B2B versus B2C? There are more similarities than differences

6th October 2017

By Matthew Cushen

After 12 monthly competitions to find the brightest consumer ideas, this month we are extending the scope of The Start-Up Series.

We are still after ‘products and services we buy and the ways that we buy them’, but we are now open for products and services that businesses buy – and we’re now going to be awarding £150,000 each to two companies every month.

The Start-Up Series is still not encouraging the likes of biotech, infrastructure or public services. Whether consumer or business, we are after entrepreneurs that want to build a brand and have the ability to communicate it in a compelling way.

By broadening to ‘B2B’ start-ups we are hoping to avoid the painful situation we have had over the last year – not being able to further explore and support some interesting businesses just because of an arbitrary distinction that we came up with in a fit of narrow mindedness.

We do believe that the secret of marketing a successful B2B business is often much the same as getting the word out for a consumer business:

  • Knowing your target audience and having clear insight about the problem or need you are solving for
  • Having a thought through and clear proposition – with the potential to change the audiences behaviour whether shifting loyalty from another brand or creating a new category
  • Creating a compelling brand and distinctive tone of voice
  • Creating and executing a disciplined marketing and communications plan.

The capabilities of B2B brands

Some of my favourite examples of these capabilities are from B2B brands. I’ve outlined two good cases studies to show this:

Viking Direct

Viking Direct might not be the most exciting brand, but I have always been struck by how well the business understands its customers. Look at the promotions it runs and you will see it’s laser focused to appeal to whoever has responsibility for ordering stationery and then unpacking the delivery. The brand is price competitive but not price aggressive in a way that will appeal to whoever is paying the bills.

Instead, Viking run promotions for free gifts – such as a tub of Quality Street that can be shared around the salesfloor or a plant to brighten up the office. The business is tapping into the motivation and loyalty of the decision maker, not the eventual payer.


Xero is a sexier brand – and quite remarkably so given that it sells accounting services. The business has, very successfully, taken an unexciting service that businesses use and pay for because they are compelled to do so, and have constructed a story and product that makes financial accounting something you look forward to.

Like many emerging business service brands, it has deliberately used brand communications and product design cues from the consumer world – for example, the user experience that we have come to expect and demand from our personal tech – and applied that to a business offer.

Whether B2B or B2C, we’re looking forward to receiving your Start-Up Series entry. Whilst there are, of course, differences between growing a B2B business versus a consumer brand there is much more these business systems have in common. So we are looking forward to making our first business to business investment alongside our next consumer investment.

Good luck to if you are entering the competition series.

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