2016 B2B Content Marketing Versus B2C Content Marketing

B2B vs B2C Content Marketing: How They Differ [Research]

B2B Content Marketing Versus B2C Content Marketing For B2B and B2C marketers, content remains key to reaching prospects, customers, influencers and the public in 2016 and beyond.

This underscores how the way we use information to improve our lives keeps evolving.

At the core, 5  trends are important to B2B and B2C marketers.

  1. Content and media continue to develop.
  2. Technology use is broader, more accessible, and easier to use. Most grandmothers can use a smartphone, tablet and/or computer.
  3. Most advertising is distrusted and avoided.
  4. People regardless of age, location or occupation feel pressured to do more in less time.
  5. Your audience (B2B or B2C) is able and motivated to seek self-serve product information to reduce pre-purchase decision time.

As a result, as B2B and B2C marketers, we need to incorporate these changing dynamics into our content strategies and plans while learning from each other.

B2B Content marketing Versus B2C content marketing – Top level

At a top level, there doesn’t appear to be significant differences between B2B and B2C marketers’ use of content marketing. Specifically, over 3/4 of each group use content marketing and both plan to increase their content creation and investment.

Content marketing use:

  • 88% of B2B marketers use content marketing.
  • 76% of B2C marketers use content marketing.

Content creation:

  • 76% of B2B marketers plan to increase content creation.
  • 77% of B2C marketers plan to increase content creation.

Content marketing budget:

  • 51% of B2B marketers plan to increase content marketing budget.
  • 50% of B2C marketers plan to increase content marketing budget.

Despite its association with key elements of traditional B2B marketing practices,
B2B marketers aren’t more advanced and invested in content marketing. This may be attributable to B2C marketers’ relatively larger budgets and ability to maximize other marketing initiatives such as advertising and websites.

B2B vs B2C Content Marketing: How They Differ

Based on Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs’s research for 2016 US B2B Content Trends and 2016 US B2C Content Trends, here are 5 key areas where B2B vs B2C Content Marketing varies.  B2B Content Marketing Versus B2C Content Marketing

1. How B2B versus B2C marketers use content strategy

A content strategy is core to content marketing success.

The act of putting your content strategy in writing and, even better, sharing it with your organization improves your results. This makes sense. A documented content strategy defines what’s expected and leaves less room for interpretation.

According to Brain Traffic’s Kristina Halverson, “Content strategy guides planning for the creation, delivery, and governance of useful, usable content.” Specifically, she notes these 6 points:

  • Think “better,” not “more.”
  • Ask journalistic questions early.
  • Figure out when to say no.
  • Pick one problem to start.
  • Tie content to business goals.
  • Focus on user experience.

Here’s what the 2016 Content Trends showed:

Content strategy (BTW, here’s how to create a content strategy.)

  • 32% of B2B marketers have a documented content strategy and 48% have a content strategy but it’s not documented.
  • 37% of B2C marketers have a documented content strategy and 44% have a content strategy but it’s not documented.

Key point:

  • Both B2B and B2C marketers must control their content strategy development. Content strategy is core to your business and brand. While you may need outside support, this work should be done internally by people who know your business and brand.

Editorial mission

  • 28% of B2B marketers have a documented editorial mission and 48% have an editorial mission but it’s not documented.
  • 39% of B2C marketers have a documented editorial mission and 27% have an editorial mission but it’s not documented.

The 10+ percentage point greater use of a documented editorial mission by B2C marketers is noteworthy since it’s likely attributable to the higher need for brand and message consistency across a more diverse marketing offering. Also it’s more likely that all or part of the content production involves non-employees. 

Actionable Content Marketing Tips

  • Document your content marketing strategy and integrate it into your overall marketing plans. Ensure that they’re aligned with your top-level business objectives.
  • Share your content strategy and editorial mission across your organization. Don’t limit distribution to your marketing team and relevant agencies and consultants.
  • Welcome input from the people who know your business best. They know what your prospects and customers want to know and have the information to provide.

2. How B2B versus B2C marketers employ content tactics

When it comes to specific content tactics, B2B and B2C marketers use about the same number of tactics, although the tactics differ.

