The difference between B2B and B2C

After nearly 10 years of helping entrepreneurs improve their marketing, I still get a kick out of people that claim “my business is different”.

Usually they claim their buyers are different than any other buyers.

Often though it comes down to this…

“…I sell to businesses – not consumers. And business buyers don’t fall for the same tricks you are sharing Troy.”

I will say this… Business to business (B2B) buyers are NOT different than Business to consumer (B2C) buyers!

A BUSINESS cannot buy anything.

Someone, somewhere, has to be involved in the purchasing process.

And anytime a person is involved, there are biases, prejudices, emotional triggers and hidden motives involved.

As much as we like to pretend otherwise, I don’t think there are too many businesses who use robots for purchasing from strangers. :o)

Yes, there can be minor changes you make to your campaigns to target business buyers, but people are people and the exact same tools and techniques that work in the B2C market ALSO work in the B2B market.

I have shown this many times over the past blog posts.

Like the one client who sells B2B: we sent out 200 letters to a COLD list… business buyers who had NEVER heard of him before. These were highly sophisticated buyers who worked for companies that ranged from $5 million a year to $500 million a year.

We mailed a 2-page black and white letter (no fancy brochures – no gloss – no color – not even a picture to be seen).

We sent it DIRECTLY to the purchasers.

We got a 18% response rate (the goal of the campaign was to initiate direct contact with the purchasing managers – either through a phone call or email… in essence, getting that first foot in the door).

The letter talked more about his family than his business!


One guy said “I get DOZENS of ‘pitch letters’ like this a week – I want to commend you on writing a very personal letter like this – I wish I saw more of this in my business”.


Guess something like that shows you that B2B buyers are NOT different…. they are people and like to buy from people.

So keep that in mind next time you are thinking up excuses on why YOUR buyers are different.

They aren’t that different.

They still eat, sleep, dream and have fears or dreams.

They are people like you and I are.

Treat them that way.

Not many B2B sellers do… so you will definitely stand out from the rest of the nonsense!


PS: I wanted to make sure you understand this – I have personally sold both B2B and B2C.

When I was working for Hewlett Packard in their Unix systems group… I sold $50,000 computer systems to business buyers. I also sold multi-million dollar servers and storage systems to business buyers. There was ALWAYS a person writing the final orders. Those people wanted to be TREATED like a human being too.

One potential client I nurtured for 2 years selling them smaller systems, ultimately knowing a big purchase order was coming… eventually.

And it did.

$3 million dollars worth of computer gear was sold in the end – the only reason he bought? “Because I stuck with him, and treated him the way he wanted to be treated. Not like some robot purchasing system. That was from him – the one who signed the purchase order and cheque.

If I treated him differently – the sale would have NEVER gone through.


  1. Hi Troy … appreciate the reminder … it’s about the person ))smiles

  2. Hey Troy,

    This post just seems like common sense – after someone else pointed it out to me.
    My market is B2B and I confess I have been very “business like” in my communications with them.
    I already have a couple of ideas percolating about using a lot more personality in my next letter thanks
    to this little post


  3. I agree with what you are saying Troy. The first “sales job” needed is to convince the client that is selling B2B of what you so clearly say…B2B are people too.

    Unfortunately, for reasons I don’t fully understand, corporate-speak is what most companies have convinced themselves their clients want to hear…to make them appear more “professional” or “ROI-focused” or something.

    Keep on truckin my friend!

  4. Hey troy,
    I think what most marketers don’t understand is that these buyers in the corporate places are bored to death!
    So once in a while when you send them something funny, something entirely different, something shocking, something that seems to break all the rules of marketing;

    it stands out. They pay very close attention to it as it they are reading a “romance novel”.
    And that is just my 2 cent!

  5. Troy, you are so right. Why should selling to a business be any different than selling to an individual consumer? True, there are a number of “buyers” who may have to be sold in a large company, including the actual user of the product or service, and the person who writes the check. But the basic principles apply – treat people properly, as it they are humans, not corporate automatons.

