We talk a lot about the importance of relationship building in social media. To be sure, that’s what these mediums allow us to excel at. But there are nuances of relationship building, especially when it comes to that of businesses and their customers, that impact how we all approach our social media program strategy development and execution, and many of those nuances are directly influenced by buyers' varying needs.
There are some fundamental differences between the needs of B2B buyers and that of B2C buyers that impact how businesses should interact with their customers, and we're breaking down three of those differences for you today.
Simple vs. Complex
This is probably the most obvious difference between B2B and B2C needs. For the most part, B2C buyers have a fairly simple purchasing needs that don't demand extended support from or relationships with a brand. Even in instances in which people stick to a particular brand to fulfill a specific need—say Levi jeans for all their jeans needs—the direct interactions between those folks and brands are quick and shallow.
In the world of B2B, needs are more complex, have an extended life cycle, and generally are those of not just the buyer but also the buyer’s customers. These facets of a B2B buyer’s needs make it imperative that vendors provide extensive, valuable information about their products and services at the very beginning of the buying cycle and remain open to contact from prospective buyers throughout the buying process to answer questions. Post purchase, B2Bs inevitably need to continue customer relationships to assist with product implementation, offer training, and provide customer support.
The complexity of a B2B buyer's needs demand a higher level of touch with vendors, and thus a higher level of trust. That trust is built through regular contact, valuable information sharing, honesty, and a level of humanness that can only be shown through simple, unscripted interaction.
Emotional vs. Professional
B2C purchases are generally fueled by emotion and basic human needs such as sustenance, shelter, and comfort. Even those basic needs are powered by our emotions and general belief system, which means our buying habits are influenced by brands that resonate with who we are and give us feelings of security and satisfaction.
B2B purchases, on the other hand, are motivated by things like business goals, budgets, and, you guessed it, vendor relationships. To a large extent, there's still emotion based in that last one, the vendor relationship, but the emotions are driven less by personal security and satisfaction than trust that a particular vendor and its products are best suited to help us reach our business goals.
To that end, B2C companies are tasked with creating a brand and supporting marketing and branding campaigns that reach folks on a personal, emotional level, while B2B companies must create a brand and supporting campaigns and outposts that reach people on a level of competence, expertise, and problem-solving abilities.
General vs. Niche
Tied right in to the emotional and simplistic aspects of B2C buyer needs is the generality of those needs. Personal, emotional needs are rarely obscure -- they're part of the human condition and all of us encounter them. That means the marketplace that appeals to those needs is large and generalized. Sure, there are sub-categories within those markets, but even the most generalized products tend to do the trick, and sometimes we'll even take those over the more tailored versions because they satisfy more than one need.
On the other side of the spectrum, business goals are often so individualized and specific that the various products needed to help organizations reach those goals need to be just as tailored. That fact means that many B2B vendors exist in a small, incredibly niche marketplace.
While B2C companies have to work hard to stand out in their saturated markets, B2B companies don't necessarily have that same pressure, and can focus on emphasizing their area of expertise and answering questions within the various social media outposts they own and the communities they've sought out and gotten involved in.
These are just a few of the differentiating factors that impact B2B social media outreach. What others can you think of and add here?