Business-to-business and business-to-consumer marketing strategies have much in common. After all, whether you want to attract a business client or a consumer, you’re still ultimately trying to communicate with a person. That person has goals, problems and hopes, which a strong marketing strategy should tap into. However, the fundamental difference lies in how that person makes his or her final decision.
One definition of a customer persona we like is this: “A customer persona tells the full story about how and why a buyer makes the decision to purchase.”
For a consumer, the story usually starts with a problem they’re trying to solve. If, for example, your company produces a grocery list app, the problems your target client might face may include losing shopping lists, a purse overflowing with old, crinkled lists, or accidentally buying too much milk because a spouse went shopping separately. A shareable list app on your mobile phone solves all of these problems, and if the price is right, that’s enough to make the sale.
For a B2B buyer, the buying process is more complicated. Your first contact is usually not with the decision-maker, but rather the decision-maker’s assistant, or the head of a department. All of a sudden, you don’t need one customer persona, you need multiple personas in order to create the strategies that will eventually gain the notice of the person able to buy.
Difference #1: One Customer Persona Won’t Cut it for the B2B Market
A common myth is that B2B purchase decisions are driven by logic rather than emotion, which isn’t precisely true. Closer to the truth is that B2B purchase decisions are usually the result of multiple people discussing the pros and cons of the available solutions to their problems. That might sound like logic triumphing over emotion, but each of those people has his or her own set of goals and problems. Each of those people wishes his or her life was just a bit easier.
That said, you can pretty much rule out impulse purchases. A professional’s decision to buy on behalf of their company is going to be more carefully considered and involve more people, but when you can identify the right benefits based on your audience analysis – you’ll win the bid almost every time.
Difference #2: A different set of problems
In addition to individual problems, businesses have company-wide challenges, which may directly or indirectly influence purchase decisions. The business’s needs and pain points act almost like another person, and it’s well worth building out a persona for your target business, as well as the CEO, VP of marketing, or whoever else wields the power over “yes” and “no.”
What isn’t as helpful is the typical data collected for B2C marketing personas. While psychographics, demographics and geography are useful to know for your B2B persona, understanding which beer brand your buyer persona prefers isn’t going to be as pertinent for the B2B market. However, knowing which brands your B2B persona admires and identifying their influencers can help you capture their attentions.
Difference #3: Your strategy, defined by their role
The importance of role within a company is a key difference between the B2C and B2B consumer. Within the B2B market, you can create much of your strategy around the job title of your target buyer – a technique that doesn’t work nearly as well in the B2C market, where a job title doesn’t necessarily influence the consumer’s decision to purchase an item from one vendor over another. But role, position, or job title can give you insights into potential pain points, possible obstacles to purchasing, and feature considerations – which can lead your marketing team to find the most persuasive benefits.
And, the most important similarity...
The differences between B2B and B2C marketing personas are actually fairly limited – and the similarities are many. We think the most important factor for creating an effective customer persona for either group is the same: Find out how your target measures their success. You can’t glean that information from demographic, psychographic, or geographic data, but without it, your marketing persona won’t generate the conversions you need, or deliver the results you want.
If you’ve got a B2B client to pitch, you might want to read our free eBook, Pitching Prospects: The Secrets of the Most Successful Marketing Agencies, where we talk about how to reach the right decision makers in more detail.