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Buying Behavior – B2B versus B2C

Olin Hyde

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In this episode of the Green & Greene Show, the LeadCrunch B2B podcast, two seasoned marketing and sales experts talk about the similarities and key challenges in creating marketing strategies for B2B vs. B2C audiences.

Hosts: Dave Green and Jonathan Greene

Topic: Demand Gen

Subtopic: Buying Behavior- B2C vs. B2B

Duration: 14 minutes


B2B vs B2C: How Our Similarities Help Us Bridge the Gap
The B2B Buying Process – Aiming for a Consensus
The Value of Content Marketing in the B2B Sales Process
How Relationships Can Impact the Buying Decision
Key Human Factors in the Decision Making Process
B2B Demand Generation Course Update

Podcast Transcript


[0:00:14.6] JG: Welcome, welcome, welcome to Episode 2 of the Green & Greene Show. I’m here again with J. David Green. Pleasure to have you back, sir. Today, we’ll discuss B2B versus B2C buying behavior, which is the bane of my marketing existence right now as I go through this transition of becoming a coherent B2B marketer. It is a little bit different, isn’t it? I mean, it has some very different considerations.

[0:00:42.3] JDG: It does. Before we get into the differences, we ought to talk a little bit about the similarities. It is different, yet it’s the same. There are some things that, if you’re a marketer, you need to understand and I bring this point up, but you probably don’t need to learn this as much as a lot of people who are really steeped in B2B.

When you and I worked for MarketingSherpa, we used to have an event. The editorial team knew full well that, if any case studies came up there that were B2C, the B2B audience would just go, “What does this have to do with me? I’m a B2B marketer. This is not relevant.”

How does the B2B buyer relate to B2C audiences?

There really are some transferable principles, and we talked about that last time, but more importantly, we’re all consumers. Let’s just say you’re designing a landing page. You’re not really competing with the landing page of your competitor in terms of things like load time. You’re competing with Amazon and Google. Whatever they’ve experienced as consumers, that’s the expectation they’re bringing to the experience they have with you. That’s one way.

Then, we’re all emotional. We’re all people. We all do things that we rationalize. In that regard, I think it’s not necessarily different, but there are some ways that it is different. Let me start with just one of those. With a few exceptions in B2C, where you’re buying a house or a car, it’s more of a considered purchase. With B2B, invariably, there are at least two people, and the bigger the company, the more people are involved. That creates a whole dynamic that you’d really don’t typically deal with in B2C marketing.

[0:02:35.6] JG: That’s a fair point. I think the way the purchase decisions are made cascades from that. A lot of times, in a B2C context, there can be impulse buying. There can be peer groups that influence buying that happens in a much more truncated fashion. I think we end up seeing evidence of that in terms of the length of the sales cycles, which are significantly longer in B2B purchasing decisions.

As you said, there’s usually a main point of contact, or a main target who’s going to make that purchase decision, but then he never is able to do that in the back. He has to loop in product people. He has to loop in finance people. He has to loop in subordinates, in most cases, and superiors. He has to justify that purchase decision with data to the extent possible. It does end up being a dichotomous endeavor from a B2C environment.

The B2B Buying Process – Aiming for a Consensus

[0:03:34.2] JDG: Let’s look a little bit at the journey and how that maybe is different. First of all, inside of any company, people have roles, and there are different ways to describe these roles. People talk about buyer personas, but in a generic sense, you have somebody who’s going to make a financial decision. They’re going to be the one, ultimately, who is going to allocate the budget, and they either really want to get into it a little bit or just approve, right? They really don’t need to do more than approve, because they trust the people who are making that decision to make a good one. They’ve given them some level of parameters.

There’s often a person who’s a storyteller, when you have a more complex solution, who gens up interest in the idea if it’s something new and different. Then there’s often another person inside the team who is the naysayer that says, “Hey, I don’t buy it. This sounds like something we did before.” Those two people butt heads and only when they’re on the same page do things move forward. You need to do something that gets both of those people on the same page.

Again, I’m thinking of bigger things that are being purchased, not transactional things in B2B. The third dynamic is somebody who can actually implement a solution. There are always people inside the organization who have a reputation for actually being able to operationalize the wild ideas that somebody has, someone who’s a picture painter and a dreamer. You really need to get a consensus of those three people to get things to actually happen inside a company. If any of those are missing, it falls apart.

Finally, there’s a cadre of people who don’t have much influence but like to weigh in. You can have those people. Those, I think, are important considerations when you’re thinking about the difference between B2B and B2C.

The Role of Content Marketing in the B2B Sales Process

[0:05:36.7] JG: Yeah, I think that that begins to affect the type and the nature of content, then you have to produce around these initiatives. I think, in a B2C environment, it’s standard and insufficient to focus on value proposition and what maybe one or two levels of need that people experience and how the product solves that pain point. I think in a B2B environment, your content has to be much more robust and ultimately designed to speak, at some level, to each of those concerns that you mentioned.

Your retargeting becomes much more complicated and lengthy. In fact, you have to articulate a lot of things that are not necessary for a B2C product. I think people are looking for expertise and market leadership. I think they’re looking for ease of use. I think they’re looking for integrations. I think they’re looking for a whole score of things that don’t necessarily apply in the B2C space. As content marketers, we actually have to up our game significantly in order to provide those things.

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[0:06:39.9] JDG: That’s an interesting thing, and I think that’s also part of this buying dynamic. When you start the investigation, what you care about as a business, and as a person maybe participating in that purchase process, is a little bit different than it is as you move through that journey. Your information needs changes, and you have to basically begin to tailor what you’re going to share with the person based upon where they are in that journey, not just the role that they play. It’s got some complexity to it.

