Email Marketing: B2B vs. B2C

Has this topic ever confused you? Exactly what makes marketing to a business different from marketing to a consumer? While there are some common areas such as relationship building, other aspects of email marketing diverge significantly. Understanding these differences is key to successful email marketing.

B2B vs. B2C Motivators

The leading motivators for all businesses are improved efficiency (ROI), cost reduction, increased sales, simplified customer service, etc. Improvements to the bottom line! Thus B2B email marketing must deliver a clear message about what a service or product does to ease these business pressure points.

Thought leadership becomes your primary goal. Once you attain this recognition, most businesses no longer feel compelled to research your background. Your leadership confirms your ability to deliver what you've promised. They're already poised to consider you as a solution the moment they recognize their need. You move into position as one of the first choices as the business evaluates its alternatives.

The leading motivators for consumers are their needs, their desires and what they like. While they may appreciate that a product will save them time and money, it isn't driving the buying decision as strongly. The pleasure the product may give them could be more important than how much it costs.

Consider the difference these motivations might make in the decision of which flat-screen TV and TV stand is the best choice for a business vs. a consumer. The business likely wants durability in addition to clarity in the display. A mobile TV stand with adjustable display heights might be essential. If a cabinet is desirable, mobility might still be important. The largest size might be less desirable.

The consumer may settle for less durability because he or she has no expectations of moving the TV once it's brought home. The consumer may choose a much cheaper fixed wall mount or prefer a multi-function cabinet. Mobility is rarely important, and the largest size might be especially appealing.

B2B vs. B2C Messaging

Ultimately, the motivation behind the buying decision lays the foundation for your email messaging. Your goal is most likely lead generation in the B2B messaging space. Businesses respond to emails that focus on improving their bottom line. Unless your message emphasizes exactly how your product or service increases some aspect of ROI, it won't resonate. While the messaging should include benefits, keep the benefits ROI focused.

Consumers, in contrast, respond to messages which focus on non-ROI specific benefits-more time with family and friends, improved personal appearance, increased confidence, etc. Emotion, rather than logic, becomes a player in the decision-making process.

As says, "a company selling umbrellas to a B2B customer would focus their messaging on how buying umbrellas in bulk from them will result in the business seeing more return on investment when they resell them." In contrast, "that same company selling umbrellas to a B2C customer would focus their messaging on the quality of their umbrellas and why people should buy an umbrella from them, instead of anywhere else."

B2B vs. B2C Time Lines

With B2B email campaigns, you plan for a longer decision-making cycle. The investment is greater, so your email messaging must provide more proof that what you offer is the perfect solution. Your time line will require a carefully selected string of messages and materials if you want to turn soft leads into sales. Thus you will find webinars, teleseminars, whitepapers and eBooks are excellent tools for moving decision makers toward engagement with your business.

With B2C email marketing, your customers make their decisions rapidly. They usually know what they are looking for and why they want it. Effective email marketing campaigns should use video to sell the benefits of the product. Ongoing engagement enlists customer loyalty through exclusive offers, discounts, follow-up surveys to gauge customer satisfaction and other types of communication which keep the customer updated on the status of their order, etc.

B2B email communications may also use follow-up surveys and customer updates as part of their customer service management strategy.

B2B vs. B2C Market Size

B2B markets are usually narrower. Microsoft and Apple are key exceptions. Their products are marketed to both businesses and consumers. However, most businesses that sell to other businesses offer solutions that are more business oriented. This reduces the number of customers. Yet, serving the business community is also one way to establish long-term profitable relationships. Smaller doesn't mean less profitable.

B2C markets are as broad as the type of consumer your product or service resonates with. Thus a product that's for teenagers, such as an acne cream, or baby boomers, such as an anti-wrinkle cream has a smaller market size than one that appeals to men and women of all ages, such as sunscreen. Market size is related to your product appeal.

B2B vs. B2C Mobile Strategies

Even businesses are incorporating more mobile devices into their work environment. Thus mobile strategies are important within the email marketing space. B2B mobile strategies are more business oriented.

  • Ensuring email views well on mobile devices.
  • Delivering webinars to mobile platforms as well as computers.
  • Developing apps that make it possible to manage a solution from a mobile device when out of the office.

Typically, B2C mobile strategies are more entertainment focused, though they don't have to be. For example, mobile banking apps are B2C oriented without being entertainment focused. A wedding planning app is another B2C example that's not about entertaining. Thus, the difference between these mobile apps and a B2B app might be minimal. Both B2B and B2C apps can focus on content generation, content viewing and content sharing. However, the type of content generated, viewed and shared will be different.

A B2B app might focus on gathering information, processing data and sharing documents. Its purpose might be to make the proposal, invoicing and bidding process easier. Or it could be designed to correlate reports to results for effective ROI tracking. The B2C app might streamline the entire decision to purchase process so the consumer never leaves the app, much like an in-app purchase on your iPhone.


The primary differences between B2B and B2C email marketing are seen in 1) the motivators driving the buying decision, 2) the messaging with which a business or consumer resonates, 3) the time line and content associated with it, 4) the market, and 5) how mobile is used. With B2B email marketing, your primary goal will be to generate interest in your products and establish your leadership. With B2C email marketing, your primary goal will be to encourage a quick buying decision. Differentiate the content associated with these goals to enhance your email marketing success.

PS - If you need some help with email marketing be sure to download our free eBook: 9 Reasons Why People Are Ignoring Your Emails below.

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