B2B stands for business-to-business, and as the name suggests, is a business model that is selling their products or services to other businesses. In a way, we can think of a B2B business as a support system providing other enterprises with the things they need to succeed, or at least, to stay competitive.
Generally, people are more familiar with B2C businesses. B2C companies sell products or services to end consumers, such as a restaurant selling food or a retail store selling clothing. B2B companies, on the other side, offer raw materials, parts, machinery, or services to other companies to boost the customer’s profits.
Probably it’s easier to explain with an example. If a restaurant, as we have established, is a B2C business, a meat supplier and vegetable supplier would the B2B businesses supporting the restaurant. On the other hand, the meat supplier might have a meat processing machine, and the company selling the meat processing machine is also a B2B business supporting the meat supplier. As you can see, there can be many B2B companies involved before the end product arrives in the end customer’s hands.
There are many real-world B2B examples that you might have stumbled upon before. If your current company is using Microsoft Windows or Office, we can consider it a B2B activity. Nowadays, many businesses rely on SAAS products from cloud storage services like DropBox to collaboration messaging app like Slack or just day-to-day software like Adobe or Google products, among others. Also, attorneys and accountant firms providing services to business clients are common B2B activities you might have seen before.
Since the nature of the business model is different, there are differences in business practices between B2B and B2C companies.In general, B2B companies are more focused on their sales tactics and account management, while the marketing efforts are mainly focused on building awareness like advertising in trade journals, presence in live events such as trade conferences and conventions, and digital marketing campaigns such as SEO, email outreach, and other efforts to build presence.
Before we discuss further differences in B2B sales and marketing tactics compared to the B2C counterparts, let us discuss some of the new forms of B2B businesses that have emerged in the digital age.
B2B In The Digital Era
Digital B2B businesses have emerged as the norm of the digital age. Online e-commerce platforms have matured since the early days of the internet, and now businesses can sell directly to other companies. Alibaba.com is one of the most prevalent and successful examples of this phenomenon. We can generally divide the new digital B2B businesses into three main categories:
- B2B Software
Since most businesses, even the traditional ones are now mostly digital, software including the newer Software As A Service (SAAS) businesses are now highly essential. There are companies offering software for building B2B websites, including database and transaction features. There are also SAAS businesses providing core software for their customers, like Adobe, Microsoft, and Google.
Other aspects of the business are also now covered by software services, such as cloud storage by DropBox, automation tools by various vendors, and so on.
Infomediaries businesses provide centralized and specialized information sites for specific niches, industries, or even specific companies. We all know how information can be really valuable in this day and age, and these specialized information center can act as a trade and industry standard.
- E-Procurement Sites
E-procurement sites serve supply and procurement exchanges to other businesses in a range of industries. Here, the E-procurement company shop for different supplies from different vendors, and set up a website (or use the available e-commerce platforms) to offer those products to their clients.
So, in essence, these e-procurement companies act as a broker, and so we often call this business model ‘B2B brokerage’. The B2B brokerage site act as an intermediary between service providers and business customers. Often, the key values of these businesses lie in the various product or service listings, discussion groups, and centralized information.
Difference Between B2B and B2C Sales Process
There are many differences between the sales process of B2B and B2C. Arguably, the key difference is the fact that you will typically be dealing with high-level executives, key decision makers, or professional buyers of the client company when you are trying to make the sale. Why is it important? Because they are doing this for a living, and they will attempt to get the best deal possible, research all the options, and leverage. Many of them are really good at this.
So, B2B sales will generally require a higher level of professionalism and expertise compared to B2C sales. Here are several considerations to have when considering B2B sales:
Be professional in all conduct. If you are meeting your prospects face to face, dress and behave formally
Know how to deal with gatekeepers , commonly an assistant or receptionist preventing you from speaking with the target buyer
Professional buyers often have received extensive training to see through salespeople, and so you will also need to know how to deal with tactics like stalling and manipulation.
High-level decision makers can be very intimidating, and they are often very busy. So, don’t waste their time and make sure you are well-versed in all aspects of your product. If you say “let me get back to you”, most probably you won’t get another chance
Difference Between B2B and B2C Marketing
Similar to the differences in sales, the key difference between B2B and B2C marketing is the buyer. As we have established, the buyers in the B2B environment are generally more professional that B2C consumers. So, purchase decision of B2C consumers is generally based more on emotion. On the other hand, B2B purchase decisions are more logical.
With that being said, effective B2B marketing should be focused more on the logical side, like providing valuable information and convincing buyers with testimonials.
Thus, there are generally more considerations involved in a B2B sales cycle, resulting In a longer, more complicated marketing process and higher cost. Ultimately, you will need to convince a B2B customer that your purchase can be justified in ROI, and that is not always an easy thing to do.
In a B2B marketing environment, here are some key principles you should consider:
Offering knowledge and information are the keys to a successful B2B marketing, because most of your buyers are information seekers. So, you should pay more attention to delivering valuable contents regularly.
As mentioned, you will need to convince your buyers about the ROI of your product/service. It can be money saving, resource saving, or time-saving, and it has to be clear.
Think of effective ways of showing your value to your customers in an effective time frame. Your buyers are busy people, so you will need to address that fact. Interesting, short tutorial videos, cooperative live chat, and short, informative tutorial articles can be effective among others.
Although we have mentioned that B2B marketing is mostly logical, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t involve emotion at all. If you can see ways to tap into your customer’s emotional side, exploit it.
While there are differences in concept, sales process, and marketing tactics between a B2B and B2C business, the principles behind them are still similar. If you need more help in B2B marketing strategies, check out our previous guides here (link)