While Business-to-Business (B2B) and Business-to-Customer (B2C) branding have some similarities, some important differences are critical to understand when developing and promoting your small business brand.

Customer motivation

  • B2B purchases are motivated primarily by logic and reason. Decisions are made based on facts, statistics and numbers. Emotion enters in as a fear of making a poor decision; branding the business as an expert helps overcome this fear.
  • B2C purchases are motivated primarily by emotion, whether that emotion is fear, attraction or the desire for status. Branding succeeds by appealing to the target market’s emotions.

Customer needs or wants

  • B2B customers are driven by need. Companies don't buy new software systems on impulse; they seek out products and services in order to solve a problem or do something better.
  • B2C customers may be driven by need, but just as often, they’re motivated by wants or impulses--that's why supermarkets put candy at the checkout aisle.

Number of customers

  • B2B products and services are sold to large groups of people; making a purchase involves many levels of approval. Your brand needs to appeal to a wide range of stakeholders in different jobs who all have different criteria for the purchase.
  • B2C products and services are sold to individuals; while there may be times family members or friends are involved in a decision, your brand generally only has to appeal to one person.

Range of customers

  • B2B companies have a smaller range of prospective customers to target. The brand must be carefully tailored to appeal to that niche and demonstrate in-depth understanding of those customers.
  • B2C companies have a wide range of prospective customers to target. Their brand doesn't have to appeal to all of them to succeed; the goal is to build brand awareness among the greatest number of target customers.

Buyer persona

  • The B2B "buyer persona" focuses on the prospect's job role, not on him or her as an individual.
  • The B2C "buyer persona" focuses on the prospect’s individual characteristics and demographics, such as marital status, spending habits, household income, age and gender.

Customer relationship

  • B2B branding is all about building a relationship with the customer. Products and services are generally sold through direct interaction with a salesperson, and the brand must provide a complete solution (not only a product or service, but ongoing support and someone to service the relationship). The brand focus is on creating a full experience and working with the customer for the long-term.
  • B2C branding is transactional rather than relational. Even when products and services are sold directly by a salesperson, the relationship is very short-term and often a one-time purchase.

Product information

  • B2B branding must convey expertise. Prospective customers making big decisions seek information to educate themselves about your solution. Your content marketing should provide lots of detail and include longer-form content; the goal is to brand the business as a thought leader.
  • B2C branding must convey benefits. Prospective customers don't necessarily need a lot of information about a B2C brand. Even if you're selling a relatively complex service, such as landscaping, home renovation or personal training, the goal is to brand your business as providing benefits that prospects care about.

Purchase price

  • B2B purchases are expensive, often costing thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars. The purchase is seen as a long-time investment, and the buyer has a set budget.
  • B2C purchases range widely in costs but are much less expensive than B2B purchases. While cost is often a factor and many consumers are motivated by discounts and deals, this is rarely the sole motivation for a purchase.

Sales cycle

  • B2B companies have a longer sales cycle because of the many stakeholders involved in the purchase and the higher cost of the products and services. The goal of their branding is to build trust over the duration of the sales cycle.
  • B2C companies have a very short sales cycle — sometimes only seconds long. The goal of their branding is to have an emotional impact on the prospect that spurs them to buy.

Conversions

  • The goal of B2B branding and marketing is to convert prospects into customers; then the salesperson takes over.
  • The goal of B2C branding and marketing is to convert customers into buyers; buyers make their own decisions without a lot of handholding.