B2B V B2C Email Marketing, Spot the Difference?
October 14, 2008
Traditional marketing in the business-to-business environment requires very different strategies from those campaigns directed towards the consumer market. The sales cycle is often much longer and more complex in the B2B world, while consumer competition can be a lot fiercer, with customer loyalty a constant battle. In this article we compare the differences between B2B and B2C email marketing and examine which techniques work best for each.
The first stage in planning any campaign is to set clear objectives. It is only by agreeing success criteria with everyone involved in the process, from the MD down, that goals may be quantified. Although these goals may cover a range of possibilities, generally the end result is to increase revenue. It is this route to revenue wherein the key difference between B2B and B2C can be seen. The B2B sales process tends to be lengthy, sometimes taking months to complete, whereas B2C sales tend to be much quicker. The psychology behind each set of customers is very different - the motivation for a business customer may centre on a more rational benefit and price orientated decision. Consumers however, often have a brand preference and a strong emotional bond with the products they choose, although benefits and price are also important to them. Of course this is a generalisation and in fact the boundaries can be quite blurred. What is almost always true however is the impact of a wrong decision on each group and the cost and volume of the product or service in question. There is significantly less risk involved in a consumer purchase whilst the speed/convenience of product delivery can be more motivating than other factors. The result of this is that B2B campaigns tend to focus on relationship building and lead generation while B2C email campaigns focus on actual sales and in the case of an email campaign that usually means increasing online purchases. How then are these differences reflected in the roll-out of the campaign?
The planning phase for both should include a breakdown and analysis of the market that the campaign will target. Selecting a list is the next stage and is a task that many marketers find tricky. Not only do you need a list that is up to date and not over used but one that enables very detailed segmenting. Successful campaigns for both B2B and B2C markets are those that are highly personalised - this can only be achieved by knowing who is on the list in the first place. For both markets in-house lists provide the best results. These lists will often already exist in some form and offer a wealth of information for the smart marketer to turn into a catchy campaign. All companies should have information pertaining to existing and former customers although B2B marketers may also have a database of prospects from the sales team. Buying lists is a possible alternative, but be aware of the laws and check carefully that consent has been obtained. Beware however, of lists that have been mined by other companies - emails sent to an overused list are more likely to be perceived as spam and could cause more harm to your brand than good, no matter how well the offer is constructed. If your in-house list does not contain email addresses, or is too small for an effective campaign, but you feel that buying a list from a third party is not for you either - then building a list is probably the best option. List building techniques however differ significantly for B2B and B2C marketers.
List Building for B2B
As a rule B2B marketers are far more likely to hold some information about their customer base than B2C marketers. There is a much closer relationship between B2B sales teams and their customers. In many ways this makes building a list much easier. At extravision we've found that the best method for building a B2B in-house list for an email campaign is, believe it or not, to run a telemarketing campaign to customers. Other techniques include asking sales staff to collect email addresses in their "everyday" conversations with customers (gaining permission to send an email at the same time) or by capturing information from visitors to the company website.
List Building for B2C
Collecting email addresses from customers prior to a campaign can be quite tricky for B2C marketers. Customers may be wary of giving out personal data, and unless they make a purchase online there is usually no need for them to do so. Offering an incentive can be the best way to get customers to give you their email address - a competition or prize draw can be an excellent way to get personal data from customers. For this strategy to be successful however you must make the incentive relevant and ask for permission to send them emails in the future. Capturing information on a website, or product specific micro-site or running a (permission based) viral campaign can also be useful ways to gather email addresses.
Once you have developed your targeted list it is time to develop the creative. Although the overall principle of creating an effective message may be the same 'know thy customers' pain' - there are significant differences to be considered. Whereas in B2B 'content is king' - B2C campaigns need to deliver a message that encourages the customer to be 'quick to click'... B2B email campaigns are much more about an exchange of information - lead generation rather than direct sales being the objective that the B2B marketer looks at to the long term. Often the email is only the first stage in a drawn out campaign that will usually involve more online and complementary offline activities further down the line. The offer in a B2B campaign will consist of high quality information targeted to the customers' interests delivered via a White Paper or newsletter. B2C campaigns are much shorter in duration and need to capture the customers' interests very quickly. The path to purchase must be short and simple - no more than a couple of clicks from email receipt to order confirmation. The call to action must therefore be obvious and the offer enticing. B2C email campaigns often highlight special deals, offer discounts or vouchers to be used online or in store. They can however also be informative, especially if the aim is to build the brand and enhance customer loyalty. As well as differences in motivation, B2B and B2C customers are also likely to have other defining characteristics. B2B customers for example are more likely to have a fast, always there connection whereas consumers are more likely to be using a slower and more expensive Internet connection. They will also be checking their email at different times in the day, with B2C customers more likely to be logging on in the evening and at weekends. The timing of each type of campaign should differ to reflect this.
Response management is a vital but all too often overlooked aspect of any email campaign. The inevitable bounce back and unsubscribes requests must always be dealt with swiftly and requests for more information attended to promptly. As a general rule response tracking is a longer-term commitment with B2B campaigns. If a B2C campaign is judged by a sale then a successful response will end with a purchase. Even here however, it is worth analysing responses and monitoring the time of response and speed of purchase, even in B2C sometimes two or three messages will need to be sent before the purchase is made. The information gleaned from this 'response analysis' can be used to maximise the success rate of future campaigns.
In our experience there are important differences between the B2B and B2C marketplace that need to be considered when planning and executing a campaign. Understanding something about your customers will help you to make common sense decisions about how best to approach them, but we hope to have offered a few tricks of the trade to help you on your way. If you would like more information please email [email protected]
or call 0161 817 2929
Posted by Paul Latham