401-423-2400 Kristin@Zhivago.com

Social Media: B2B and B2C are NOT the same

RevenueJournal_SocialMedia-B2BvsB2C[1]A world-famous marketing guru was giving a webinar recently. In answer to a question someone asked at the end, the guru said, “There really isn’t any difference between B2B and B2C.”

I cringed.

Because there IS a difference if you’re trying to sell something. And isn’t that what all this marketing and selling stuff is supposed to be about?

Another famous marketing guru – this time I’ll name him – Guy Kawasaki – was giving a webinar about his book, Enchantment. He recommended that we watch “Never Say Never,” the Justin Bieber movie, to see how they used social media to turn that young man into a megastar.

I took his advice. He was right. It was a textbook example of how to use social media to become a megastar.

That movie just cemented my conviction – already born out of experience – that B2C and B2B are NOT the same.

Time to examine some selling realities.

First, it’s sad that so many teenagers now think that if you just put your stuff on YouTube, you will become a megastar. They’re missing one massive point: Justin Bieber is more than talented. By the time his videos hit YouTube, he already played the drums, the piano, the guitar, and several other instruments – all WELL. Super well. Incredibly. He could dance, pretty well; but with coaching he now dances spectacularly. He had a clear voice and passionate vocal delivery, and you could understand every single word. He had been writing memorable songs long before he became a star. Let’s face it, the kid is a prodigy.

Justin has also been blessed with some caring and talented coaches, who know that you have to work your tail off if you want to be successful, and have the right idea about the fans. Guy wanted us to see the movie, if for no other reason than to watch Justin’s handlers give away front-seat tickets, out in the parking lot, before every single concert.

At one point in the movie, Justin’s agent tells an off-camera interviewer, in between shots of the handlers giving the tickets away to screaming, crying girls: “We have the best jobs in the world. We get paid to make other people happy. We give them front-seat tickets. If it wasn’t for those kids out there, campin’ out and doin’ what they do, we don’t have jobs. It’s actually the most gratifying thing about the job. Little things go a very long way. The moment we forget that, it’s over.”

So Justin is mega-talented, and his handlers are putting the customer first. Add that to a great understanding of how to connect with fans, and you can see why they succeeded so wildly.

Now let’s look at this from the standpoint of B2B versus B2C, and face the biggest reality of all: Teenage girls buying songs and going to concerts is not the same as an executive making a buying decision for a company.

Just imagine a serious executive at a Justin Bieber concert. Does that person fit in? Of course not. Better yet, imagine one of those hysterical, besotted, screaming, crying teenaged girls at a business meeting. Does she fit in? ROTFLOL!

So right off the bat, the buyer is not the same. But it goes much further. Their buying process is completely different.  I cover buying process realities in detail in my book. As you read it, you will come to understand that the most common – and deadly – marketing mistake is assuming that a “light scrutiny” product is purchased in the same way that a “heavy” or “intense” scrutiny product is purchased.

How your customers buy should drive how you sell, period. If you aren’t in sync with how your customers buy, you will be dead in the water, no matter what you do, or even how much you spend!

Teenaged girls making decisions about the music they listen to, or clothes, or makeup is not a “heavy scrutiny” purchase. Yes, they have to make the right decision, but doing that isn’t very difficult. They know what “everyone else is doing,” and that’s really the only question they need to ask or get answered. If “they” have it, she wants it.

This is quite different than the dynamic behind a B2B decision, even if there is a popular option available.

The executive choosing a software program for her company cannot afford to make a mistake. Her managerial reputation inside the company and her career are both on the line. She has to answer to her bosses, the people who will use the program, the IT people who will have to make it work with the other software they already have, and her CEO, who is going to be grilling her about ROI for years after she approves the purchase. You can bet she will behave completely differently than the screaming teenager. She will be applying massive amounts of scrutiny to the purchase.

Now let’s look at social media in particular. The tipping point for Justin Bieber came when he started tweeting about where he was going to be performing, as they went around the country in a bus, from radio station to radio station and small-town venue to small-town venue. Note that they were already doing the hard and discouraging work, where you show up at a county fair, and it’s raining cats and dogs, and only 40 fans show up. Social media isn’t magic; you already have to be doing something good before your tweets can get traction.

Yes, B2B companies could tweet about events they were holding, and they should. But your average B2B executive is not reading tweets all day, or texting her friends 24/7.

She’s in meetings. She’s doing email. She’s trying to turn out work in the midst of the dozens of distractions that interrupt her train of thought and quiet composition time.

Even more importantly, when she sets out to buy something on behalf of the company, we know what she does: She goes to Google and searches. Sure, she may ask a few LinkedIn discussion group friends if they’ve had any luck finding a good version of what she’s looking for. But she may not even do that because she doesn’t want her competition (or the software vendors) to know that she’s searching.

Her buying process is deliberate, serious, and thorough. Thinking that her buying process and the buying process of the teenaged fan are the same is just plain silly and a recipe for a career or even company disaster.

Please don’t misunderstand. I am not saying social media and B2B are not compatible. On the contrary. Social media has a growing impact on SEO, which is important for B2B. Social media can be massively useful for customer service. And, it’s another way for people to figure out what you’re all about, which is definitely part of their B2B buying process.

The B2B buyer and the B2C buyer use social media differently – and your buyer may use social media differently than another product’s buyer. To use social media successfully, you need to know how your buyer is using it.

Who are your buyers? What do they care about? How are they buying? Don’t assume – ask them – using the methods I’ve perfected and described in my book. Then, and only then, should you be considering how you will be using marketing and selling channels, including social media.



  1. Your article drilled down into convincing specifics on why B2C and B2B marketing are so different.

    As you point out, the goals, price points, consequences, buying process, and timelines on a B2B purchase are very different than for a B2C purchase.

    I hope all B2B marketers get the point, and stop listening to B2C agencies/gurus who talk about “creating a brand” or “having a relationship with customers.”

    Plenty of B2B buyers don’t have time to waste on social media at work and DON’T WANT to have a relationship… they just want to find the right product/service that can help their company flourish.

  2. Yes, that relationship thing is such a crock. As I say in my book, no one wants the car dealer showing up for dinner. They just want to buy a car without hassles or hucksterism – good luck on that one!

    It’s the seller who wants the relationship, and it’s super easy for the goo-roos (as Ben Settles calls them) to sell sellers on the fact that customers supposedly want a relationship. You’d have to be one sick and lonely puppy to depend on sellers for your friendships. Most people already have plenty of friends and family, thank you very much.

    Make sure you tweet this one – I would love to get this message out to as many folks as we can.

    Here’s hoping you have a Big Revenue week!


  3. EXCELLENT article and as relevant today as it was when it was written in 2011! Read it for the first time today and couldn’t agree more. Thank you!!

  4. Thanks. Glad you liked it. One thing I’d change now is that people going high-scrutiny, B2B purchases are not necessarily going to Google. They go first to their working peers and ask them “who do you know” or “what have you bought” and “what has your experience been.” Google is much less of a factor than it was a year ago (based on my customer interviews). And social is often not a factor at all. “I just get in touch with people I know,” is what they’re telling me. “I don’t use LinkedIn, because if I pose a question about a product or service I’m considering, I’ll be inundated with vendor pitches.”

    Anyway, have a great rest of year. Thanks for commenting.



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