The 7 Key Differences Between Business-to-Business and Consumer Marketing

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The 7 Key Differences Between business-to-business and consumer marketing by Robert W. Bly

When asked if he could write an effective direct mail package on a complex electronic control system, a well-known direct response copywriter replied, “No problem. It doesn’t matter what the product is. You are selling to people. And people are pretty much the same.”

He’s wrong.

Yes, there are similarities. But there are also differences in selling to business and professional buyers vs. the general public. In fact, here are six key factors that set business-to-business marketing apart from consumer marketing:

1. The business buyer wants to buy. Most consumer advertising offers people products they
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5. Multiple buying influences. You don’t usually consult with a team of experts when you want to buy a fast-food hamburger, a soda, bottle of shampoo, or a pair of shoes, do you? In most consumer selling situations, the purchase decision is made by an individual. But a business purchase is usually a team effort, with many players involved.

For this reason, a business purchase is rarely an “impulse” buy. Many people influence the decision - from the purchasing agent and company president, to technical professionals and end-users. Each of these audiences has different concerns and criteria by which they judge you. To be successful, your copy must address the needs of all parties involved with the decision. In many cases, this requires separate mailings to many different people within an organization.

6. Business products are more complex. Most business products - and their applications - are more complex than consumer products. (For example, clients I now serve include a commercial bank, a manufacturer of elevator control systems, a data processing training firm, a database marketing company, a mailing list broker, a general contractor, and a semiconductor manufacturer.)

Business-to-business copy cannot be superficial. Clarity is essential. You cannot sell by “fooling” the

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