July 1, 2019

B2B vs B2C Email Marketing – What’s the difference?

Reading time about 8 min

Taking a different approach to email marketing according to whether you’re operating in a B2B or B2C business is key. Discover the best tips and best practices to tackle one or the other the right way.

Emailmonday found that email marketing is likely to grow over the coming years, reporting that “49% of companies use email automation in some form or another. This number is expected to grow as automation solutions further develop.” 

In order to enjoy the enormous potential of email marketing, businesses need to ensure that they are communicating effectively.

Therefore, they need to think carefully about the audience they’re trying to reach, and set out to tailor that content to their target demographics.

And this is where the distinction between B2B and B2C email marketing comes into the foreground. 

Whilst B2B and B2C email marketing requirements might appear similar at first, we only need to scratch the surface to find marked differences between the two.

So, let’s take a closer look at the main contrasts between B2B and B2C email marketing, and delve deeper into what marketing professionals can do to ensure the effectiveness of email communication. 

The Decision-Making Process 

The decision-making process, or buying cycle, of B2C consumers is quite unlike that of B2B professionals. Email marketing campaigns need to reflect this. 

In the case of a B2C consumer, the sales funnel is almost always far shorter and simpler than its B2B counterpart.

Consumers being targeted by B2C marketing will often see a product online, glimpse an advert whilst out, or hear about a product from a friend. They might even have searched for a product themselves, after identifying their own need. Following these steps, it’s usually just a case of adding that product to the basket and completing a purchase. 

B2B customers tend not to make such quick decisions. In many cases, decision-making for B2B purchases isn’t the sole responsibility of one person.

This results in a far more complex sales funnel. And even if it is all down to one person, that person is likely to spend a lot longer researching various products, comparing brands and gathering information to ensure that the decision to purchase is the right one for their company. 

These entirely different decision-making processes should be reflected in email marketing campaigns.

Brands should therefore create tailored email marketing campaigns, designed around the various different stages of the buying process. It’s well worth taking the time to complete target audience analysis, before splitting data into groups at similar stages of the process.

This will ensure the best possible conversion rates. Take a look at these email segmentation ideas for more information on how to do this. 

The Content 

We’ve now seen how the buying process differs in B2B vs B2C customer groups, so it’s time to take a look at what this means for the email content.

When we examine the sales funnel of a B2B customer, we can see the increased need for information in order to influence a buying decision.

Such content should also concentrate on building brand awareness, trust and loyalty. 

A recent report from Marketing Profs supports this, stating that “85% of marketers surveyed said that B2B content is intended to help build their brands.” Email communication aimed at this group should therefore be informative, providing added value in terms of education about the product and the benefits it might bring to a business. 

In contrast, B2C consumers tend to make decisions far more quickly, and are more likely to be influenced by flash sales, promotional offers and other discounts.

So, the content of email marketing aimed at this group does not require the same level of information.

Visual content that simply jogs a consumers’ memory and reminds them of the product they were already considering is often enough to secure a sale. 

The Visual Layout

How an email looks is far more important for businesses targeting B2C consumers than it is for B2B brands.

B2C consumers are incredibly receptive to visual content, and less likely to spend their time reading copy-heavy, lengthy emails. Marketing professionals should take this into consideration when planning the layout of email marketing campaigns. 

Video content is particularly effective for B2C consumers, who are generally less prepared to spend time looking at sales emails.

Brands who add video content to email template design enjoy massive spikes in click-through rates. Martechadvisor found that “adding videos to your email content can boost click rates up to 300%, while interactive email content increases the rate of click-to-open by 73%.”

For visual layout inspiration, take a look at these free HTML newsletter templates from Brevo. 

Mulberry newsletter
Venuefinder.com newsletter

Images are both screenshots from emails sent to me. 

The Database 

On the whole, consumers tend to subscribe to email communications from businesses they’re interested in.

They volunteer their details, in order to ensure they’re in the know about upcoming deals and new releases. And it doesn’t necessarily follow that these customers will already have made a purchase, either.

Emarketer found that around one-third of consumers who sign up for B2C marketing emails have actually purchased from that company in the past.

So, well-known B2C companies can gather quality databases for email communications without too much difficulty. Compare this to the situation with B2B brands, and it’s a little different. 

B2B brands usually need to work much harder to establish a high-quality list of consumers who might be interested in what they have to offer.

The likelihood of their target market coming across adverts on social media and other digital channels isn’t as high as it is for B2C customers, so B2B marketers often find themselves needing to create their own databases for the purposes of email marketing. 

The Tone of Voice 

Tone of voice is sometimes overlooked in email marketing, but it shouldn’t be.

The tone required to pique the interest of B2C consumers varies hugely, ranging from humorous, ironic, playful and friendly to a more serious and formal style. It all depends on the character of the business in question, and the products or services it’s promoting. 

With B2B businesses, the tone will invariably be more informative and less casual, however there is definitely room for humour in some B2B brands. No matter what tone of voice a company has chosen, that tone should by immediately recognisable in every email marketing campaign. 

It’s important that marketers focus on consistency in all marketing communications, in order to achieve a recognisable brand voice that complements a company’s identity.

Email communication should be drafted with this tone of voice in mind, and the same tone should carry through all promotional material released by a brand. 

The White Company Newsletter
The Social Report Newsletter

White Company email is screenshot from one sent to me. The B2B example is from https://www.targetinternet.com/4-great-b2b-email-examples/

The Timing 

As all marketing professionals will know, timing is of the utmost importance in email marketing.

An email sent out on the wrong day of the week, or even just at the wrong time of the day can lead to some very disappointing open rates and underwhelming click through rates. 

Research has shown that the best time to send marketing emails is 10am on a Tuesday morning, or from 8pm to midnight on any day of the week.

However, the optimum send times for B2B and B2C communications do vary, so marketing professionals should use a Send Time Optimization feature to ensure the sending time is matching their contacts habits.

Wrapping up

Email marketing is an incredibly powerful communication channel, capable of providing excellent results in terms of engagement, brand awareness and ultimately sales.

Read more: How to Make B2B Email Marketing Work for You

If you’re new to the concept and want some pointers for getting started, we suggest you have a read of our beginners’ guide on email marketing.

In order to get the maximum potential of email marketing campaigns, brands need to think carefully about their target market, and clearly establish what they want to achieve. 

Brands looking to make the most of the huge opportunities of email marketing need to carefully consider the differences between B2B and B2C marketing methods.

Factors such as tone of voice, layout, content, timing and data are all worth considering throughout the planning process.

By crafting content with target audiences in mind, marketers will be able to create powerful email marketing campaigns that are tailored to the very audience they’re looking to reach.

And that’s what makes an email marketing campaign truly effective. 

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