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Many fundamental principles of PR apply regardless of whether you are trying to reach a consumer or a business audience. Every buyer is influenced by their perception of a brand. People respond to stories and make emotional decisions at work and at home. After all, business buyers are consumers too. They may decide on a new CRM system in their 11:00 meeting, but at noon, they’ll be deciding where to eat.
There are, however, some important differences in the approaches used to get brand messages to business vs. consumer buyers. The process of buying in business is different than the process used by consumers so that tactics of PR professionals must diverge to hasten each group’s buying journey.
Consumers are generally segmented by demographic factors. Age, income level, education, gender, and geography are used to develop specific messaging for various cohorts. The media that people consume tend to correlate to these demographic factors. A brand might run one ad during 60 Minutes and another very different spot during an NBA game. B2C audience segments are usually very large with lots of channels, networks, and journalists to pitch.
In business, segments are related to industry, the buyer’s role, and company size. The relevant publications are usually easy to define. In the B2B world, brands can be very granular about the customers they target, with some even using named-account-based marketing to deliver specific messages to individual decision makers.
Some PR professionals believe that consumers make emotional buying decisions, whereas business buyers make decisions based on logic. But remember what we said in the beginning, people are both business buyers and consumers. Emotion and logic have a role to play in both B2B and B2C PR messaging, but the execution differs. Consumers are more likely to be influenced by factors like status and trendiness, for example. Business buyers are more often concerned with ROI, predictability, and security.
Whether you are buying a new vacuum cleaner for your house or a new HR solution at work, chances are you’ll look to one community or another to get feedback from other users of the product. Consumers turn to online reviews, their social networks, and friends and family for advice and feedback. Business buyers use these channels as well as industry experts, neutral analysts, colleagues, and peers. PR professionals need media monitoring solutions to understand the people and networks that influence the behavior of their particular audience and manage accordingly.
Consumer buying is often driven by short-term needs or desires. You don’t form a committee and take a month to decide between Coke and Pepsi. Therefore, PR pros who target consumers need to focus on creating the foundation that will tilt the buying decision in your favor, and find ways to be front and center in the moment the decision is made.
Business buying decisions, on the other hand, can take much longer and have a distinct arc. The type of information that a buyer needs when they are deciding to act, when they are comparing solutions, and when they are justifying their investment very widely. If you are targeting business buyers, therefore, you must develop content and messages that resonate as people move closer to their decision.
Content is one area where the differences between B2B and B2C PR are sharp. An Instagram post may be a very effective way to generate buzz about a consumer product like makeup or shoes, but it’s probably not as effective for accounting software. Likewise, no one is going to read a white paper on toothpaste. The form, distribution channel, and tone of your content need to be tailored accordingly.
Whether your audience will be buying something for themselves or their business, the bottom line is the same. You must craft a message that resonates, get it where your prospects will find it, and support their decision with influencers and compelling content.