When it comes to building successful websites, appealing to a large and diverse audience requires a mastery of the web and expertise in user experience. You need to thoroughly define a strategy that will engage the majority of that large audience – and keep them coming back. Now, take all of that complexity, and double it! This is the challenge we faced when tasked with creating a website that appealed to both B2B and B2C market segments.

You might be thinking, “Get my red staples button, that’s easy!”   But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Here are a few fundamentals that need to be balanced when creating a website that accommodates both B2C & B2B customers:

Product VS Relationship Driven

Typically, a website meant for engaging B2C customers works at converting the “shoppers” into buyers as quickly and aggressively as possible. When on the web, end consumers want sales information handy and can easily be enticed with incentives.  In many cases only one or two people are making a purchasing decision and not interested in a long-term relationship – just a quick fix to their need or problem.

When it comes to a B2B experience the focus shifts from being completely product driven to one that is based on developing a relationship. In a business scenario, the first point of contact with a website is to gather research. Content is king, and the information available online is used for comparison and discussion among peers. It is critical that you have the information they are looking for, or you may be crossed off the list. At this phase, companies aren’t ready for a hard sell – just pursuing options.

Short VS Long Sales Cycle

Consumers as a whole are getting more impatient by the minute. The increase in mobile sales alone suggests that we can’t even wait to get home to make an online purchase. We want it all NOW. This is a big part of why B2C transactions have such a shorter sales cycle then B2B. While consumers are doing research before making a purchasing decision, they are much less likely to linger. Many of us buy on impulse and are looking for that instant gratification we are so accustomed to.

However when our jobs could be at stake, as in a B2B scenario, the buying process can be many steps and drawn out. Frequently, companies are looking for the best business value and will research for months prior to making a purchasing decision. They check competitors, references, require some hand holding and even months later still won’t make a decision. Aside from any red tape that may hinder the process, there can be many people involved in the purchasing process – all of which takes time. While they value information on the website, it is still important to remember to guide them to the next step when they are ready to move forward.

Emotional VS Rational Behavior

As consumers, we like pretty logos and graphics. Good branding is not only aesthetically pleasing but can build brand trust, confidence and loyalty. If a website is poorly optimized and not very interesting to look at, chances are many people will move on to their next option without giving your product/service a second thought. Consumers are heavily influenced by their emotions. Factors like desire, status of the brand, “coolness factor”, and price all weigh into the outcome. The website needs to accommodate all of this to be successful.

In the B2B world, branding doesn’t take the lead. Businesses work hard to mitigate financial risks and appreciate a website that can provide them with the information they need without much work. End decisions tend to be made through a rational, fact-based approach. What is the most economical? How fast can this be delivered? What is the quality of the product/service? Having answers readily available could be the difference between a captured or lost lead.

B2B meets B2C: FirstCharterBus.com

So how do you meet the needs of two very different audiences on one website? This was the challenge we faced with a recent project for First Student. The company wanted to grow it’s charter bus rental business beyond the B2C market to include a greater emphasis on the B2B customer. We were tasked with branding and designing a website that would engage and inform both of these distinct audiences. And as we’ve just explained that is no small undertaking.

Our solution was to create separate messaging, content and site features to help funnel each of these audience segments to the relevant content they were seeking. For the single-use B2C bus renter, we provided eye-catching “Choose Yellow” value messaging, trip ideas and a simple quote request form to encourage them to take action. Additionally, online tools were developed, such as a trip planning checklist and group transportation comparison chart, to help them make a quick decision.

For the B2B audience, we created a separate landing page that took a more concierge-like approach for these large group transportation planners. This area features detailed corporate case studies and testimonials with an emphasis on the company’s large fleet of buses, customer service, national reputation and reliability. The Corporate Services section also provides its own 800 number and quote request form to speed a response to busy event planners.

It’s not easy to walk this tight-rope between the B2C and B2B worlds, but it can be done successfully if you effectively understand and address the needs of these two divergent groups.

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