What Is Business-to-Business (B2B)?
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What Is B2B (Business-to-Business)?

What is B2B? The term B2B, nearly always used to abbreviate business-to-business, is an umbrella category for all companies that market and sell products to other businesses. It is also the term used for marketing campaigns that target other businesses instead of consumers.

B2B commerce can be for goods or services, and on just about any scale. When multinational software company SAP provides data processing to a national healthcare corporation, that is a B2B relationship. When the local two-person web design studio in the neighborhood sells a site redesign to a family-owned pizzeria, that is also a B2B transaction.

Whether you’re a business, an agency or a marketing consultant operating in the B2B category, your outreach strategy needs to be targeted toward business customers. This will guide everything from how you package and bundle services, to which platforms you run paid advertising campaigns on, to how you tell stories about your brand. It does not necessarily mean that your voice and tone need to be corporate, but it does mean that you’ll showcase your product or service as a business solution.

Business-to-business content marketing: types of content

  • Case studies
  • White papers
  • Native content in industry publications
  • “Partner spotlights” that showcase clients
  • Updates to LinkedIn business page “Home” feed
  • Webinars
  • Virtual product demos

Many businesses choose to concentrate their B2B marketing efforts in obvious spaces: LinkedIn ads, conferences, purchased lead lists. Larger companies may take a broader approach. For example, Microsoft is one of a few major corporations to run primetime broadcast commercials advertising its small business services. This campaign serves as a wide net to catch thousands of small business owners, but simultaneously, more targeted marketing and sales efforts are running in other channels to reach large potential customers.

Many companies have a B2B side and a B2C (business-to-consumer) side. If you work in marketing for a company that does both, it’s a constant challenge to balance the B2B and B2C efforts — especially in this day and age, when everyone can potentially stumble upon any material you put out, including material specifically targeted to the other audience.

B2B product marketing example

A large food producer may have foodservice customers, but also sell products directly to consumers in grocery stores. The company may have products that are only for commercial kitchens (i.e., only for business customers) and their challenge is to let all those B2B customers know about new products without ever letting consumers know because consumers cannot buy them.

Strategies

In order to do this, a company will often have two separate websites, and definitely two different customer databases for targeted email campaigns. They might opt to have no social media for the B2B products, but have a robust sales team that can share info on products with their foodservice clients.

B2B and B2C e-commerce example

Sometimes an online seller needs to determine a B2B customer depending on the inbound query. For example, B2C travel platforms do this based on the number of rooms selected in the dropdown menu.

Strategy: one general homepage, but early identification.

As soon as possible, a travel platform will attempt to funnel a customer to the proper side. You’ve probably seen the option to self-select as a business travel client, but even if you don’t, if you attempt to book 15 rooms, you’ll trigger a move to the B2B customer relationship management (CRM) side.

B2B with consumer visibility example

Some of the most complex B2B marketing strategies come from tech companies like Square and Shopify. Because they serve thousands of business customers of all sizes, their names are widely known to the point where regular consumers are fans, perhaps even stockholders, and interested in the brand without really knowing what the products do.

Strategy: infotainment that showcases their business solutions.

There are definitely outliers, like GoDaddy, a small business stalwart known for its over-the-top bawdy TV commercials that barely touch on its service. But for the most part, the software companies that support small business B2B have a B2C aesthetic and tone (and budget!) with brand storytelling that focuses on business customer success… the smaller the business, the better.

B2B transactions range from a new website for a family-owned bakery to a 9-figure deal between multinational corporations. That's why B2B content isn't one-size-fits-all. Click To Tweet

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Lena Katz

About Lena

Lena Katz's credits as a development producer, casting producer and locations manager include cable TV (WEtv, Revolt, HGTV), and digital-first productions (WhaleRock, mikeroweWORKS, Tastemade). She worked directly for major brands including Suzuki, Hormel and Brown-Forman. Learn more about her company at Variable Content.

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