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B2B versus B2C Marketing – The Difference Counts

Marketing a deep fryer is not the same as selling fish and chips

Any marketing course that’s worth half its salt preaches the need to match the pitch to the catcher. Selling equipment to a business is about understanding needs. Selling fast foods to customers is a different ballgame. All you have to do is make them want it. This is straightforward in principle. However, you need to capitalize on the difference between Business-2-Business and Business-2-Customer marketing to succeed in practice.

An owner of a pie shop decided to diversify into selling fresh fish and chips as well. He hired an experienced assistant, gave him a budget and told him to get on with it. The cook knew he needed a five-liter oil pan, a robust chip basket and a high-speed element, because these would give him the fresh-cooked tasty texture his customers would come back for. He asked two companies to quote.

‘Michael’ pushed his product hard on the basis that it would produce tasty fish and chips, handed over a catalogue of pictures of plated fried foods, and offered free recipes. ‘Mary’ was smarter. She knew the assistant needed a fryer that was fast, reliable, easy to clean and simple to operate. She also offered to do a demo for the pie shop owner, and to provide free posters of deep fried fish and chips to put up on the walls. She got the business although her price was a little higher. Both salespeople were selling the exact same product.

Michael used the classic B2C approach, which was inappropriate. He focused on the benefits of the deep fat fryer, and hoped to provoke an emotional response. If the pie shop customers had been there, they would probably have voted him in as supplier. He totally missed the point that the cook already knew the recipes, did not need the culinary advice and was planning to serve the product in paper bags.

Mary’s B2B style was what did the trick. She knew the pie shop owner had already decided to sell fish and chips, and just needed a practical device for cooking them. Offering the posters was a great gig because it would help the customer launch their B2C campaign, where tasty pictures are great selling tools. Her clincher was offering the joint demo. Mary sensed there was a decision maker behind the scenes. She just needed a key to open the door.

These distinctions are not unique to the world of deep fryers and fried fish and chips. They apply everywhere where companies are buying stock for resale, or inputs to goods or services they supply. They are often making one-time, big-ticket purchases. Their decision teams need logical reasons they can motivate up the line. Mary understood that selling Business-2-Business is meeting these needs.

Michael should have been a surefire winner had he been the clerk on the pie shop counter. His takeout menu would have dripped with tasty photos, and he would have been at pains to describe the benefits of the different recipes. In a nutshell, that’s the difference between B2B and B2C. In the latter instance, there is less focus on logic. Emotional and sensory experiences are what counts.

There is a world of difference between marketing to businesses, and pitching to individual customers. Commerce is time-bound with little time for chatter when it comes to salespeople. You have one chance to get it right, to show that your product serves their needs or you may as well pack up and go home. Selling to customers is a more convivial matter. They want to be entertained, and to grow to like you before you launch your pitch, and then to learn the benefits. Next time you are in selling mode, take a moment out to recall these principles. Are you in B2B, or B2C mode today? Are you meeting needs or selling benefits?

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