  6. Thanks for the comments.

    I think when you combine Eric, Bill and Williams comments… you see the problem (and opportunity).

    Corporate USA or Canada or Australia or ____(fill in your country here)___ are trained to sell with corporate speak and corporate tools. So almost every single sales person out there who was trained by ‘corporate’ does it the same.

    Yet the actual BUYERS are BORED STIFF with that approach. The glossy brochures. The plain-jane newsletters that talk speeds and feeds rather than human interest stories. The booooooring stuff that is being put out month after month.

    It doesn’t take much to stand out to the BUYERS because your competitors are all doing the same old boooooring stuff.

    Try thinking it through like you are selling to a consumer, using stories, and cartoons, and pictures….

    … and watch the reaction you get.

    You will NEVER go back to the old way of selling again.

    My thoughts anyhow. Troy

  7. I’ve only ever found one difference in dealing with B2B versus B2C — and that’s in choosing whether to referral-based networking groups.

    When you are a B2B and the rest of the group is B2C, it’s not a good fit. Even though I might be able to refer to them, the kinds of clients they have and can refer to me are generally not the folks who hire me. And since the whole premise of those groups is to cross-refer, and since there are only so many hours in a day and only one of me, I choose to network elsewhere.

    Otherwise, it’s ALL P2P: person to person. I’m a person. I happen to own a business, but I’m a person. The potential client sitting on the other end of the phone call or reading my email or listening me speak at the Chamber breakfast is a person.

    The best descriptor I’ve ever heard is “tarket”: I don’t have a “target market”, I have a “tarket”, a single person in mind when I write or speak to sell.

  8. Troy, you make some great points. There are two important factors in B2B that make a difference. The first one is that B2B buyers do buy for emotional or personal reasons, and you point this out. Most B2B sales and marketers either forget this, or don’t even know it.

    However, I do believe you missed the one point that makes B2B very different then B2C. In B2C there is generally only one buyer, the person you are selling to right now. In B2B there are generally a number of buyers or influencers, and you have to convince each one of them that your product/service is the best.

    This will take a lot more time, especially if you are selling a large ticket item that could affect an entire department or even the entire organization. Since you have sold B2B, I believe you will agree that this is a very huge difference.

    Keep up the good work.

    Kind regards, Ian Dainty

  9. Great point about multi-step sales cycles. That is a difference (kind of) with B2B. Again, I go back to my computer days – some sales cycles took YEARS to get a deal closed. Multiple people involved, multiple steps in the cycle, etc. But it is still dealing people to people and the basics of human relations still stand. Even in the typical B2C purchase process there can be a multiple step sales cycle, even multiple parties involved if a large purchase (wife, kids, family, etc). Great point you make Ian. Troy

  10. I go back to my original comment…the hardest sale is with the original B2B client business who is considering hiring your services!

    If they believe that boring, institutional, tired, traditional marketing content equals “we need to appear to be a big important company by mimicing other big companies” then we will face a challenge overcoming that preconception. I see it all the time where I work (corporate America). A few years ago I suggested a new way to “touch” our customers (buying inkjet supplies) by putting a fortune cookie in each box with some clever message about how great we were or whatever. Shot down as “not consistent with our corporate brand image”.

    I guess we are committed to “dry as dust” branding imagery LOL

    Thanks for the stimulating discussion Troy.

  11. Been there done that Bill. The ‘corporate image’ thing is the big reason why b2b marketing is so dull and boring. It seems to me that when a company gets to a certain size (most – not all) they turn off the charm that got them there and turn on the dry personality. Don’t understand why – but it is an opportunity for those who can control the messaging going out. Troy

  12. Troy…not sure why you’d get any negative response to this. Makes good sense to me!

  13. Bang on, Troy!

    I’ve been saying this all along. (Oddly enough – or maybe not so – in pretty much the same way as you do, here.)

    Cheers, dude!

    – Al

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