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B2B vs. B2C marketing automation: Is there a difference?

B2B vs. B2C marketing automation: Is there a difference?

Over recent years, marketing automation software has emerged as a leading light for businesses hoping to to engage customers, boost lead generation and increase sales. For all of these benefits though, there’s still plenty of confusion out there as to how automation tools should work as part of an overall marketing strategy.

While it’s true that there are a few facets of automation software that can benefit businesses of every size and in every industry (such as customer segmentation), it’s vital to remember that each company’s strategy for automated content will be slightly different.

One of the biggest factors in determining the best automation tools and approach for a specific business is the audience it’s addressing. Are you talking directly to consumers, or to other businesses?

This is a major distinction, as the best ways for B2B and B2C organisations to use a marketing automation platform can differ significantly. Let’s take a closer look at five of the most important distinctions between the two approaches.

The best ways for B2B and B2C organisations to use a marketing automation platform can differ significantly.

1. Goals and objectives

Before we get into the nitty gritty of how B2B and B2C businesses use marketing automation tools, it’s a good idea to look at why they’re using them – the purpose of automated content in general.

This purpose should be based on the overarching goals and objectives of your content marketing strategy, These are defined as:

  • Goals: Tangible actions you want users to take on your website or social media pages
  • Objectives: Broader aims of your strategy, such as increasing traffic or establishing thought leadership in a particular industry

Marketing automation software can be a great tool for achieving these goals and objectives, and by clearly defining them, it’s much easier to see where B2B and B2C companies will differ in their approach to automated emails, social media posts and other forms of content.

Goals and objectives for B2B and B2C automation

For example, B2B businesses will want to focus on lead generation and keeping potential customers engaged through a longer sales cycle, whereas B2C companies without the same sort of sales process will simply want to build their brand and increase traffic.

These different sets of goals and objectives will in turn affect the best tactics for a particular company. Understanding which approaches (including types of automated content, channels to target, and data to use) are best for either B2B or B2C is therefore a great start in identifying mistakes to avoid when using marketing automation software.

2. Types of content

The first major difference between automated marketing strategies for B2B and B2C organisations that we’ll look at is the type of content that gets automated.

A great way to think about this is by returning to the ever-vital sales funnel, and looking at where the customers of B2B and B2C businesses typically fall within it.

Sales-funnel

Content for B2B marketing automation

For B2B automated marketing campaigns, it’s likely that most consumers are starting right at the top of the funnel and slowly working their way through to interest and eventually action. Accordingly, it’s important to create a variety of content that fits each stage of the process.

For example, thought-leadership content such as in-depth blogs that don’t focus too much on selling a particular product work incredibly well at the top of the funnel when distributed via automated email marketing. As a lead moves down the funnel – say, after signing up for a free email or downloading a gated whitepaper – customer segmentation within automation software makes it possible to start delivering slightly more ‘salesy’ content that starts linking your organisation’s product or service to a particular problem.

The success of this content marketing strategy comes down to the fact that a lead is carefully nurtured at each stage of the funnel, giving you the very best chance of turning interest into desire, and eventually, a sale.

Content for B2C marketing automation

On the other side of the coin, B2C businesses aren’t blessed with such a long sales cycle. In fact, a visitor to your website may only be sitting in the top of the funnel for a few minutes before leaving, necessitating a much more immediate effort to grab a customer’s attention and try to convert that into a purchase. This is where personalisation comes into play, particularly on websites (with recommended products) and via email marketing (offering discounts or special deals). As a result, the best types of automation software for B2C organisations need to integrate with existing platforms that they already use, such as Shopify for eCommerce websites.

Of course, understanding which type of content is best for B2B or B2C automation is only the beginning. There’s no point sending out dozens of automated emails to certain groups of customers if the content doesn’t match up with the overarching brand identity that you’re trying to build.

To avoid this, businesses on both ends of the spectrum need to make sure that their tone of voice and communication style via automated content are consistent with their promotion on social media platforms like Twitter or Facebook.

Businesses need to make sure their tone of voice with automated content is consistent with an overarching strategy

3. Channels used

Once a B2B or B2C business has worked out what type of content will best serve their goals and objectives at various stages of the content funnel, the next step is deciding which marketing channels are going to provide the best platform for delivery.

B2B: Segmentation within a channel

As with type of content, deciding on the best channel should be based on a particular organisation’s goals and objectives. For example, if a B2C company wants to focus on building awareness of their brand and lead nurturing, automated social media posts make a lot of sense. Meanwhile, a B2B business might focus more on integrating automation with their existing CRM (customer relationship management) software, to ensure customers are receiving the right content at the right stage of their journey through the sales funnel.

Email is perhaps the most common and effective tool for all automation marketing strategies but it’s important to understand how use of email marketing should differ. As email is often the only channel for B2B automated content delivery, it’s vital to use it in a way that stimulates engagement by delivering the right content at the right time.

B2C: More channels to use

B2C businesses however, often have access to a far wider range of channels, including push notifications, text messages, web messages and social media messaging. While these are all great ways to reach a customer, it’s important to keep automated content at a reasonable level, rather than inundating potential customers with so many messages that they simply unsubscribe.

4. Data required

So far, we’ve focused on how B2B and B2C businesses should use automated content to target specific types of customers with specific content via different channels and various stages of the sales funnel, but what about the data required to facilitate this process?

Prioritising data

There are two key components to consider here, with the first being what kind of data is most important. For B2B businesses, value comes from information such as company size, industry, point of contact and key needs, all of which makes it possible to boost lead nurturing by delivering the right material. For B2C companies, automation is far more personalised, and as a result it’s important to identify data dealing with age, gender, purchase history and frequently visited product pages.

Collecting data

Fill forms and website registration are undoubtedly some of the best ways for both B2B and B2C to discover this information, but the other main ways of collecting data differ wildly,

For B2B automation, data can be pulled from a CRM system, but B2C companies don’t typically have this sort of access. Instead, they’ll need to focus on tracking users via cookies, which necessitates a lead taking some sort of action – such as adding an item to their cart.

To ensure this happens, it’s critical for a website to be as easy to use as possible, and to boost overall traffic – and thereby, data-collection – by frequent social media posting and other content marketing best practices.

To facilitate data collection through user actions, it’s critical for a website to be as easy to use as possible

5. Length of sales cycle

Finally, while we’ve already touched on the differences in the sales cycles of B2B and B2C businesses, it’s worth looking specifically at how this can affect lead nurturing and lead generation, as well as an overall marketing strategy.

In particular, the length of the sales cycle and volume of total leads necessitates a different approach and a specialised form of automation software. For B2B, this means focusing on relationship building and continuing automated content after the point of sale, in order to retain business from a smaller pool of leads. B2C on the other hand, often targets thousands of different customers, many of whom will not make a purchase. This makes retargeting (the process of enticing leads back into the funnel via special offers) a much more critical component of the overall marketing strategy for B2C consumers, as well as ensuring consistent levels of lead generation.

The final word

While we’ve touched on many of the core differences between marketing automation for B2B and B2C organisations, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach that will work for every company.

Instead, it’s critical to take a long, hard look at your organisation’s specific goals and objectives, before building a comprehensive marketing strategy around that – of which automation will be a single, but vital, component.

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Ben Lange
Ben Lange About the author

A Castleford veteran now based out of England, Ben writes across a broad variety of industries, including construction, education, recruitment, banking and film and music. He’s a regular contributor to the Castleford blog and writes for clients such as Hilti Australia, TRC Group and Beyond Bank.

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