B2B : What’s it mean?

What does "B2B Mean?
Something New

I’m starting a regular feature today—Definitions.

Each week I’ll give you my definition for a B2B marketing word or phrase. And naturally, you are free to disagree, support or offer additional clarification to my definition.

Why definitions?

Because having a common understanding of terminology and jargon is one of the most important first steps in coming together as a team to solve a marketing problem.

How often have you gotten into a project where after weeks of hard work you discover that you and your team weren’t on the same page?

Every definition is pulled from the Marketing-Playbook Glossary of B2B Marketing Terminology. The Glossary is jammed with hundreds of B2B marketing definitions.

So, here goes Week 1: What does “B2B” mean?

Obviously, we B2B Marketers use this term in conversation all the time. But does everyone agree on what it means? Hmmm… I wouldn’t bet the farm on it.

My definition

If there is perceived risk involved in the customer’s purchase decision of your products or services—and the ultimate decision involves more than one person—you’re a B2B marketer.

Here’s an example to help explain what I mean.

You sell homeopathic health products online. While the products may be used by an entire family, in most cases there is only one person involved in the buying decision. By my definition, this is not B2B marketing. Rather, it’s Business-to-Consumer (B2C) marketing.

Now let’s say you decide to sell your homeopathic health products through Whole Foods. While the products are the same, the decision process is much different. In this case, while the ultimate consumer may be the same individual, your customer is Whole Foods.

The purchase decision in this case involves several of Whole Foods’ staff who work in merchandising, purchasing, store management, product safety and even the legal department, to name a few. It’s a complex buying process and each person perceives a certain amount of risk in their relationship with you.

How your company deals with the “career decision” aspect of product selection (or vendor selection) is an important role of B2B marketing.

Traditional definition

Selling your products and services to other businesses. Non-consumer, non-retail.

Note: Some businesses sell into both categories (Business-to-Business and Business-to-Consumer).

For example, JC Penney sells to consumers through its retail stores and web site, but they also sell their gift cards to businesses (B2B) for use in an incentive program using a 3rd party reseller. The same is true for OfficeMax. Their retail stores sell to individuals and small businesses and their Contract Sales Team sells to Midsize and Large businesses.

PS, That’s just my definition… I’m curious to learn what B2B means to you?

Filed under: Definitions, Marketing