I was having a great discussion about all things marketing last week, and it got on the topic of the difference between B2Band B2C marketing approaches. I jumped out on a limb and claimed that they are in fact the same – in each case, the goal is to deliver the right message to the right customer at the right time.   The standard argument is that a business buyer “isn’t spending his/her own money” and therefore behaves differently than a consumer buyer.  They may (and do) behave differently, but I don’t think whose money is at stake is the core issue.

Both the individual and the corporate buyer want to get the best deal they can, and the definition of “best” is seldom a clear thing.  I believe people buy when they feel they have a good deal. Even the stereotypical government procurement officer doesn’t automatically choose the lowest bid, he or she must be satisfied that the lowest acceptable bid is accepted, and that the bidder can in fact deliver.  Likewise, the individual buyer makes many purchases that involve others, either directly (as in buying groceries for your family) or indirectly (as in buying a fashion item to impress a mate or a peer.)  Unless you’re a hermit, relatively few of your individual purchases are free from others’ notice, and that can affect your choice.

Some won’t buy unless they have what they think is the best deal (Barry Schwartz calls them “maximizers” in his book, The Paradox of Choice) and some will buy when they have what they think is a good enough deal (“satisficers”) but my point is that both have emotional needs that are not always clearly explained by dollars and product features.  A person’s status in a work or social group is often on the line when buying things for work or for home.

The goal of all marketing is to understand on a deep emotional level the needs of your target buyers and their influencers.  If you start with this premise, you will find your way to the right marketing solution for your target, whether they are “businesses” or “consumers.”  Learn their secret aspirations and hidden worries, and the path will become clear.