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B2B or B2C: Which one works best for affiliate marketing?

This past weekend I made my homemade line of deodorants affectionately called People Stink! While cooking up a batch of lavendar or cedarwood-scented deodorant, I started thinking about the empty deodorant containers I’d purchased online. The online ads for those containers had been pretty dry, providing just a lot of information about the size, shape and physical resiliency of the plastic that was being used to house the deodorant. The pictures weren’t much better and simply featured container specifications like dimensions.

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In contrast, the ads that I create for my own finished deodorants are quite flowery and contain lots of nice pictures with backdrops of trees, herbs and candles.

Is my advertising method better?

While I’d love to brag about my marketing prowess, the real answer here is that neither the deodorant container nor the finished deodorant advertising is any better, just different. And the reason it’s different is because each type of advertising is targeting a different market: B2B or B2C.

B2B (business-to-business) marketing involves selling goods and services to businesses that either use these products in their daily operations or generate other goods and services from them. B2C (business-to-consumer) marketing involves selling goods and services to end-point consumers who utilize them for household or personal use. So, regarding deodorant containers, the B2B market is being targeted; regarding the finished deodorant, the B2C  market is the target.

B2B vs. B2C markets are different at the following levels:

1. Small vs. big.

The B2B market is typically composed of a few and very specific customers. The B2C usually has a large and rather undefined audience.

2. Relationship vs. product.

B2B customers focus on the business relationship and how it will improve their bottom line through product support (e.g., tech support), longevity (how long will the product line “live” before being discontinued) and distribution (the availability of this product on a national or international level). B2C customers emphasize the product itself, the transaction (i.e., coupons/discounts) and the product’s perceived value vs. money spent.

3. Sales cycle.

B2B customers must be “courted” for a long time before the sale occurs; B2C customers have a shorter or even a “rush” time frame (e.g., midnight madness sale).

4. Rational vs. emotional.

B2B marketing takes a more rational and information-heavy approach (e.g., white papers and case studies) and target customers who must eventually purchase products for their businesses; B2C marketing benefits from emotional appeals (e.g., “you deserve a delicious candy bar”) and relies on impulse purchasing.

5. Ad styles.

Unique and infrequent ads that help educate the customer are the preferred marketing strategy for B2B advertising; frequent and repetitive ads that are low on content and high in memorable images or humorous punchlines are typically used in B2C advertising.

For the affiliate marketer who is trying to target a B2B market, general marketing strategy should include finding out who the customers are, what specific items they sell to their own customers, and how that particular business model could take advantage of the products you are trying to sell. For example, if you are trying to market high-end tools to B2Bs, you’ll want to know which specific companies employ contractors and what types of jobs these contractors do for their customers. Based on this information, you can write content directed at those businesses and state how your tools will help them generate more revenue, cut total purchase costs, have fewer workplace accidents, etc.

You B2B ads would be heavy on content and statistical information and light on flashy pop-ups and graphics. Your marketing campaigns would take a long time to complete, meaning that some of your target customers would not buy any product from you for months. However, when you finally did “land” one of your target clients, the generated revenue would be huge and likely ongoing.

Alternately, if your objective is to market to B2Cs, you’d want to gather customer demographic information like disposable income, age and employment status. Going back to the high-end tools example, you’d also want to know how many of your B2C customers are homeowners and/or own vehicles. Your advertising strategy would consist of lots of product photos and emphasize limited time only discounts or other offers. The ads would also be season and/or holiday-specific (e.g., buy Dad these tools for Christmas).

While your marketing campaigns would not need to last long before a sale occurred, the revenue generated per sale would be much smaller. Also, you would need to have recurring campaigns and offer different promotions on an ongoing basis. Coupons and “today only” offers would have to be heavily emphasized. You would also need to devote some resources to product returns and/or complaints.

B2B vs. B2C social media strategy

There are many social media platforms out there and each one is best used for a certain market. For B2B customers, you can use the following platforms:

Twitter: With its emphasis on promoting links, Twitter can be used to direct B2B customer to information-rich content pieces like white papers, articles and product reports.

LinkedIn: Heavily used by businesses, LinkedIn is a great place to network with other businesses while promoting your products and providing information on product history and features, customer testimonials and stories, infographics, customer/technical support, etc.

Blog: Creating and maintaining a blog on your product website allows you to advertise your products in a more approachable manner and share personal stories with your customers. This turns potential customers into loyal readers who are bound to return.

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For B2C marketing, the following platforms work better:

Facebook: This platform is ideal for showing off product photos and generating customer enthusiam. Facebook is also able to handle product coupons and special offers.

Pinterest: A newer social media platform than Facebook, Pinterest is growing in popularity and use. It is heavily graphics-focused and offers significant opportunity to generate excitement about a product. Photos are easily shared and promoted on this platform, enabling novel and/or unique products to go viral.

Blogs: Recruiting brand ambassadors who have their own blogs and large followings is a great and low-cost way to generate product interest and sales. These bloggers can sponsor free product giveaways, host Twitter parties, and solicit product reviews from their followers.

YouTube: Showing off your products in creative ways through video can generate significant B2C customer enthusiasm and have your marketing message go viral.

Is B2B or B2C better for affiliate marketers?

Each market, whether it be B2B or B2C, comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. With B2B, you must provide a lot of rich and informative content to customers who may not buy anything from your website for months or even years. However, when that critical sale occurs, it’s going to be big and probably recurrent.

On the other hand, B2C customers will be easier to win over with low-information content that might only take a few days to generate several immediate sales. Unfortunately, such sales are more likely to be a one-time deal and low revenue; constant marketing is necessary to get repeat customers.

In the end, which type of market you choose to target will be dependent on your personal style and preferences. If you are patient, don’t mind generating high-information content and like to play with facts and figures, B2B marketing is the way to go. However, if you’d rather see some immediate rewards for your work and prefer getting people excited about a novel product or service, then B2C marketing may be more your thing.

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