B2C and B2B email marketing: Knowing the difference

Email Marketing is an extremely versatile tool that you can use to appeal to just about anyone, anywhere, anytime. Through personalization, segmentation and autoresponders you’re able to send unique messages to different individuals with a click of a button.

However, there is one extremely important distinction that will determine how your entire campaigns are structured… and that distinction is B2C or B2B email marketing.

B2C and B2B email marketing

You’ve probably heard those acronyms before if you’ve done any marketing research before, but just in case you haven’t, B2C translates to ‘Business to Consumer’ and B2B refers to ‘Business to Business’. In the case of email marketing, B2C or B2B will ultimately refer to who you’re targeting with your email blasts.

This distinction would be reserved for annoying marketers at parties if it weren’t for the fact that each are vastly different from one another. Have no fear though! This article will explain the differences, tactics and characteristics of each kind of target so that you’ll be able to hit each everytime!

Business 2 Consumer: B2C Email Marketing


With B2C marketing, you’re usually dealing with one person. This person may or may not be familiar with your market and is often driven by emotion to satisfy a need. Here’s some defining characteristics, that define the persona of a typical B2C target.

The B2C email marketing subscriber is:

  • Driven by emotions
  • Usually not an expert on your market
  • Usually one person, but wide appeal
  • Short buying cycle
  • Looking to satisfy a need / want not a long term business relationship
  • Looking at specific product attributes such as cost, ease of use etc
  • Withholds more information than B2B

Driven by emotions

Singular consumers like to be entertained. They don’t have a boss to report to, the purchase is all for their enjoyment – so make it enjoyable!

Use an informal tone, humour and never use pushy or intimidating sales tactics in your email. Think of what would emotionally drive a person to buy a product – is it hunger, desire, status or cost and structure your offering around the strong points of your product.

Not an Expert

You’re not dealing with a person who has read every book on your product when you’re dealing with a consumer directly.

This means you don’t have to appear to be an absolute expert on your topic, although a little knowledge never hurts! Stay away from using lingo, industry trends and complex statistics. Just make relatable, easy to read and entertaining email that adds value to your consumer’s lives.

They’re Single

No, this doesn’t mean you should send them a Valentines promotion with your photo. What I mean by this is that they’re not part of a team that influences if the consumer will buy your product or not. This makes the decision to buy less complicated.

What this means is that you can personalize your content to a higher degree than B2B targets. It also means you can change your tone and approach to sound more appealing to the typical persona you’d expect to interact with your product. Keep in mind that you’ll still want to be able to appeal to a wide variety of people, so be wary not to focus too much on your main target market.

They Operate on a Short buying cycle

Because the B2C target is the primary decision maker, they generally purchase a product the minute they decide it could be beneficial to them.

Following this, make it easy for your reader to jump to a buying landing page and make it clear on how to get there. Clear call to actions, instant additions to online carts and suggestions to similar products are the way to go!

Looking to satisfy a need / want not a long term business relationship

B2B consumers typically aim to buy into a product or service with the intention of possibly upgrading their purchase if necessary.

On the other hand, B2C customers look to satisfy a need or want and move on. Because of this, specific product attributes such as cost, ease of use and quality are extremely important to the B2C consumer.

Focus resources on the product itself more than after sales service and support when targeting B2C consumers.

Withholds more information than B2B

Remember: when you’re dealing directly with consumers, any information they give is personal information, which means it’s more sensitive and harder to get than B2C information.

Because of this, the landing pages your email leads to has to adapt to the type of consumer you’re targeting. B2C consumers will freely give certain details such email address or name, but start asking about their address, occupation and the like, and you can expect a drop off in conversions!

Let’s recap on B2C email marketing:

  • Driven by emotions
  • Usually not an expert on your market
  • Usually one person, but wide appeal
  • Short buying cycle
  • Looking to satisfy a need / want not a long term business relationship
  • Looking at specific product attributes such as cost, ease of use etc
  • Withholds more information than B2B

Business 2 Business: B2B Email Marketing


Instead of trying to appeal to a person as with B2C marketing, B2B marketing attempts to appeal to a business or a team of people who want to use the product or service to assist the company going forward.

The B2B email marketing subscriber is..

  • Driven by business relationships
  • Experts or at least researched
  • An entire team, but niched
  • Extended buying cycle
  • Looking for a reliable business partner
  • Looking at business attributes rather than specific product attributes
  • Lets on more information than B2C targets

Driven by business relationships

Businesses are repetitive buyers. Chances are, if they’ve used your product before, they’ll need it again in the future.
Thus, it’s in the best interests of the business to find a reliable, quality service or business they can trust to go the extra mile – so prove to them you can!

Highlight your after sales service and support, follow up on their needs or interests and send them relevant content after your first communication. Drip email campaigns and autoresponders work wonders here!

Experts or at least researched

In B2B marketing, you’re dealing with professionals; people who are paid to be critical and objective.

You can assume that they’ve done their research and looked at all of your main competitors. Here, you have to give them hard facts and let them know of the competitive advantage you have over what the other options offer.

An entire team, but niched

B2B consumers typically consist of a team of professionals who make the final decision, or at least a person who reports to their superior. The chances of emotionally engaging a group of people with their  personas and tastes is near to none!

To counter this, make your initial B2B email marketing job easy – give them statistics and facts to quote to their superior! Start with general facts that cover your market (EG: 9/10 businesses use email marketing) and end with statistics that make your business look like a good option (EG: our successful email delivery rate is 94% – the highests in the industry).

Sending an informative, presentable email that they can forward to their CEO with little to no introduction means it has a higher chance of actually reaching the decision maker.

Extended buying cycle

B2B emails are not a once off communication.

You have to design your mail to follow up and nurture leads – remember, B2B sales are often more long term and profitable than B2C sales so you can justify the extra resources spent in taking care of a lead.

Be patient, persistent and positive!

Looking for a reliable business partner

As previously mentioned, this kind of consumer is looking for a business relationship more than an emotional engagement.

This is why you have to be responsive to their queries, flexible to their requests and make damn sure you deliver on your promises – on time, every time.

This way, you can assure any potential B2C consumers that you’re a partner that can be relied upon. Having a dedicated account manager or sales team dealing with your email communications can be critical to your success in the B2B market.
Looking at business attributes rather than specific product attributes

The last thing you want to portray to a B2B consumer is that the best quality of your business is how cheap your product is. In fact, B2B consumers tend to value the business they’re dealing with more than the product they’re offering.

I’m not saying this means you shouldn’t put any effort into your product offering, afterall, what are they buying off you? However, businesses are investing resources into your brand – they want to know if something goes wrong, you’ll sort the problem out before it affects them.

Links to case studies, references and educational content work well as all these resources indicate that you’re willing to help grow your clients and go the extra mile.

Let’s recap what a B2B target is:

The B2B email marketing subscriber is..

  • Driven by business relationships
  • Experts or at least researched
  • An entire team, but niched
  • Extended buying cycle
  • Looking for a reliable business partner
  • Looking at business attributes rather than specific product attributes
  • Lets on more information than B2C targets

What Ties B2C and B2B email marketing Together

While B2C and B2B email marketing both have their differences, what ties them together are the basics: you have to provide a quality product, use the best email marketing practices and of course, find a great email service provider you can trust.

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Mark Brown

After doing film making, freelance copy writing and marketing Mark has joined GraphicMail as copywriter. With a love of the strange, artistic and technological, Mark's interests are as varied and peculiar as he is. Mark loves to express his flavor on paper... or flickering screen to keep his readers informed and entertained."