Marketing campaigns can never be considered one-size-fits-all.
What works in one industry might not work in another, because of different products, audiences, and expectations.
Additionally, marketing to consumers is different than marketing to businesses.
These differences in marketing start with the overall goals and messaging and apply to everything, from social media to collateral, and even emails.
This article will explain the differences between B2B and B2C emails and provide examples of some of the best emails today.
4 Ways to make your B2B and B2C emails different
Just as your sales team would alter their sales pitch depending on the prospect, you want to vary your emails depending on the reader: Are you sending to a customer or a business?
Here are four major differences you need to be aware of that set B2B and B2C emails apart.
1. Emails are built for a different set of goals
In the long run, all of your marketing activities really have just one major goal: to increase revenue through conversions. However, short-term goals greatly differ between B2B and B2C emails.
B2B emails are often used as a way to build relationships and trust. The B2B buyer’s journey is often much longer and more involved.
In fact, the number of people involved in an average B2B solutions purchase has climbed to nearly seven—that’s seven different people in one purchasing decision. These emails slowly guide prospects, providing a variety of product and company information.
On the other hand, B2C emails are more about brand awareness and are mostly looking to capitalize on a spontaneous emotional reaction. This is often achieved by using a number of different messaging tactics, such as personalization, exclusivity, and “fear of missing out” urgency.
Take a look at this great example from Eastern Mountain Sports:
Image Source: Eastern Mountain Sports
The outdoor clothing retailer hits hard on the urgency factor by including the words, “Final Hours,” and, “Flash Sale,” boldly at the top of the email so it draws the readers’ eyes. The company also includes a countdown clock to add to the FOMO aspect of this email.
2. Content is king—especially for B2B
Any marketer will tell you how important compelling content is for emails, regardless of the audience or industry. However, the long buyer’s journey for B2B customers means there’s an added emphasis on providing relevant content in each of those emails. Nurturing requires additional touch points.
With more options available, as well as Google searches, customers are relying on content to influence their business decisions unlike ever before. Research shows that 78% of B2B customers read at least three pieces of content before even speaking with a salesperson.
Many times, this content includes information about a product or service. However, 75% of business decision-makers are looking for content with ideas and thought leadership.
While your sales team might cringe at this statistic—after all, they want to talk up your service and products—this should be music to the ears of marketers. This stat means there are seemingly endless opportunities to share content that can build relationships and trust.
One great way to do this is through industry thought leadership, such as white papers, infographics, and webinars. These pieces of content are great to share. Plus, they’re an effective way to collect leads through forms and downloads. Take a look at this example of a B2B webinar email from Sprout:
Image Source: Really Good Emails
Meanwhile, B2C emails also rely on content, but in a different way. Generally, the best B2C emails are short and sweet with a single purpose—promoting products. Promotions are expected and welcomed by B2C audiences.
Take a look at this example from Xfinity:
Image Source: Xfinity
This email includes promotional deals for existing customers to upgrade their service plans. Plus, included are helpful tips that customers can use to optimize their existing service. (Generally, B2C emails should include no more than two CTAs, but even with three, this email is a great example.)
As we talk about calls to action, you’ll notice some differences between B2B and B2C email CTAs. However, CTA best practices should be followed for either industry.
Both B2B and B2C marketers should use A/B testing to determine what types of calls to action work best for their emails and audiences.
For instance, when we tested our CTA buttons, we found that a smaller button (that more closely matched our brand colors) with specific, actionable text performed best. Calls to action should be analyzed and optimized based on how individual audiences respond.
The main differences you’ll see in CTAs between B2B and B2C emails are with the number of calls to action and the goals they hope to achieve. As we mentioned earlier, B2B email campaigns are generally designed for longer periods of lead nurturing, so the CTAs might be more along the lines of “Get the Report” or “Speak with Us.”
In addition, due to the longer sales cycle and lead nurturing campaigns, B2B marketers can get away with having multiple calls to action within a single email—especially in welcome or newsletter campaigns.
This email from data center services provider INAP is an incredible example of a B2B email done right:
Image Source: INAP
The email provides information about an industry-level report as well as a video and other content about INAP services and products. It gives customers access to a wealth of information about the company, including unique thought leadership content.
On the B2C side, snappy and clear single CTAs are overwhelmingly the way to go. Consider this example from food delivery service Instacart:
Image Source: Instacart
The call to action button follows everything in the book for CTA best practices. It has a color that stands out, includes actionable and witty text (that goes along with the overall tone of the email), and it’s the only place you’re able to click on the email, other than the preferences at the bottom.
4. A picture’s worth a thousand words
A fourth factor that you’ll notice that’s generally different between B2B and B2C emails is design.
On the whole, B2B buyers will not be as impressed by heavily designed templates and graphics. These buyers are already busy. They want to know how a product will impact them or make their jobs easier. Therefore, you’ll generally see more plain-text style emails for B2B audiences.
Take this email example from Campaign Monitor:
Image Source: Campaign Monitor
You can see the style is very clean and simple with subtle icons and design. This email gives the reader exactly what they want in an easy-to-consume format.
However, it appears that imagery is becoming more important in emails—and in marketing in general. A recent report from Social Media Examiner found that nearly a third of marketers said visual images are the most important form of content for their business.
B2C emails have already adopted this trend, especially promotional emails and messages sent from the e-commerce industry. Here’s an example from Audible:
Image Source: Audible
This email uses an HTML image as the main body, with text superimposed and a clickable CTA button in the middle. The whole body is about 15 words, but it explains everything a reader would need to know.
There is a downside to using heavy graphics for B2C emails, however. Depending on the CSS style used in the HTML code, certain email providers might not display the background image, leaving users with a broken image link icon. B2C marketers need to ensure they are using the correct style of CSS coding and include alt-text attributes to help combat this potential issue.
There are many differences between B2B and B2C emails. And it all comes down to knowing your audience and what they are looking for in their buyer’s journey.
Remember, these differences are just overall generalities. What works for one B2C business might work equally as well for another B2B business. It’s important to consider what your audience responds to and cater your email campaigns toward those behaviors.
Rigorous A/B testing can help you determine how to treat the design, style, tone, content, and subject lines associated with your emails.