B2B vs. B2C vs. B4B: How to Choose the Right Marketing Strategy


These marketing strategies may sound similar but understanding the differences is essential.

Ideas Collide
By Ideas Collide

Business-to-business (B2B), business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-for-business (B4B) may sound similar, and to an extent are, but these types of marketing strategies are quite different in terms of customer relationships, consumer relations and long-term goals. As a marketer, learning the nuances of each is imperative to understanding how best to market your product or service to your target audience.

So how do you know which works best for you and your marketing strategy? First, let’s explore the key differences:

What is Business-to-Business (B2B) Marketing?

Business-to-business (B2B) companies have products or services that they sell to other businesses, organizations, and charities. Various types of B2B companies incorporate different types of products, and ways they are sold, but with the same defining characteristic: one business selling to another.

  1. Product-based B2B businesses refer to companies that sell tangible products – items that can be touched and held.
  2. Service-based B2B businesses refer to companies that supply services such as telemarketing, advertising, consulting, accounting and graphic design.
  3. Software-based B2B businesses refer to companies that sell software to fulfill a task or need. These types of software services include invoicing software, CRMs, accounting software and databases. Unlike the other B2B business models, software-based involves hosting, security, maintenance and customer support.

What is Business-to-Consumer (B2C) Marketing?

Business-to-Consumer (B2C) is the process of a business selling products and/or services to the end user. There are five types of B2C models.

  1. Direct Sellers – small businesses that sell goods and/or services directly to the customer either in a brick-and-mortar location or via the Internet.
  2. Intermediaries – online platforms that connect brands to customers. They do not have their own products; they sell many items from various manufacturers.
  3. Advertising-Based – companies advertise their products and/or services on a platform with significant reach. Businesses can identify their target customers for optimization.
  4. Community-Based – platforms that host like-minded people’s ideas, opinions, or interests and serve targeted advertisements. It helps brands promote and sell their products and services directly to customers.
  5. Fee-Based – the service provider requests a premium subscription to access content.

Learn more about increasing customer awareness using top-of-the-funnel marketing.

What is the Difference Between B2B and B2C?

The key difference is the most obvious one – one markets to businesses while the other to consumers. However, there are more complexities to it.

B2B marketing is more complex than B2C marketing as it usually involves multiple decision-makers and a longer sales cycle. B2B marketers need to be able to under the needs of their target audience and create materials that resonate with them. Additionally, they also need to be able to build relationships and maintain those leads over time.

On the other hand, B2C marketing is more focused on generating awareness and driving sales. B2C marketers need to create marketing materials that are appealing to their target audience and encourage them to take action, such as visiting a website, making a purchase or signing up for a newsletter.

Learn more about mid-funnel marketing tactics for successful lead nurturing.

Audience, cycle, materials and goal differences between B2B vs B2C vs B4B

What is Business-For-Business (B4B) Marketing?

Business-for-business (B4B) is the relationship between two businesses that focus on pleasing end customers and achieving common goals. It’s a relatively new term that refers to the marketing of products and services to businesses that are used to create or deliver other products and services. B4B marketers need to understand the needs of their target audience and create materials that demonstrate how their products and services can help businesses improve their bottom line.

With empathy, honest and open communication, and a customer-first mentality, a B2B company can shift to a B4B organization. It is all about understanding the problem(s) your customers face, having concern for the challenges those problem(s) cause, and collaborating with the customer to create a custom solution for their problem(s). This means that long before a sale is made, an environment exists for connecting and communicating with buyers. Transitioning from B2B to a B4B mindset can be tricky, but it is attainable if you understand what you need to accomplish as a brand or business to make that switch.

Even if companies are not utilizing the term, many organizations are starting to adopt aspects of the B4B model. An example of this is the movement to improve customer experiences, including:

  • Embracing a seamless omnichannel experience in customer service.
  • Customized and personalized interactions before, during, and after sales.
  • Listening to feedback and adjusting based on customers’ needs.

The B2B to B4B Shift

Shifting from B2B to B4B can increase revenue, customer retention and employee morale. In fact, there are four main reasons to consider switching from the B2B to B4B model:

  1. Buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience. Let’s face it, don’t we all want to do business with companies that make our life easier?
  2. In today’s digital world, companies that build relationships on trust will not lose customers to easy-to-find alternatives.
  3. Collaborating with your customers throughout the buyer’s journey, and enhancing and improving products, doesn’t stop once the sale is made.
  4. The ability to shift resources and processes to respond to the needs of customers.

Being a B4B company gives a more profound sense of purpose and can ignite innovation and creativity within the organization. B2B models typically focus on making a product, selling it, and finding the next sale. When operating as a B4B company, you focus on the customer, discovering any problems they face, and working together to find solutions — creating a close, long-term, mutually beneficial relationship.

By understanding the differences between B2B, B2C and B4B marketing, you can create more effective marketing campaigns that not only reach your target audience, but help you achieve your desired goals for maximum impact.