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How B2B Marketing Differs from B2C Marketing Online

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For years now, businesses have been using the Internet to market directly to consumers. But the Internet can also be used for business-to-business (B2B) marketing. In this article, Michael Miller, author of The Ultimate Web Marketing Guide, discusses how B2B online marketing differs from marketing directly to consumers — and how you can get a head start on your B2B competition.
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Business-to-business (B2B) companies sell products and services to other businesses, not to individual consumers. Not only is the B2B customer different from the business-to-consumer (B2C) customer, but so is the nature of B2B marketing.

This is especially so when it comes to the use of online marketing vehicles. How you use the Internet to market a B2B business, and to what end, is much different than with B2C online marketing. Yes, both B2B and B2C companies use search engine marketing, email marketing, social network marketing, and the like, but B2B companies employ much different strategies for each of these vehicles.

Understanding B2B Marketing

B2C marketing is all about selling products and services to a large number of consumers. It’s more mass marketing than target marketing (although that’s starting to change), and brand and price are both important.

B2B marketing, on the other hand, is more about building relationships. To sell your products or services, you have to establish a personal relationship with each customer; it’s target marketing, with brand and price subsidiary to the value of the customer relationship.

Table 1 compares the two types of marketing.

Table 1—B2C Marketing vs. B2B Marketing

B2C Marketing

B2B Marketing

Target market?



Market size?


Small and focused




Length of sales cycle?



Buying process?

Single step

Multiple step

What creates brand identity?

Repeated imagery

Personal relationship

What drives awareness?

Merchandising and promotion

Education and personal contact

What drives buying decision?

Price, status, and desire—an emotional decision

Business value—a rational decision

The goal of B2B marketing is to create prospects and then convert those prospects into customers. That takes time. Because of the increased length of the B2B sales cycle, and the rationality of the ultimate buying decision, B2B marketing tends to be relationship driven, even in its online iteration.

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