forms, capturing leads and scoring them by their relevancy.

Want to know more about How We help Leverage B2B or B2C Marketing Automation To Increase Sales?

What is the distinction between B2B and B2C marketing tactics?

To be clear, both B2C and B2B businesses will have various tactics in their marketing arsenal. However, we will discuss the most common ones we see, and the difference between them.

As we already know, the customer lifecycle in the B2C world is usually much shorter than the B2B one. While both types of customers will go through certain stages, as there are different forces driving them, so different tactics need to be employed through their journeys to close the loop.

So, as the base of a B2B customer journey, you will have the following stages:

While a B2C customer journey will look something like this:

In the case of B2B customers, a proven tactic is lead nurturing powered by marketing automation.

In the lead nurturing process, a B2B business will focus on delivering content that will provide insight into how the product or service will benefit their business.

Also, it will have marketing and sales deliver a strong message through campaigns or one-on-one interaction to educate and share real value.

Because of the lower volume of customers that B2B business targets, lead nurturing comes in handy to ensure higher lead conversion. The lead nurturing process often includes lead scoring and lead grading, which marketing automation for B2B will optimise with ease.

On the other hand, in the B2C arena, lead nurturing wouldn’t be of any value in that sense, because a B2C customer doesn’t have that long sales process, nor does it need to be a qualified buyer.

Therefore, B2C business often strives to provide a personalised customer journey, focusing on delivering the right message at the right time by segmenting customers based on their demographics and behaviour.

So, the B2C marketing automation platform will have to be capable of handling a large customer base, segmenting it based on different characteristics and delivering specific customer journeys based on those characteristics.

What is the difference between B2B and B2C content?

As we have already covered in the marketing tactics and the differences between the two strategies, content plays an influential role in the purchasing decisions of both B2B and B2C customers.

That being said, there is also a difference between the content presented to buyers in both markets.

For B2B business, it is extremely important to produce content that will nudge the leads in the right direction.

Content that is often recommended for this purpose includes hosting webinars or creating case studies that aim to highlight satisfied customers.

On the other hand, in the B2C buyer’s process, we see influencers having a significant role in helping buyers to make that purchase decision. So, naturally, social media and blog posts that promote a product will have the biggest impact.

We can also notice the difference in the tone of voice, where B2B business will exhibit a professional tone, while B2C will aim to be more exciting and attractive.

In both cases, we can argue that having a conversational tone of voice creates the healthiest content, and personalisation scales it up.

When thinking about a marketing automation solution, B2B will have to focus on a platform that will enable them to deliver articles, ebooks, webinars, infographics, videos that target different stages of the buyer’s journey and addressing the problems within each of those stages.

For B2C, the marketing automation platform will focus on delivering the relevant content to millions of buyers when they might need it.

For example, when summer is around the corner, a B2C retailer might create a campaign to promote new arrivals, and use the marketing automation to help with the selling, prompting recommendations for products you may like and giving out vouchers to lookalike audiences.

How do B2B and B2C marketing channels differ?

As seen in the table below, B2B uses significantly fewer channels than B2C.

Even though social media presence may exist in the B2B world, it wouldn’t be an essential channel to focus on; in contrast, social media strategy in B2C is not only present but is highly important.

It is often the case that B2C has access to a broader range of channels, including email, push notifications, text messages, web messages and social media messaging.

Because a B2C business is expected to reach the customer through the most convenient channel at the given moment, omnichannel communication is usually the ultimate goal when it comes to exploiting marketing automation capabilities

Meanwhile, a B2B business might focus more on integrating the marketing automation platform with its database or CRM, and concentrate on email as the most effective tool to nurture and stimulate engagement with customers.

What is the difference between B2B and B2C data?

The first question that arises when it comes to collecting data in both B2B and B2C is, ‘What kind of data is the most important?’

To understand the main differences, take a look at the image below.

While both business types will employ marketing automation to utilise data, aside from the categories of data, the distinction also lies in its collection.

For instance, B2B will gather data through lead magnets and enquiries via the company website, or it will extract data from its database. Also, B2B companies will sometimes use lead generation techniques such as tapping into a third-party data source or employing telemarketing as an additional lead generation tactic.

Whereas, B2C’s marketing automation will focus on tracking users via cookies. To be able to utilise the data captured in this manner, a B2C customer will have to take some action to trigger marketing automation.

For example, when a visitor lands on a B2C website, adds a product to their cart and then deserts it – marketing automation will activate the required response.

The response may be segmentation based on their behaviour, plus adding the customer in an ‘abandoned card’ campaign to prompt him to get back and make that purchase.

To sum up, marketing automation can help in many areas of any business.

Distinctions between the MAP’s occurred because of the different marketing strategies used in the two worlds.

However, the two are still learning and improving each other, which means we can see companies combining B2B methods with B2C and vice versa.

To choose a marketing automation solution you first must look at your marketing strategy, what are your goals and objectives, and take it from there.

Remember, there is no ‘one size fits all’ in marketing automation.

Need help deciding? Give us a call.

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