Knowledge vs. Identity: the 4 most crucial differences between B2B and B2C content marketing

Knowledge vs. Identity: the 4 most crucial differences between B2B and B2C content marketing

The advantages of using content marketing are many, and so are the techniques and tools available to make the best use out of it. But when we say “content marketing”, are we speaking about the same thing for all types of businesses? Are the content marketing tips we give universal? Not necessarily.


One of the most visible differentiations that affects the way we understand content marketing, is the one between B2B and B2C businesses. Under the large conceptual umbrella of “content marketing”, the practices in the field differ significantly between businesses whose main target audience are individual customers and those whose main target are other businesses. It’s important to understand these differences to enhance the effectiveness of your efforts. There are four main differences between B2B and B2C content marketing, to which you must pay attention:


Difference no. 1 – trust vs. urge, the goals of B2B and B2C content marketing

The essence of the differentiation between B2B and B2C marketing is their target audience; the type of products they sell and the character of the sales cycle also change accordingly, and thus, naturally, so do the goals of marketing campaigns. Obviously, a common goal for content marketers in all fields is to increase brand visibility and awareness, but beyond this common denominator, the differing needs and habits of the customer define the goals of the content.

Take a classic example of B2B model – SaaS products: they are usually used by businesses, based on a subscription model, and their success relies on the willingness of the prospect to commit to long-term investment in the product. The large financial investment and the long-term commitment demanded by SaaS products requires that the potential customer thinks twice, three times, or even ten times, before making a decision to purchase. The goal of the content, in this case, is to convince the prospect that he/she can trust the product, that it is worth investing big money and entering into long-term commitment, and that the product will do the job like no other. Building trust is thus the main goal of the B2B content marketing.

On the contrary, a classic example of B2C model, FMCG products, shows a different purchase process: as their very name suggests (fast moving), the process of purchasing such products is fast, usually cheaper, does not require much commitment nor hesitation. In fact, hesitation is the enemy of the FMCG purchasing process, and the goal of the content marketing in this case is to eliminate hesitation and create an urge for buying.


Difference no. 2 – knowledge vs. identity, the strategies of B2B and B2C content marketing

Deriving from the goals are the strategies that content marketers should adopt while planning the content they wish to create.

For B2B companies, since the goal is to create trust that will facilitate long-term commitment, the content you create should fulfill this goal – if you want a catchy title for this, call it “knowledge marketing”. The logic behind such strategy is simple:

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Good knowledge marketing helps you not only increase trust among existing prospects, but also fulfills two other important marketing goals: increasing brand visibility and generating leads. How does it do it? It’s simple: assuming that you are an expert in your topic, and you know exactly what bothers people in your industry, by addressing these problems you will increase your visibility among people who were looking for answers but have never before heard about your company. If you distribute your knowledge correctly (and we will get to the issue of distribution in a few moments), every time somebody asks a question in your field of expertise, they will be bumping into your answers – soon enough they will understand that you’re the no. 1 expert, and guess who they will be calling next time they have a problem to solve?

In B2C content marketing, on the other hand, knowledge, trust and expertise are of little importance. As the already-mythical quote by Hubspot says: “Did you choose a Coke over a Pepsi because you believe Coca Cola’s depth of knowledge of the industry exceeds Pepsi’s?” Instead, B2C content focuses on creating the urge for purchasing by appealing to emotions and identity. That is why we call it “identity marketing”. Consumers who purchase products of a given brand do so because they identify this brand with certain virtues, and through the purchase, they attach these virtues to themselves and make them part of their own identity. Good B2C content marketing is one that “inspires” potential customers to buy, one that connects the act of the purchase with something much bigger with which we can identify – family, friendship, happiness, excellence.

