Before we unpack whether the distinction is collapsing, let us first distinguish between B2B and B2C. B2B refers to a “business-to-business” company that provides services or products to other businesses. B2C refers to a “business-to-consumer” company that sells directly to individual consumers. They’re two separate business models that serve different types of customers, one being businesses and the other direct to consumer. Feel refreshed? Ok, cool.
In recent months and years, however, businesses are suggesting that the difference and boundary between the two is starting to blur. The Drum Network recently interviewed B2B experts to find out just how much of a gap really remains between the two disciplines.
The article highlighted that in the last couple of years, due to the blurring of the lines between work and home because of the pandemic, there’s been a technology acceleration in data science and greater use of mobile and web; and people’s expectations have been set by that.
Furthermore, the way B2B customers are buying has completely changed, and that’s forced B2B businesses to think about their go-to-market strategy, giving a bigger role to how they approach their audience.
Thankfully, the same technologies that have transformed customers’ expectations are ripe for use by marketers of any stripe. The key difference-makers in B2B are targeting and segmentation technologies. Streaming, Spotify and TikTok (for example) would always have been thought of as massively wasteful and very expensive channels to use for B2B but because very specific targeting and segmentation in those channels is now possible, they’re on the table.
In addition, B2B marketing is, classically, more costly than its consumer cousins: longer lead times; more resource-intensive. As a result, B2B marketers previously focused on demand conversion rather than demand seeing that when we follow data to the point where we see payback, we end up down at the bottom of the funnel and being obsessed with the conversion down there.
One way to conceptualise an evolution in the rules of engagement is that, aided by new tools, B2Bers are looking more at the whole funnel. The challenge of the moment for B2Bers may be getting the balance right in the attention they pay across that funnel. The way to overcome this would be to address the traditional friction points of B2B: engaging with a salesperson, complex pricing models and lengthy sales engagements. Software-as-a-service companies have often led this charge by working to consumerize or productize their B2B offerings to make them look and feel a bit more like consumer products.
Therefore, while there’s clear evidence of convergence, there remain two disciplines with different demands, albeit on a spectrum. And the grey area between the two poles is better populated than it once was.
Perhaps it would be better to question how individual decision-making is today rather than analyse the disparities between B2C and B2B as the former seems to be the real evolution at hand.