Let's say you're an inbound marketing firm. Your business is lead generation - which means that having a sound strategy for the capture of leads is integral to your success. Unfortunately, this is precisely where so many businesses run into trouble.
See, lead generation is among the most misunderstood marketing principles on the web. Way too many marketers make the mistaken assumption that there can be a one-size-fits all strategy; that they can easily capture leads for their brand simply by aping what someone else is doing. This, in turn, leads to a whole lot of wasted marketing dollars and wasted time.
The truth is that, when you're setting out to generate leads, the type of customer you target matters every bit as much as your industry and brand. An inbound marketing firm that primarily deals with other businesses is going to capture leads in a different way than one that works with regular consumers, even if there are similarities. One Bird's Chris Hokansson put it best, I think:
"B2B marketing and B2C marketing are like two different dog breeds," he explains. "Sure, there's a big difference between a German Shepherd and a poodle, but at the end of the day, they're both dogs."
"B2B and B2C marketing are both about people," continues Hokansson. "But just as you wouldn't handle a pit bull the same as you would a basset hound, B2B and B2C marketing demand different approaches."
B2B Lead Generation: Vertical Markets, Complex Sales
A company that primarily captures business-oriented leads is going to target a significantly smaller cross-section of customers. These vertical markets will often all but demand complex value propositions, as well as requiring a sales process that's considerably slower, more involved, and more complicated. The reason for this is that the purchasing process for a business is generally significantly slower than that of a consumer - a brand might take months to reach a consensus on whether or not to purchase a particular product, whereas an ordinary customer might make the decision in a matter of minutes.
The trade-off, of course, is that B2B tends to deal with significantly higher value per lead - anywhere from a few thousands of dollars to tens of millions of dollars per purchase.
What's more, B2B marketing is typically much less conversational in nature than B2C, and far more focused on the long-term. B2B leads aren't interested in forming an emotional connection with a brand - they want to know the practical benefits of a product. They want to know why they should commit to a business relationship with a firm.
B2C Lead Generation: Emotional Connections, Brand Identity
I've already touched a bit on the fact that B2C lead generation requires a very different approach from B2B. Whereas a business might be looking into a product because it can help streamline its own sales process, a consumer might just want a new piece of technology or some new clothes. What this means is that a B2C business needs to communicate differently than a B2B firm.
Whereas a business is interested in what a product can do for them, a consumer is generally far more concerned with what they think of a brand. Emotional connections, conversation, and personal opinion play into consumer purchasing decisions to a far greater degree than they do organizational. This is because, at their core, consumer purchasing decisions are generally far less complex than business purchasing decisions.
There are exceptions, of course. "Some consumer purchases rise to the complexity of B2B decisions," notes Hokansson, "such as buying a house or car."
"Generally speaking," he continues, "B2C depends more on branding, advertising, promotions, and so forth to spur sales, which are often made "anonymously and impulsively - as opposed to the hard business calculations and personal business relationships that drive B2B sales."
People Marketing: Where B2B And B2C Intersect
At the end of the day - and I think this is where most of the confusion arises around B2B vs B2C - both lead generation strategies are about people. They're about isolating your target market, and finding a means of appealing to them in order to capture information and generate sales. Where they differ is the context in which leads are approached.
Just as you wouldn't try to convince a board of directors to buy an analytics platform based on their emotional opinion of your brand, you wouldn't attempt to give someone looking for a restaurant a massive, involved sales pitch. The most important thing, then, is to know your audience. Know who you're selling to, and why.
The rest should follow with relative ease.