Online, “identity marketing” (when done well) helps increasing brand visibility by applying to the web’s principle of virality: as has already been confirmed by several researches (e.g. this research by the NY Times), content that appeals to identity and to emotions gets shared significantly more, because people want to be publicly identified with the values and virtues that the content expresses; sharing content in the social media is a way for people to tell the world who they are and what they believe in. In other words, when you create “identity content”, you not only identify your brand with a certain virtue, and not only allow people to identify themselves with this virtue by purchasing your product, but, using the power of social media, you also give an opportunity for users to publicly identify themselves with your brand and with the virtues it represents by sharing your content, automatically increasing the reach of your content to a larger audience. Identity content, then, has a strong viral potential, and is the secret of brand-visibility-oriented content marketing for B2C brands.


Difference no. 3 – text vs. visual, the types of B2B and B2C content

Once you understood the difference in the goals and strategies of B2B and B2C content marketing, the job becomes easier. Now is the time to decide what kind of content to create, and here is another difference between B2B and B2C.

When it comes to B2B content, let’s think together: what kind of media do we associate with learning and education?

Books, articles, reports, guides, seminars – these come to our minds immediately, right? So, these are the types of content that work best for B2B content marketing. There is no better way to share your knowledge and build yourself the reputation of an expert than distributing e-books, publishing long-form articles, writing how-to guides, conducting research (and publishing it in the form of white papers) and holding seminars (whether live webinars or recorded video lessons or podcasts).

In this context we should say that it is still the case that text is a safer bet for B2B content marketing than other types of content. Although the popularity non-textual media (e.g. webinars, infographics, podcasts) cannot be undermined, case-studies (like this one by Neil Patel) show that the industry still holds a rather “traditional” approach to learning, and text is still considered to be the best type of content for B2B “knowledge marketing”.

Looking at B2C “identity marketing” on the other hand, let’s ask ourselves: what kind of media usually inspire us and arouse our emotions? Our sure bet is video, image, and music. There is a reason why 63% of content on social media consists of visuals, out of which 50% is video, and why content with visuals gets 94% more views than content without.

Going back to Hubspot’s Coca-Cola quote, we find it reasonable that a white paper titled “The uses and disadvantages of Coke to the general happiness of mankind” has not yet been published by Coca-Cola, and will probably never be. It just won’t work. When the goal is to excite and inspire, long-form text with research and statistics is just not the way. Short, catchy, visual, sensual and emotional content works best for B2C marketing.


Difference no. 4 – LinkedIn vs. Instagram, the distribution channels for B2B and B2C content

“If content is king, then distribution is queen” has already become a cliché of content marketing, but remains nevertheless true. There is no content marketing without content distribution: creating great content is just half of the work, the other half is distributing it in the right places. We’ve already published here an extensive guide to content distribution, but understanding the different target audiences of B2B and B2C companies is crucial for getting it right. Being all over the place is not necessarily a good distribution strategy – rather, it may mean a waste of money on content promotion for audiences that are completely irrelevant.

In most cases, the differentiation is easy: it has been shown , for example, that LinkedIn is the best stage for B2B content (although we don’t think somebody doubted this assumption), and that Twitter is generally preferred over Facebook for the purpose of distributing B2B content. Other “knowledge-oriented” media, such as Quora, Reddit, Yahoo Answers, HARO, or professional discussion groups, have also proved more effective for B2B content marketing, because they gather people looking for answers in different fields, and give B2B brands a golden opportunity to share their knowledge and be praised. For B2C, on the other hand, social networks that focus on individual and personal expression (such as Facebook), and which have a strong visual element (e.g. Instagram, Snapchat), are the safer bet.

As we mentioned, there obviously are exceptions to the rule, and nothing replaces a serious market research of where your potential audience is, what it is looking for, and what content would best appeal to it. However, the goal of this article has been to draw some fundamental guidelines and help your orientation in this vast world of content marketing. Lots of guides treat content marketing as one big phenomenon, giving universal tips that will not always be suitable for the needs of your brand. Here, we hoped to take you to the next level, by showing you how to focus on the right strategies.