How Native Advertising Is Different In B2B and B2C Environments

Effective native advertising demands a deft rhetorical touch and a keen awareness of context, and understanding the gulf between B2B and B2C marketing is vital for making content that fits.

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By Victoria Greene
Branding consultant & Freelance writer
Connect


Since the B2B and B2C marketing environments are very different, you can’t use a static approach across both and expect to have success.

Much can be learned from the adaptable chameleon when it comes to native advertising. For your efforts to be productive, you need to advance your marketing goal without appearing too blatant or standing out to the extent that your content doesn’t engage the audience.

Since the B2B and B2C marketing environments are very different, you can’t use a static approach across both and expect to have success. What fits in with native content in one might stick out like a sore thumb in the other; let’s see how.

B2B vs B2C marketing

Subtlety is the name of the game; tasteful mentions, deployed with grace.

B2C: Gentle Nudging Across Myriad Formats

The B2C world contains a great deal of audience diversity, with any shared reference points being determined by any given publication. It is the advertiser’s job to understand what binds the readers of any given publication and produce content they’ll appreciate.

General surfers are looking for diversion and entertainment, and while they won’t generally recoil from native advertising in particular, they will readily abandon any piece that doesn’t reach the level of quality they’re used to in that context. More than anything else, it’s the entertainment factor that really matters. Entertain the reader, and all will be well.

RELATED: How Brand Mentions Affect Reader Engagement with Sponsored Content

As a result, the focus of any piece must be on finding a way to usefully make people aware of what’s on offer without haranguing them about it or wasting their time. Subtlety is the name of the game; tasteful mentions, deployed with grace.

Pitches in B2C content are also likely to be quite lightweight in nature if they exist at all (many pieces will stop at a casual product mention). Try a new foodstuff, buy a hat, visit a store, etc., often packaged to read as incidental. Given their brevity, they are unobtrusive; if the reader is interested, great. If not, the mention doesn’t detract from their experience.

Native advertisers can thus aim simply to gently push people towards particular products or services and scatter their efforts across numerous formats: blogs, online publications, magazines, comics, social media platforms of all kinds. Think of it as a drip-feed endeavour, keeping the thing being advertised in the collective online consciousness.

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Where B2C often allows detachment, B2B demands investment. Long-term arrangements, SaaS licensing, indefinite business partnerships or consultancies.

B2B: Strict Focus for Niche Audiences

If the B2C world can be related to a colourful jungle biome complete with a massive assortment of viable targets, the B2B realm can be viewed more as a hazardous body of shark-infested water. Much bigger targets, but much fewer, and much more likely to attack you if you don’t seem to belong.

There are enormously fewer businesses than consumers, naturally, and the set of targets further narrows based on the field and the nature of the solution being advertised. Where B2C often allows detachment, B2B demands investment. Long-term arrangements, SaaS licensing, indefinite business partnerships or consultancies. Meaningful connections.

RELATED: How SAP has Integrated Native Advertising in Their Marketing Mix

What’s more, each target, itself being a business, will be far better positioned to identify your methods and notice (then disregard) any efforts to use a light touch— they’ll more readily respond to something bold. The stakes, invariably, are significantly higher.

In light of this, being subtle with the marketing element becomes much harder to justify, and it becomes considerably more effective to directly write about whatever it is you’re offering. If you’re providing value to the audience, they probably won’t object to the marketing; if they haven’t done anything similar themselves, they’ll at least have considered it.

With prospective business clients, platforms like LinkedIn with scope for particularly long-form content become far more useful, suited as they are for the more in-depth sales approach generally required to pitch to a cautious CEO with a budget and no room for snap decisions.

For B2B, though, you need to demonstrate skill, whether through the product you mention or the expertise you impart, because you’re not dealing with people just looking for entertainment 

Structure Versus Skill

I think a neat way to look at the general difference between creating native advertising for B2C and B2B audiences is to view the respective cores as structure and skill.

Getting the structure right for a B2C piece is the most important thing. Because people who have no pressing reason to care about some totally unfamiliar business will readily discount any content they see that stands out as being other.

In most cases, that calls for the basic online content setup:

  • Headings and subheadings
  • Bold but generic stock images
  • A simple intro and conclusion
  • Digestible paragraphs
  • Quotes and/or highlighted sections
  • Bullet-pointed lists (case in point)
  • Appropriate tone of voice for the context

The stock imagery aspect is a slightly odd one, because it might aggrieve some advertisers not to take every possible opportunity to use their full range of product glamor photos.

But getting the structure right means suiting the environment and meeting user expectations, and when the content around you features stock shots from somewhere like Burst or StockSnap, you should go down the same route (unless you have other images that really work in context).

RELATED: T Brand Studio: 12 Tips for Creating Killer Content

For B2B, though, you need to demonstrate skill, whether through the product you mention or the expertise you impart, because you’re not dealing with people just looking for entertainment and unlikely to know about the details of your subject matter; you’re addressing those with a mind for business and an interest in specific information.

Accordingly, if you can demonstrate skill in (and insight into) the relevant field, you won’t need to worry so much about the formatting. The better the content, the less anyone will mind if you heavily deviate from the typical content layout of the website in question. (Regardless of the scenario, though, you will need to give some thought to disclosure. There isn’t a universal standard, unfortunately, but you should always correspond with the platform to determine their preference. If you’re uncertain, err on the side of clarity.)

Another neat element is that you don’t need to figure out how to deviate from your content to mention a product or service if you don’t want to because you are the product. Even if you’re aiming to sell something specific, you will gain a lot from establishing your business as an authority on the topic in question through prominently contributing to industry knowledge (useful content is no less useful if provided through an ad).

Your overall method should be the same: understand your audience, identify something they want, and find a way to give it to them through content

Knowing Your Audience

Typical B2C and B2B requirements are different, yes, but your overall method should be the same: understand your audience, identify something they want, and find a way to give it to them through content they will enjoy as much as (or more than) anything else they read on the platform you use.

Take that formula into every marketing campaign you carry out, and you’ll have a great chance of attracting customers and business clients alike.

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