  • B2B marketers use an average of 13 content marketing tactics
  • B2C marketers use an average of 12 content marketing tactics

The top 3 content tactics B2B marketers use:

  1. Social media (93% of respondents)
  2. Case studies (82% of respondents)
  3. Blogs (81% of respondents).

While there are business-focused social media platforms and people spend a lot of time there, they don’t seem to be effective in terms of response for B2B marketers.

B2B Content tactic used-US-Chart-2016_B2B_Report

The top 3 content tactics B2C marketers use:

  1. Social media (90% of respondents)
  2. Illustrations/photos (87% of respondents)
  3. eNewsletters or eMail (83% of respondents).

B2C Content Tactics-Chart-2016-b2c-research-Chart-US-1

The top content tactics for B2B in terms of effectiveness are:

  1. In-person events (75% of respondents)
  2. Webinars (66% of respondents)
  3. Case studies (65% of respondents)

B2B sales require in-depth information and explanation. Live and virtual (like webinars) events supply this through human connections.

B2B Content tactics-Chart-US-2016_B2B

In terms of effectiveness, it’s no surprise that email is the top B2C content tactic since B2C marketers drive sales every time they hit send. Their challenge is providing quality content in their eNewsletters so that they continue to get read.

For B2C content tactic effectiveness, I assume that in-person events refers to retail and other live events since, unless you’re in the hospitality or comic business (where ComicCon is a massive event), in-person events are rare.  2016-b2c-research.pdf (page 16 of 32)-1

What’s surprising is that videos, which are highly watched on smartphones, aren’t a stronger content tactic for B2C marketers. 

Actionable Content Marketing Tips

  • Integrate your content marketing tactics with the rest of your marketing plans to minimize expenses. Creating content at the same time enables you to utilize budgets for other marketing at little or no incremental cost.
  • Think beyond “once and done” marketing. According to Kapost research, many marketers think this way. Content Marketing Reuse Chart
  • Re-imagine your content marketing for a variety of formats when you initially create it to enhance its longevity. (BTW, here are 56 ways to reuse your content in case you need inspiration.)

3. How B2B versus B2C marketers use social media in their content marketing plans

When it comes to social media, B2B and B2C marketers display the greatest difference. This makes sense since most social media platforms target participants as people based on their relationships with family, friends and social contacts.

Except for LinkedIn (including LinkedIn Slideshare,) social media is consumer-oriented. B2B marketers use it to gain visibility where people spend a significant amount of their time.

While considered a social media platform, YouTube, owned by Google, is a video distribution platform as well as the second largest search engine following Google. This makes it a critical element in any marketer’s plans, B2B or B2C.

  • B2B marketers use an average of 6 social media platforms to distribute their content marketing.
  • B2C marketers use an average of 7 social media platforms to distribute their content marketing.

The top 3 social media platforms used by B2B marketers are:

  1. LinkedIn (94% of respondents)
  2. Twitter (87% of respondents)
  3. Facebook (84% of respondents)

Facebook counts in terms of size. Also, in some countries, it’s the only social media option. (BTW, here’s fuller analysis of B2B social media use for content distribution.)

B2C Social Media platform use for content marketing distribution-2016-research chart
B2C Social Media for Content Marketing-2016- Research Chart-US

The top 3 social media platforms used by B2C marketers are:

  1. Facebook (94% of respondents)
  2. Twitter (82% of respondents)
  3. YouTube (77% of respondents).

What’s surprising is B2C marketers’ lower usage of Instagram and Pinterest, which is where couch surfers shop.

B2B social media for content chart-2016-US-2 B2B SOcial media for content marketing-2016-Research-Chart-1

What’s interesting is that there’s no mention of rating and reviews sites, many of which have related advertising options. While this has less relevance for business prospects, it’s often the first place consumers check.

(BTW, check out social media quality versus quantity. It’s got useful charts and tips.)

Actionable Content Marketing Tips

  • Format your content to be contextually relevant on each social media platform. Create different versions of your content to maximize reach at the same time. Consider what your content is competing against in each social stream.
  • Batch schedule your social media posting where possible. This includes sharing different quotes and images.
  • Incorporate multiple ways for readers to share your content in whole or part. Facilitate the process for them.
  • Be available to engage with social media participants beyond just posting your content marketing.

4. How B2B versus B2C marketers invest in advertising to support their content marketing distribution

As content marketing matures, it’s no longer a stand-alone method for building your brand and acquiring customers. Regardless of whether you’re a B2B or B2C marketer, you need budget to support your content especially on social media sites like Facebook.

