Navigating the B2B vs. B2C Dilemma: A Guide for Coaches

At a free workshop I ran last week to help people get clear on their niche offer, I was asked a brilliant question that I thought would be helpful to cover in today’s article.

The question was, “So, am I selling business to business or am I selling to the individual client?”

This is especially a quandary when you are offering executive coaching or leadership coaching, because it can be hard to know.

Will the individual leader reach out to you if they see your social media posts? Or do you need to direct your marketing to organisations?

This critical decision can be really pivotal to your success in your coaching business, shaping your marketing strategy and your entire message on your website and across your social media channels.

First, let’s define these categories.

B2B, or ‘business to business’, refers to transactions between businesses. That’s you, perhaps as a leadership coach, selling to an organisation who is your paying client.

B2C, or ‘business to consumer’, which we’re going to refer to as ‘business to client’ as it’s more relevant to our industry, involves a transaction between you, say as a leadership coach, and your individual clients. You are talking directly to that client in all your messaging, and that client pays your bill.

Let’s talk about the pros and cons of each category. 

Business to business coaching often involves larger contracts and longer engagement periods.

It means more stability, and potentially higher income per client.

However, the sales cycle is longer and more complex. It can often take a lot of time getting through different layers of an organisation to get to the decision maker that can approve your proposal, and it can also take a while to get your invoice signed off when the time comes.

On the flip side, B2C coaching allows for a more personal connection with your individual client.

There is no confusion about who your contract is with, and the sales cycle is usually shorter because that individual can make a decision without needing anyone else’s approval.

Working one to one gives you the flexibility to mould your services to suit that exact client. If they want more of your time you can negotiate with them directly.

However, the trade off is smaller contracts, usually less money per client, and potentially more effort in gaining that client in terms of the marketing it takes to get that one client.

So, how do you decide which option to go with?

It starts with understanding your strengths and your preferences.

Do you thrive in corporate environments? Do you prefer one-on-one interactions? Are you looking for long-term engagements or a variety in your client base?

Another key factor is market demand. You need to research both markets of your area of expertise. What are the trends? What are most people doing who are out there doing what you’re doing? What do potential clients in those sectors need the most? Are they happy to purchase this themselves, or is it the sort of thing that they expect their employer to fund?

For example, I worked with someone who provides maternity coaching. She was marketing her offer to individuals, but most people who are employed and going off on maternity leave are hoping that their employer might fund it, rather than them having to pay when they’re about to take an income hit by taking maternity leave.

So, it’s often about really thinking about your ideal client and whether they are seeking your service to personally invest in.

Your marketing strategy is also crucial. 

In B2B, building relationships with key decision makers and understanding their needs is essential.

It is probably going to be more effective for you to concentrate on networking, attend conferences, run in person events for businesses.

The sales process for B2B is very different to B2C.

For B2B, you are likely to need very different revenue generating activities and different methods of lead generation. For example, social media doesn’t really cut it with B2B.

You can also expect very different conversion rates with B2B.

When you are talking to organisations, you’re usually building that relationship, gaining their trust and achieving a higher conversion rate. You’re nurturing strong, deep, long-term relationships with a few really good potential leads.

A lot of the marketing for B2B is behind the scenes. That may please those of you who find visibility challenging.

That’s not to say the B2B route is easy, though, as there’s a lot of admin-heavy work to do to gain those corporate contracts.

It’s often about sending a lot of cold emails, and making sure that you have a really good system to follow up on those leads and regularly keep in touch with people. It might sound like the easier option but there’s still a lot of work to be done, it’s just a different kind of work.

So, you need to weigh up which you prefer. And if, when you read this, you are thinking ‘neither’, I hear you!

At this point, you need to shift your mindset and think about how good you’re going to feel when you gain that contract.

For those of you who don’t want to use social media, the B2B route could suit you, as social media is nowhere near as relevant for B2B as it is for B2C.

B2B marketing involves thought leadership, publishing articles, speaking at industry events.

It’s about building your credibility and showcasing your expertise to that business audience.

They are less likely to be impressed by your social media posts and more likely to be impressed by studies that you’ve done in your area of work; what you’ve done that raises your credibility.

Let’s now explore B2C.

This is all about expanding your personal brand and connecting directly with potential clients through social media.

Significantly growing your audience can be really effective. For B2C, social media marketing is a core part of your strategy most of the time.

Blogging, publishing email newsletters, promoting lead magnets, running marketing funnels. These activities can be really powerful in reaching individuals who are seeking personal development.

That’s not to say that online is the only way to reach your potential clients.

You can get out into your local community. Find people who you can partner with, who have your ideal client and might be open to agreeing a referral arrangement with you.

There are so many ways of building those relationships and getting your message out there.

The right way will be whatever is right for you, because you need to enjoy it to ensure that you actually show up and that you show up regularly. Consistency is key.

The choice between B2C and B2B isn’t necessarily binary. Many coaches blend both approaches.

However, I do think it’s difficult to do the two at the same time.

It’s not impossible, because B2B marketing is often behind closed doors and you’ll probably be cold emailing, or going to conferences.

This activity won’t necessarily impact what you are showing on your social media. It’s more that I would always recommend making your life as easy as possible, and focus on really going all in on one campaign.

For the next six months, for example, you could run a campaign going all in on B2B, and target all your activity at gaining that one big contract.

Then, once you have that big contract, you might choose to switch your focus to B2C activity.

So, to sum up how you choose B2B or B2C. 

The key is to really align your business strategy with your strengths, your personal preferences and market demands.

The person, for example, who asked this question at last week’s workshop – I think she was an HR consultant – already has B2B clients, so it makes perfect sense that she would align her coaching with the rest of her business marketing, rather than promote her coaching as B2C whilst running her HR consulting work as B2B. That would just get confusing in who her message was talking to.

Let’s look at two client case studies – one focusing on B2B and one marketing B2C – and see if they help you to gain clarity.

Case Study 1

Zoe wanted to work with leaders in agencies. Before she came to work with me, she was focusing on B2C.

She was talking to the leader who has been promoted and is lost, confused and stressed out, rather than to the agency who is employing that leader and wants them to perform well and generate more profit. Zoe transferred to B2B and has thrived ever since, because she loves going to industry events and she loves building relationships. She feels she communicates way better in person than through social media, so B2B is perfect for her.

Case Study 2

Another of my clients, Kate, is focusing on B2C and she’s doing really well. It’s taken a lot of work, and she has shown up on social media every single day for an entire year to build her business, which is why she is so successful. It just illustrates that, if you do want to gain individual clients, it is going to take a lot more visible marketing.

In summary, B2B or B2C?

Both paths are exciting, both have different opportunities and challenges, and the right choice for you will depend on your individual goals and the specific dynamics of your coaching niche.

I hope this discussion has provided some clarity and direction for your coaching business. Remember, your journey is unique.

The right path is the one that aligns best with you, with your vision and with your values.

Prefer Audio? You can also listen to all my new content on my podcast Women in the Coaching Arena

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Hello and welcome! I’m Joanna Lott, and I’m passionate about empowering qualified coaches like you to build brilliant businesses.