B2B vs. B2C...what’s Different?


Some CEOs and business leaders do not understand the differences between B2B and B2C worlds. Many leaders have a difficult time making the much-needed adjustments to be successful when they move from the B2C to the B2B world. Understanding the differences is essential to yielding predictable results on all Go-to-Market activities including: strategy, marketing, sales, product development and service.
For instance, I’m a living case-in-point. I drink more Diet Coke than I do anything else. I have it stocked in my home fridge, in my work fridge, and I order it every day at lunch. The image of the Coke brand, for me as the customer, is defined entirely by the advertising, package design, and my experience with the taste. I have no personal relationship or connection with the organization itself, and yet I am entirely loyal to that brand. If the package is damaged I assume my local grocer dropped it while putting it out on the shelf. If it doesn’t taste right at restaurant, I assume the restaurant got the mix wrong.
B2C companies invest millions to understand the various personas, segments, demographics, and geographical nuances to help them determine how to position and manage their brands to appeal to these masses. In the retail category (e.g., Starbucks, Disney, Target), the brand is also impacted by elements such as the store (look, experience) and the people (knowledge, culture, and interactions). B2B companies invest to understand their customers as well, but the path they take is very different.
While the fundamentals of marketing are universal, there are three key factors that require different applications of these fundamentals in the B2B arena. They are:
• Number of customers — B2C firms usually have 100 to 1,000 times as many customers for a similar amount of revenue. Retailer Williams Sonoma has 33 million customers with $4 Billion in revenue, while Systems integrator HCL has the same revenue, yet only 600 customers.
• Multiple buying levels within a B2B customer — As my coke example above, I am the sole person in the buying process, In the B2B world there are three typical levels: user, influencer, decision maker and each level may have 1 to 100s of people involved which impact the purchasing process.
• Domain knowledge — The B2B buyer has the expertise and experience in the offering being considered. Think about the Boeing Engineer evaluating a GE jet engine for a new airplane…a CIO evaluating a new IT provider…or a CFO reviewing audit firms. They have a level of expertise that most consumers rarely have. Let’s face it, how many people can distinguish a $10 vs. $100 bottle of wine?
Understanding the key differences between the B2B and B2C worlds and applying the appropriate approaches will boost the overall ROI on all Go-to-Market efforts and ultimately propel an organization towards Sustainable, Predictable, and Profitable Growth.
About the Author
Sean Geehan is a highly respected expert and thought leader on b2B selling.  He is the author of the National Best seller, The B2B Executive Playbook and founder of Geehan Group, the provider of Customer Advisory Board research, services, and methodology.   Sean can be reached at