  • B2B marketers use an average of 3 types of paid advertising tactics.
  • B2C marketers use an average of 4 types of paid advertising tactics.

B2B content marketing use of paid advertising-2016 research chart

B2C content marketing paid advertising use-2016-research-chart

This research didn’t provide sufficient information to reveal the difference of B2B content marketers versus B2C content marketers when they use paid support.

Actionable Content Marketing Tips

  • Incorporate content promotion into all of your existing paid advertising.
  • Ensure that you have relevant calls-to-action and landing pages associated with your content.

5. How B2B versus B2C marketers capture prospect information from their content marketing efforts

Whether you practice B2B content marketing or B2C content marketing, you still have business objectives and related metrics.

To be effective, your content marketing goals should have related metrics. In the process, you should acquire prospect information or, even better, close a sale.

The top 3 B2B content marketing goals are:

  1. Lead generation (85% of respondents)
  2. Sales (84% of respondents)
  3. Lead nurturing (78% of respondents)

These content marketing objectives make sense since more B2B marketers are rated on the number of marketing qualified leads (or MLQ).

B2B Content Marketing Goals-Chart-2016_US_B2B_Report

The top 3 B2C content marketing goals are:

  1. Sales (85% of respondents)
  2. Customer retention/loyalty (81% of respondents)
  3. Engagement (81% of respondents)

B2C marketers are more directly focused on using content to drive sales from new prospects and existing customers.

B2C Content Goals-CHart- 2016-b2c-research

B2B marketers track their content effectiveness by measuring:

  1. Sales lead quality (87% of respondents)
  2. Sales (84% of respondents)
  3. Higher conversion rates (82% of respondents).

These metrics seem well aligned with their goals.

B2B Content Metrics-Chart-2016_B2B_Report-US

B2C marketers track their content effectiveness by measuring:

  1. Sales (85% of respondents)
  2. Higher conversion rates (80% of respondents)
  3. Web traffic (79% of respondents).

Since B2C marketers have an ability to complete a transaction directly with a prospect via a variety of content platforms, it’s no surprise that they track sales and improved conversion rates. Unlike B2B marketers, B2C marketers can improve sales by increasing web traffic.

Content Metrics-Chart-2016-b2c-research-1

72% of B2B marketers ask readers to register for email while 12% don’t ask readers for anything.

What’s not measured in this research is the fact that many content marketers ask for qualifying information before they share their quality content – making these options irrelevant. B2B Content Offer-Chart-2016_B2B_Report-US-1-1

69% of B2C marketers ask readers to register for email while 14% don’t ask readers for anything.

The surprise is that this number isn’t higher since email addresses translate to sales for B2C marketers.

Content subscription offers-chart-2016-b2c-research-1

Actionable Content Marketing Tips

  • Include at least one call-to-action in every piece of content. Depending on the content format and placement, consider using more than one CTA and placing it in different areas of your content. (This is a good element to test.)
  • Minimize the amount of information you ask. You must overcome inertia. Therefore you must make a strong case for requiring more than an email address.

The bottom line is that the Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs 2016 US B2B and 2016 US B2C research revealed that content marketing is a key element of today’s marketing. It’s necessary for attracting and engaging customers.

The research revealed that top-level B2B and B2C marketers are relatively similar in their use of content marketing to achieve key business objectives and the use of major forms of content marketing. This all works best when both forms of marketing are dealing with customers as real, living people.

That said, since the research used the same survey format to keep the responses consistent, it understated the differences between B2B and B2C content marketing.

For example, B2C marketers are able to drive sales directly through the use of email and social media. By contrast B2B marketers seek to acquire and nurture qualified leads, since they’re generally dealing with larger, higher priced purchases.

Regardless of your business, you need to incorporate content marketing, align it with your business goals and document it. Further, it’s important to use the breadth of content tools and your employees to maximize your results.

What’s your favorite content marketing tactic and why?

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen


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  • Hi Heidi,

    very well written as always. I was really wondering about the high value for “social media other than blogs” statistic. Do you have a source for stats for other regions? My feeling is that social media is not on the map at all for german B2B companies for instance. In terms of lead generation, email marketing etc. the stats support my professional experience – just social was really surprising.

    Cheers,
    Pascal