While this is what most of us think when we examine our customers, those in the digital space also think about consumer behavior when it comes to what they search.
We think about it so much, in fact, that it’s a foundational element of digital marketing. What are people typing into a search bar and why? Those are the questions we ask every day.
Within several industries, there are two main types of customers: Residential and commercial.
Reaching these customers effectively requires some insight and knowledge of their similarities and differences as consumers.
In this article, we'll discuss the digital and purchase behavior of a residential vs. commercial customer.
They Search the Same
Where consumer behavior via search terms becomes difficult to decipher is when commercial and residential services are in question.
As with most businesses, there are varying levels of knowledge from customers during their searching process. Some have a firm grasp on what they need, or they have done research and are looking for specific things.
However, a majority of users have a cursory understanding of what they need. This shapes how they search.
Take, for instance, a homeowner who needs a new roof. Are they more likely to search for a “roofer” or a “residential roofer”? Search trends tell us that “residential roofer” is seldom searched for.
Similarly, a building manager who needs to get a leak repaired to the roof of a strip mall rarely searches for “commercial roofer” and opts instead for the more generic “roofer.”
Customers know they need a roofer, so they search for a roofer.
This direct overlap in consumer search behavior creates some challenges for roofers who only work on commercial roofs. In order to reach their target customers, they need to be in front of all users searching for a roofer (which includes residential users).
This is where great ad copy, a robust landing page that details the commercial-only nature of the business, and a patient sales team and office staff come into play.
From a search volume perspective, there is not enough legitimate awareness available for specific commercial-based keywords. To have the best chance at success, a broad approach is necessary.
An alternative to a search campaign that targets customers who are near being ready to make a purchase decision is to open the top of your marketing funnel with paid social advertising and an aggressive branding campaign through display and retargeting advertising.
Consumer intelligence is not always an issue, however, as there are some industries where users are already aware of the differences between residential and commercial services.
Insurance is probably the most notable, as the average consumer knows there is a difference between homeowner’s insurance and business insurance. They will search for an agency that can provide them with the type of insurance they need.
The same can be said for various fields of law. Someone looking for a corporate lawyer will likely search for a business attorney, while someone needing a personal injury lawyer will search exactly for that.
It is very rare for someone seeking a divorce attorney to search vaguely, as they are aware of expertise within the legal profession, and they want the best.
But the residential vs. commercial consumer similarities end with what they type into the search bar.
In reality, the two consumer types have very different intentions when searching, as well as their decision-making process.
Back to the roofing example. A homeowner with a leak in their roof is going to search for a roofer in their area, read their reviews and contact them if they feel confident in the business.
There is a problem that needs to be solved soon, so the purchase decision process is short.
The commercial customer, however, does not follow the same path. When a commercial building has a leak in the roof they don’t call the first company they see with great reviews on their website.
Instead, the first place a business owner might look at is a list of vendors provided by their landlord. Or they already have an existing relationship with another roofing company.
Either way, the commercial roof customer is not starting with a search for a repair. The purchase decision cycle is shortened in most cases due to existing relationships/contracts.
Relationships are how most B2B customers make their decisions, particularly with larger ticket price products or services.
While business owners and building owners use the internet to conduct their research when they feel the need to change vendors, the final decision is rarely made without meeting with someone, especially when there is a significant price tag involved.
Again, insurance and attorneys slightly differ.
While it’s true that B2B customers will find explicit value in a face-to-face or more personal approach to closing the deal, so does the consumer. This is due to the nature of the businesses mentioned above.
We all want to make sure we trust the insurance companies we contract with, and we want to make sure the attorney we choose has our best interests at heart.
For most commercial or B2B businesses, the relationship is what closes the deal, and it’s where the sales efforts need to be.
A digital lead generation strategy is very beneficial, provided it is structured to fit your customer base appropriately and there are adequate resources allocated to nurturing the lead through your sales funnel.
Residential and commercial customers have a different set of needs, motivations and paths to purchase. But one outweighs the other in terms of volume.
There will always be more individuals than businesses, which means we will see more residential users than B2B.
To reach those valuable commercial customers, you need to set up the right campaigns with the right budgets and the right expectations.
Also, make sure you have great salespeople who can take a lead from start to finish no matter where in the buying cycle they may be.