Is Inbound Marketing suitable for B2C?
More and more used in a B2B framework, inbound marketing remains more discreet within B2C strategies. Despite everything, we see a lot of content emerging every day aimed at individuals on the web: there is therefore a desire to make ourselves known other than through traditional advertisements.
But can we really say that we are doing inbound because we post blog articles and publications on social networks? It’s all a question of definition! In this article, let’s take stock of the peculiarities of inbound marketing and on its adaptation to the B2C context. Let’s go!
Table of Contents
- B2B, B2C, Inbound marketing: what are we talking about?
- What does an inbound marketing strategy consist of?
- What are the differences between a B2B and B2C buying journey?
- Inbound uses techniques particularly suited to B2B
- Can B2C really do inbound marketing?
B2B, B2C, Inbound marketing: what are we talking about?
To start off on a good basis, let’s take a look at the definitions of the terms used in this article.
B2B stands for “business to business“, that is to say “business to business”. This term therefore designates the commercial relations that one company has with another.
B2C stands for “business to consumer”, which translates to “business to consumer”. B2C companies seek to sell their products primarily to individuals. We can cite many brands as examples: Ikea, Nike or Monoprix.
Many companies are targeting both markets. This is the case with Apple, for example, which sells computer equipment, both for professional and personal use.
Inbound marketing is a communication strategy that consists of attracting customers to you through various techniques such as the distribution of quality content, automation, lead nurturing, etc. We oppose inbound to Outbound marketing which refers to intrusive acquisition methods such as advertising, cold emailing or telemarketing.
What does an inbound marketing strategy consist of?
Particularly adapted to the requirements of B2B, inbound marketing is a method that is installed over time. It goes through 3 stages which form the Buyer’s journey, that is to say the buyer’s journey: discovery, consideration and decision.
This staking is also suitable for a B2C market, but the techniques and tools used to move the customer through the sales funnel are more limited. Below is an example of all the different possible contact points to move a customer forward in the sales funnel:
What are the differences between a B2B and B2C buying journey?
In B2B, the sales funnel is generally longer: the products and services are more expensive, more complex and they will be used for a longer period of time. The decision is based more on reason, although sometimes emotions can guide it in part or even totally . Finally, in the majority of cases, many people take part in the final choice. It all takes time.
B2C, things happen differently, especially because the art emotions are at the heart of the decision. Consumers are above all looking to have fun and purchases are often impulsive, which greatly reduces the average length of the purchasing journey. On the other hand, the prices are rather low, the longevity of the product is not always taken into account and there is often only one decision maker. All these particularities concern everyday purchases. For those who fall under the exception such as household appliances or cars for example, the purchasing cycle is close to that of B2B.
Inbound uses techniques particularly suited to B2B
To advance their prospects in the purchasing journey, B2B companies using inbound implement a varied range of automated techniques, but also manuals.
- Discovery phase: blog posts, social media posts, white papers, etc.
- Consideration phase: webinars, podcasts, expert guides, etc.
- Decision phase: product comparisons, case studies, live demonstration videos, free trials, etc.
We see here that it is mainly a question of content. Each phase corresponds to a type of documentation adapted to the level of investment of the leads.
But inbound is more than content. It is also tools and methods that push the prospect into the sales funnel: call-to-action, forms to fill out, landing pages, marketing automation, workflows, lead management using a CRM with the lead scoring and lead nurturing.
Can we really apply these techniques to B2C? Yes, but only partially!
Can B2C really do inbound marketing?
Not entirely ! B2C brands can offer content to their audience mainly through a blog, online media and social networks. To stand out from the crowd and hit their target, they must create rather short messages, emotional and impactful. They can use texts, but especially images and videos which naturally attract more users. We can see them appear on networks where B2B does not really have a place like Snapchat, Tic Toc or Pinterest.
The Red Bull brand is the perfect example for understanding what successful content delivery is. The brand offers an arsenal of content on the theme of extreme sports: high-quality documentary videos including some exceptional like the stratospheric jump of Felix Baumgartner, a print magazine, an online TV offering sports events broadcasts, the games and apps for smartphones, etc. A true benchmark, Red Bull has taken the leadership position in its sector thanks to quantitative and qualitative content.
B2C brands and inbound marketing tools
But once the content is released, what can brands do to get their audiences to buy their products? There are a few possibilities open to them. They can, for example:
- capture emails using forms in exchange for exclusive content
- launch emailing campaigns
- set up some workflows
On the other hand, it seems difficult to make targeted lead nurturing including individual demos or personalized promotional offers. It is also impossible to set up telephone appointments with each of the prospects, even if only those who are hot are selected. Ditto for lead scoring which cannot be applied to a target of individuals. As for Account Based Marketing, which is an extreme version of Inbound, we don’t even think about it!
What if we said it’s content strategy?
Finally, Inbound marketing applied to the B2C market is nothing more than content strategy. Once this is launched on the right channels, hopefully the magic will work, as the possibilities for interaction with the audience are limited. Hence the importance of developing a perfectly calibrated upstream strategy: the success of the project will mainly depend on this fundamental step.
For this, brands rely more and more on ambassadors as well as all the people able to create UGC (User Generated Content) and disseminate them massively on their own channels. This is the reason why we see more and more influencers on the networks: brands need them to produce brand content indirectly. Because direct distribution, emanating from the brand itself, is no longer sufficient to reach a fairly large target.
So, is inbound marketing suitable for B2C? Yes, but in a limited way and while we’re at it, let’s call a spade a spade. Can we still speak of Inbound when a small part of this lead acquisition technique is used? We think it makes more sense to use the term content strategy, which better reflects the reality of possibilities in a B2C context.