As the Internet, mobile technology, and media continue to evolve at lighting speed, it has created a lot of confusion about what it takes to effectively market a business these days, and as time goes on, more and more questions just keep surfacing.

handshake-616726-mWhat social media platforms should you use and how? Should you opt for free traffic generation or paid online advertisements? Should your business use mobile marketing? What keywords should you aim for? Should you even worry about keywords? In-bound marketing or out-bound marketing? Self-promotion or paid promotion? On and on…

One common question among small business owners is whether differences exist between B2B and B2C marketing. Looking into the matter, however, reveals a pretty straight-forward answer. Though the basic principles of marketing may be similar, the paths to conversion for a B2C sale versus a B2B one are often very different.

In a B2C sale, you are communicating directly with the potential buyer, so the steps of the sales cycle are typically concentrated into a relatively short time frame. Because you are usually only convincing one person, instead of having to deal with multiple people, committees, or other levels of business bureaucracy, as in a B2B transaction, you can move through the process much quicker.

With B2C sales, you need to be focused on and fully understand your ideal customer profile, and work on making all of your communications and marketing specific to that persona. The goal would be to get potential leads to engage in a series of actions that will lead them through a carefully crafted sales funnel. An example of this in action would be writing a guest post on a site that many of your potential customers read, making a desirable and valuable free offer in exchange for readers’ email addresses, continuing to provide valuable content via email, and eventually sending a sales pitch or affiliate offer. This whole process from start to finish could take a few days or even a few weeks.

With almost all B2B products and services, however, there is a long sales cycle that can take a month, to several months, to even a few years. Plus, the bigger the business being pitched, the more people you may need to deal with and the more hoops you may need to jump through, as mentioned above.

Successful B2B marketing often requires doing a significant amount of research on the industry and the companies being targeted and being ready to field any questions that business owners and their management may have. Referrals also play a much more significant role then they do in a B2C transaction. Finally, you need to research the most effective ways to reach the purchasing decision makers within a given business. These people may not hang out in an approachable way in the same places that a consumer would. This can include online communities such as LinkedIn or off-line events, such as trade shows and conferences.

In short, though there are some similarities between B2C and B2B sales, knowing the differences between them as well as how to approach each kind of buyer can help to make you marketing efforts more appropriate, more targeted, and ultimately, more successful.