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Chart: Groupon, LinkedIn & The Blurring of B2C and B2B Marketing

Groupon’s IPO rocked the market on Friday (2nd largest tech IPO since Google) raising over $700 million, just on the heels of LinkedIn’s IPO success a few months ago (3rd largest since Google).  Both companies cater simultaneously to consumers (B2C) and businesses (B2B). It occurred to me it would be interesting to see how online activity, or digital body language, differs between companies that are either B2B or B2C.

Traditionally one would think that a pure B2C company would have much higher website traffic than a pure B2B company of similar size, due to both consumer behavior and online marketing spend.

The following chart, which was generated using Eloqua's Revenue Benchmark Index, plots the ratio of B2C vs. B2B website traffic from 2008 to 2011 (Sept 30) for companies with over $1 billion in revenue. What’s interesting is a fairly steep downward trend over the past 4 years – implying B2B websites are generating more and more traffic, even approaching volumes seen by B2C companies of similar revenue.

As I mentioned previously, this seems counterintuitive – so what could be happening?b2b-b2c-marketing

We also know with the change that has occurred with the buying cycle over the past few years - business buyers are spending more and more time researching vendors prior to ever contacting them, which is what consumers have been doing ever since websites were invented. Also B2B companies are realizing the power of their online channels, so they are investing more online than ever before. This could lead to an increase in business buyer web traffic, even when compared to their consumer counterparts.

I also think we are seeing more and more businesses like Groupon, Linkedin, Facebook, or Box.net with hybrid models, such as a fremium B2C offering and additional B2B “pay-for-services”. By establishing a large consumer base on their freemium product, companies are monetizing that base with upsell/cross-sell opportunities – especially if the overlap of business buyers is high. Is this an early indication of a more general trend? Should we expect B2B marketing and B2C marketing to continue to blur into each other more and more?

What do you think?

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