Understanding B2B and B2C content marketing via this simple Venn diagram
B2B, B2C, R2D2—they’re all the same when it comes to marketing, right? Of course not; R2D2’s from Star Wars. All jokes aside, business-to-business and business-to-consumer content marketing are far from being the same. In fact, what works and what usually doesn’t work for B2B and B2C brands are different from one another, and not just because they have different names.
Below, we’ve detailed the key tenets, differences, and nuances of B2B and B2C content marketing and how brands can use this information to understand their content marketing efforts better.
B2B content marketing
Before we can get into what B2B content marketing encompasses, we need a friendly reminder of what a B2B brand usually wants to accomplish with content marketing. In other words, what are the general content marketing goals of a B2B brand? B2B content marketing usually has three broad goals in mind: raising brand awareness, boosting engagement, and generating leads. In fact, 85 percent of B2B marketers say they create content primarily to build brand awareness.
Building brand awareness is a vague enough goal for brands, but it’s obviously fulfilling that goal that really matters. Content from a B2B brand—whether it’s text-based, videos, infographics, research reports, podcasts, etc.—is created to educate and inform the reader not only about pertinent topics but about the B2B brand’s products and services. Ideally, B2B brands use content to show that they know the most and are the best at what they do to build brand awareness in their industry and community.
Thus, B2B brands really like thought leadership content. Packaging expertise into content is a great way for B2B brands to stand out in the crowded thought leadership market. According to the Harvard Business Review, the best B2B content teaches customers something new about their business and persuades readers to change their behaviour and decision processes. If the ultimate goal of B2B content marketing is to generate leads, then B2B content must take enough risks to get noticed in the marketplace. Content like white papers, e-books, research reports, webinars, infographics, and more that emphasize value—in the brand and in the content—do especially well for B2B brands. Think Square, Hootsuite, Allstate, and LinkedIn.
B2C content marketing
When it comes to business-to-consumer marketing, “consumer” is definitely the key word for brands to remember. Whereas B2B content marketing focuses more on “serious” topics meant to educate and inform consumers about their products and/or services, B2C content marketing uses content to entertain and create enthusiasm about their brand for consumers.
Content for B2C often falls under umbrella terms like “lifestyle content” because the heart of B2C content is “aspirational.” (To be clear, B2B brands can also use lifestyle content. See below.) Brands want to create content that represents a lifestyle consumers can obtain via their products or services. The “aspirational” content can be directly related—like Whole Foods’ content marketing campaigns on healthy eating—or tangentially, like Red Bull’s extreme sports lifestyle content for The Red Bulletin.
Unlike B2B content marketing, thought leadership is often a no-show with B2C content. To quote HubSpot, “Did you choose a Coke over a Pepsi because you believe Coca-Cola’s depth of knowledge of the industry exceeds Pepsi’s? Did you pour a bowl of Wheaties for breakfast because of General Mills’ perceived authority when it comes to cereal?” The answer, of course, is no.
B2C consumers need to feel safe, secure, and informed; it doesn’t help if they see their peers using, wearing, or consuming B2C brands either. Consumers don’t care about what a brand’s authority in the space is; they care about what a brand can offer them. Sometimes that’s a product or service, other times that’s a lifestyle.
The B2B and B2C content marketing Venn diagram
No matter if you are a B2B brand or B2C brand, your content marketing needs to deliver value to a consumer. Of course, how a brand does this depends upon whether they are a B2B brand or B2C brand. Below, we’ve created a handy Venn diagram to help you remember the differences.
And finally, a necessary disclaimer:
We know that B2B content should inform and educate while B2C content should inspire. But just because B2B content marketing emphasizes educating products, services, and knowledge to groups of people doesn’t mean that B2B brands can’t use lifestyle content to build brand awareness, like Sotheby’s. Or that B2C brands can’t create thought leadership pieces, like fintech brand nTrust. The “rules” outlined above (and below) are guidelines to help brands think of their audiences and the types of content. They are guidelines; nothing more.
B2B and B2C brands have different audiences, goals and responsibilities, but one thing remains clear: they both must provide value. How they provide value is up to a brand’s content strategy and beyond.