August 20, 2020
6 min read
Business-to-business – also known as B2B – refers to a commerce relationship between two companies. A company that specializes in B2B sales essentially supports other businesses. They’ll provide them with the products or services they need to operate and grow.
In terms of physical items, this could be anything from raw materials for a building project, wholesale food for a restaurant, to desk chairs for an office.
B2B is incredibly valuable to online companies, too. Services for file sharing, instant messaging, and even social media post automation all fall within the business to business sphere.
The world of business just wouldn’t be the same without a boatload of acronyms.
If you’ve heard of B2B, you’ve probably heard of B2C, too.
B2C – shorthand for ‘business-to-customer’ – describes the more familiar concept of selling things to individual consumers.
There’s also consumer-to-business – or C2B – which is where a customer provides something useful to the success of a brand. So it could be a blogger creating a recipe using the brand’s sauce, or a shopper partaking in a website survey.
But let’s not confuse things. B2B and B2C are a couple of the most well-known acronyms in retail.
Bear in mind that B2B and B2C businesses are not mutually exclusive.
You’ll probably personally use online services and shop with eCommerce retailers who work in a business-to-business capacity, too.
Even if you use something for free, there might be a company out there paying for a more nuts-and-bolts version.
Here are some examples of the many B2B businesses selling products or services to clients:
This is one of the prime communications tools for modern businesses.
Slack allows users to organize their day-to-day activities by filtering communication channels and working at a fully digital level.
A scalable resource, its services are great for startup companies with remote workers and evolving ideas.
For businesses that want to stay on top of payroll and human resources – so, all businesses – Workday is invaluable.
This cloud-based software is a great example of business-to-business being used to support growth.
Workday puts everything in one clear place for employers to track. It’s a handy tool for streamlining some otherwise clunky business processes.
Get ready for two more acronyms.
Salesforce is a cloud computing service as a software – or SaaS – business. It specializes in CRM, which stands for customer relationship management.
Basically, this business-to-business company enables its clients to get deeper insights into their own customer relationships. And it all happens in one centralized place.
A social media management system with a clear value proposition, Hootsuite is a highly dependable marketing tool.
Ideal for companies of any size and stature, this B2B business takes the strain. It can fully schedule social media posts, manage them, and track their performance.
Hootsuite also allows its users to read further into their social strategies. They can gain those all-important business insights and learn how to produce more effective campaigns in future.
We know that B2C retail has an incredibly strong presence online. It’s an industry worth billions of dollars. Now B2B retailers are moving to eCommerce models, too.
There are already plenty of well-established, eCommerce-based B2B retailers.
Much like businesses offering services such as payroll management and data analytics, every aspect of the eCommerce transaction is carried out online.
Here are some examples of eCommerce businesses that are nailing it.
One of the biggest online marketplaces in the world, Alibaba is a thriving B2B sales resource.
Propping up the supply chain for thousands of global retailers, sellers on this mega-market offer components, materials, and finished products for wholesalers and factories.
Alibaba is a free resource for businesses, too: it earns revenue through ads.
Restaurant dinnerware isn’t as boring as it once was.
If you’ve ever found yourself turning over a stylish plate after a meal to see where it’s from, chances are it was purchased from Steelite.
This international one-stop-shop for the catering industry provides restaurateurs and chefs with everything they need.
Designed for those in the trade, Steelite’s eCommerce business offers everything from glassware to cutlery to buffet display stands.
You’d be easily fooled into thinking this company sold stylish products in a B2C format. It has one of the sleekest company websites in its industry.
But ACME specializes in packaging for shippers and logistics operators. They’ve just put a lot of effort into creating a brilliant eCommerce platform.
ACME offers its clients detailed product info, paired with crisp photography and reassurances that any specific need can be catered to.
If you’re at work right now, you might be sitting in a Herman Miller chair.
This slick office furniture store is serious about design and functionality. The brightly-colored website features animated photography and studies to support its sales.
Herman Miller helps businesses to elevate their workspaces with great-looking, comfortable products. A complete business-to-business setup, this company is designed for other companies.
It might be tempting to draw parallels between B2B and B2C businesses. But there are some notable differences.
From services needed, to relationship management, to business-to-business transactions, several factors set the business market apart from the consumer market.
Here are the defining characteristics of B2B companies.
When a business is selling to individual consumers, they’ll want to keep the relationship very focused on an end goal: the purchase.
It gets more personal when a company is selling to another company. Business-to-business is driven by long-term relationships between business and client.
By developing and maintaining more personal relationships, B2B companies ensure they’re getting repeat custom, optimal prices, and referrals if desired.
You’ll often find in B2B sales setups that both sides are quite dependent on each other. It’s a relationship built on mutual trust and support.
It will be formal, too, although it does sound like a marriage.
B2B commerce is a lengthy process.
If you’re shopping online, you’ll have finished services or products in front of you. Normally, each item has a set price. You pick and you purchase.
There are more layers to business-to-business transactions. Decision-making can take weeks or months, depending on the complexity of the purchase.
Purchasers need to consider a whole range of factors like budget, end-use, and return on investment.
They’ll probably have to review each purchasing decision in-house with stakeholders before committing to the transaction.
Business-to-business transactions are definitely not as simple as checking out a shopping cart using PayPal.
Often, companies will use trained business negotiators to seal the deal on all B2B transactions. Factors like bigger budgets and stronger relationships can lend themselves to better deals.
B2B transactions are usually backed up by a lot of analysis and forethought.
Business clients will be keen to learn from past purchases, and the seller side will probably want to improve on their previous transactions.
This is where those strong relationships really come into play.
B2C retailers are able to focus broadly on a target audience, whose needs can be grouped together and quite generically marketed to.
However, with B2B, marketing has to be tailored to suit the specific needs of a brand.
Marketers have to try to understand the processes their desired client uses, and develop a relevant strategy.
The key marketing takeaway for B2C customers should be excitement. In B2B marketing, marketers need to show their clients precisely what value the selling company can add.