What’s the Difference? B2B vs B2C Market Research Explained

Whether you’re engaged in B2B or B2C marketing, the most successful programs start with a solid foundation of data. Marketers gather that data via market research, which examines consumer behavior and trends to help an organization develop its business and marketing strategies. 

While there are differences between B2B and B2C market research, the goals are similar —to gain a better understanding of your customers’ needs and preferences, where to reach them, and how to persuade them to buy your products or services. 

What Are the Challenges of B2B Marketing vs. B2C Marketing?

While on the surface the differences between B2B and B2C marketing may not seem that great, each has its unique objectives and challenges. Due to larger market sizes, B2C marketers can have more trouble cutting through the clutter, standing out from the competition, and building brand loyalty. B2B marketing challenges include the fact that purchasing decisions take a much longer time, there are typically multiple decision-makers involved in each purchase, and the cost of each lead is high. 

Customer Motivation and Decision-Making

A primary objective of market research is to understand the customer’s motivation and decision-making process. Understanding the customer journey—or more specifically, your customers’ journey—is key to developing effective content marketing, digital marketing, email marketing, and other tactics.

When it comes to customer motivation and decision-making, the differences between B2C vs. B2B marketing can be especially pronounced. While business decision-makers aren’t spending their own money, there are plenty of other strong motivators at play that make them cautious and thoughtful about purchase decisions. Motivations include burnishing their reputation within the company, a desire to earn a promotion or bonus, and choosing a product or service that will make their job easier. Given that there are typically multiple stakeholders and decision-makers involved—and each individual’s motivations may differ based on their role in the organization—creating multiple buyer personas is all the more important. For these reasons and more, the difference between B2C vs B2B content marketing can be significant, with B2B audiences looking for more in-depth, detailed information to support their decision. 

Consumers tend to be more emotional about buying decisions, with motivations including ‘treating’ oneself to a splurge item, engaging with a favorite brand or influencer, or keeping up with the latest drinking cup craze

Make no mistake, though—B2B buyers are only human, and don’t check their emotions at the door when they arrive at work. Like consumers, they tend to purchase from brands they trust and respond to entertaining, emotional messaging

Different Market Sizes

While there are exceptions—regional marketers such as independent healthcare providers and nonprofits come to mind—many B2C marketers can be trying to reach a market of millions. The typical B2B Revel client, on the other hand, will have a prospect list of dozens to a few hundred contacts. Many B2B marketers such as manufacturers measure success by adding a handful of new customers each year. That’s why B2B marketing strategies tend to focus on the quality of leads, outreach, and marketing efforts over quantity.

Research Methods

Whether it’s B2B or B2C market research, there are two types to engage in: primary and secondary.

Primary research is any type of data you collect yourself, through the use of surveys, interviews, focus groups, and the like. In B2C market research, this might involve anything from a one-question survey post on social media to a series of focus groups. B2B marketers can use their smaller audience to their advantage as they employ small surveys, focus groups, or trade show interactions involving qualified prospects and customers. Existing customers can be especially responsive to telephone interviews or email surveys, happy to help a valued vendor better understand their needs. 

Data and input from your sales staff and CRM can also be incredibly valuable as you work towards developing a clearer picture of your ideal customer for generating buyer personas.

Secondary research is the practice of reviewing, curating, and compiling existing data from a variety of sources. In B2C market research, one might look at government demographic data to get a picture of how their target audience lives, works, and shops; what their income level is; and their age, marital status, etc. It all adds up to create an accurate buyer persona.

In B2B marketing, secondary research might come from online trade associations to competitor and customer websites, and, of course, good old-fashioned Googling. The goal is to gain a better understanding of what types of organizations you should be targeting and how to reach them.

Data Analysis

Whether you’re conducting B2C or B2B market research, you’ll be analyzing the data you’ve gathered in order to support the development of your strategic marketing plan. As data analytics help you understand your customers better, you’ll be able to optimize your marketing efforts.

Given the size of the audience, B2C data analysis will tend towards segmenting and profiling customers and will include more personal data, including demographics, lifestyle, and behavior. 

With B2B market research, your goals are to capture multiple data points including company size, industry, budget, goals, challenges, and decision criteria. The goals of B2B data analysis in particular include identifying and prioritizing leads and opportunities.

Once you’ve developed your strategic plan and have started implementing your tactics, you’ll want to analyze the results of your campaigns. Data including clicks, views, likes, reposts, contact form submissions, and so on will provide an even clearer understanding of the customer journey. By measuring KPIs and other metrics of customer outreach across different channels—from social media to email to various forms of content marketing— you can ensure that your marketing program is generating the biggest bang for your buck.

Build Your B2B Marketing Strategy with Revel

Whether it’s B2B or B2C marketing, using data from market research to build a sound marketing strategy is key to success. The Revel team starts with market research, then builds a strategic marketing communications plan that acts as a roadmap for your B2B marketing efforts. Our approach to B2B marketing strategy includes carefully studying the market and using our industry knowledge to create customized, innovative B2B marketing strategies. 

At Revel, we create impactful marketing strategies, build brands, and execute marketing campaigns to drive growth for business-to-business companies. We believe that B2B marketing doesn’t have to be boring to deliver big ideas that break through the clutter, make a lasting impression, and move the needle. Find out how Revel can help get your market research underway, develop a solid marketing strategy, and increase sales.

Kate is a copywriter specializing in B2B marketing. In the summer you can find her boating on Lake Michigan; in the fall, cheering on Ohio State football; and during the winter, counting the days til boating season starts again.

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