Business or consumer? Which is your market?


A recent discussion with a colleague brought up an interesting question.

Can a brand target both B2B and B2C markets at the same time.

My immediate answer was that I thought this would be a challenge.

In most cases B2B and B2C marketing are targeting different mindsets:

To quote from a recent post:

  • B2C: Promoting products and services that customers want, but don’t need.
  • B2B: Promoting products and services that customers need, but don’t want.

Okay, it’s a bit clichéd but I think the distinction makes an interesting point.

B2C is often selling to emotion, while B2B is about delivering tangible value.

On this basis, marketing a brand that fits both viewpoints is challenging.

Actually, there are numerous examples of brands that successfully engage with both businesses and consumers so why do I think the combination is challenging?

My reasoning is that in most cases where marketing ostensibly targets both businesses and consumers, that marketing is actually treating both as the same (either one or the other)

Targeting consumers as businesses

High street banking and Utilities are examples of businesses targeting predominantly consumers with something that fundamentally they ‘need but don’t want’ i.e. the B2B model. In these cases, the marketing messages are often about value and convenience rather than subjective/emotional messages.

Targeting businesses as consumers

This area has expanded substantially over recent years with the exponential growth of one-man-band and micro-business sector. Owners of these businesses will make subjective buying decisions based on ‘want but don’t need’ so although strictly B2B, successful marketing often takes a more B2C angle. Many companies selling services to the SME sector take this approach.

So, a business can target its marketing at both businesses and consumers if they can be influenced by the same style of message. The challenge of marketing a single proposition to different mindsets doesn’t really arise.

Marketing along the supply chain

There is one other possibility which takes a different approach – Marketing along the supply chain

As an example, let’s look at AA star ratings for hotels; a highly successful business model for over 100 years (you can find out more here).

Ultimately the value here is focused on the consumer. The AA has created a brand that the consumer trusts to tell them the quality of a hotel. So principally this is a consumer brand.

However, to be viable in the real world, hotels have to buy into the AA star rating system. If no hotels used the star rating, then the value to consumers would be significantly reduced. On this basis, it is also a B2B brand.

The value to businesses is directly related to the value to the consumer. If consumers did not trust and buy-in to the brand, then it would have no value to the hotels

The AA Hotel Ratings is first and foremost a consumer brand, with the B2B value coming directly out of that relationship with hotels being a key element in the supply chain who (as businesses looking for tangible value) pick up on the subjective/want but don’t need marketing to consumers. In other words, the marketing is B2B2C!

So, to come back to my original discussion, unless you can effectively target both consumers and businesses together because they have a common mindset, or you have the relatively exceptional case where you are marketing along a supply chain, I stand by the view that targeting different B2B and B2C mindsets at the same time with a single message is challenging and will struggle for sustainable success.

Filed under: General Musings, Marketing Planning, Marketing Strategy

About Duncan Wright

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Over the past 25 years, working in both the corporate world, and the field of SME marketing consultancy, Duncan Wright has developed extensive knowledge & experience that really adds value to BSA Marketing's clients.

As a member of the CIM, and as a Chartered Marketer, Duncan has the marketing knowledge to come up with relevant and innovative marketing strategies for clients, whilst at the same time possessing the technical knowledge to turn these strategies into relevant and sustainable marketing campaigns in the real world.

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