[0:07:16.8] JG: They don’t care what you think about the role of relationship building in B2B versus B2C. I think there are a lot of instances in a B2C environment where I can sell products and services to people with whom I really have no prior relationship, but it seems like this becomes much more important in the B2B space.

How Business Relationships Can Impact the Buying Decision

I’ve even seen instances where people do business with the same salesman over and over again, even as they move from company to company and product to product. What’s your take on that from a relationship perspective?

[0:07:47.2] JDG: First of all, I think that, in fact, lots and lots of business decisions are done based upon prior relationships. If you talk to really good sales people, the best have a book of contacts. They have a gold Rolodex, as it were, of people who no other people can make introductions, and they leverage that relationship.

I think the second part of it is that, when you want to do demand gen, you get a lot of people you already have a relationship with. It’s not cleanly, “These are all the new logos,” because they don’t really care. They just saw something they were interested in, and they respond. If you really peel the onion on those responses, you’ll find that, quite often, the people who already know you and trust you are the ones who are responding in the highest volumes.

It’s really important, and I think people lose sight of this in demand gen, that your first job is to try to build a relationship with someone, not capture a lead. What do you do to build that trust and be someone they could want to go on a journey with? I think a lot of us lose sight of that, the relationship side of this.

[0:09:07.9] JG: Yeah, absolutely. I think that it’s important, because of the drivers, the reasons people purchase things are so dichotomous as well. For B2C consumer behavior, we’re talking about hunger, you’re talking about desire, status, cost, things that are very, very emotionally driven. I think that in the B2B context, that becomes much more logical and rationality-driven. Even the nature and the tone of our marketing communications has to evolve to that end.

Key Human Factors in the B2B Decision Making Process

[0:09:42.2] JDG: That’s interesting. I think the biggest competitor everybody faces for any complex solution, and this doesn’t apply to commoditized things as much as it does complex solutions that are new, is not your competitor. It’s the status quo, because people do actually fear the status quo. They’re far more motivated by risk avoidance than they are, typically, by the possibility of gain.

What I believe happens with people is they want to avoid bad stuff, and that’s what motivates them more than anything else. A lot of the decisions, while they appear to be rational on the surface, I think the rational part of it is something that happens after the fact. “Okay, now let’s construct our ROI analysis to do what we want to do.” You know what I mean? “To the degree I need to do that.”

Versus there’s some really good CFO-type brain thinking going on at the beginning that carried the day. It really often is, “I don’t want to get fired.” Those kinds of things motivate people a lot, and they are really emotional.

[0:10:55.7] JG: I’ve always been taught to ask the question in formulating marketing communications. It’s a simple value proposition exercise, really, but the question is, “Why should people choose my products over any other products (and a very important addition to that) or no product at all?” Why should people choose my product over any other products, or no products at all? I think, in the B2B space, that third option, no product at all, is the 500-pound gorilla in the room, because of exactly the things that you’re mentioning.

You have to not only be successful, but you have to be not embarrassing. There’s almost an impetus to make the person buying the product or service look like a hero in their organization for having done it. There’s a really big impetus to just do nothing for a lot of people if they’re worried that this is experimental, or it might not work, or it might cause me to lose face with the organization. A lot of additional concerns happen there.

[0:11:55.3] JDG: Yeah, and there’s an overwhelming amount of evidence to support this; lots of research. Companies like Corporate Visions have written books, where they articulate this. Lots of academic research, companies like Forrester have said the same thing. It’s well over 60% of the decisions. Actually, if you look at the funnel of people that you capture as a lead, it’s rare that more than 1% or 2% of them convert. Lots of people look, not many buy, and a big reason for that is the status quo. Not because they went in another direction. They don’t buy anything.

B2B Demand Generation Certification Course Update

[0:12:30.6] JG: Right, exactly. All right, we’re trying to keep these relatively short, if you guys don’t know. I’m going to give Dave a minute or two to formulate a recap of a very prolific final thought on the difference in the time between now and then. I’m going to talk, I’m going to give you a background, a brief overview of what we’re trying to do here.

We’re actually building a B2B demand generation course that’s going to eventually result in a certification. We think it’s going to be one of the most unique and interesting certifications in the market, in B2B demand generation. We would love for you guys to be on board for that when we finally launch it.

What I’ve done is I’ve gone ahead and created a landing page. It’s leadcrunch.com/waitlist. If you want to go ahead and type that into your browser, what you’re going to get is a landing page and a couple of form fields: first name, last name, e-mail address. That’s going to enable us to help you be the first one to know when this course is published and ready to go. You can be the first one in your company, or in your industry space that actually ends up with this certification.

We think it’s going to be a really great program. All these podcasts are going to contribute to it. We’re going to pull out the key points. We’re going to form a study manual out of that information, and then we’re going to offer a certification test. People who are paying attention, or are following along, obviously, are going to have a leg up on that. We’d love to have you sign up for it. It’s leadcrunch.com/waitlist.

All right, Dave. It’s go time. You got a final word?

[0:14:12.0] JDG: Yeah. One of the innovations that we’re going to have, and I know a lot of you are going to be looking forward to this, is we’re going to go get some really good-looking actors and paint us out and put them in there, so that looking at us isn’t so hard and it’s not so distracting as you’re learning really great stuff. Just joking about that. You’re really stuck with us.

[0:14:34.1] JG: I’m always is going to take my place over here. My kids are going to love it.

[0:14:39.5] JDG: Anyway, hey thanks. Thanks so much, Jonathan. Great episode. By the way, we’re going to stay on this topic of buyer behavior for the next episode, so stay tuned and learn more. Thanks so much.

[0:14:52.9] JG: All right, guys. This has been episode 2 of the Green & Greene show. Once again, we’re happy to have you here. Thanks a lot. We’ll see you next time.