There is no such thing as B2B – or B2C either…!

Go to any business meeting these days and talk about Twitter or Facebook and you’ll be met with a familiar cry: “Aha,”, says the hapless accountant, lawyer or consultant to you, “that’s all very well for consumer businesses, but how can it help those of us in the B2B sector?” It is special pleading, suggesting that there is something very different about being in “business to business” that sets you apart from “business to consumer“. These people ask you for “B2B” examples of the success of social media, taunting you that the only real success has been found in the “B2C sector”. “Aha, got you,” they seem to be saying under their breath.

The fact of the matter is – and, be warned, this is really difficult for people who reckon they are in the B2B sector – there is no such thing as either B2B or B2C. It is a false distinction.

B2B is the same as B2C

When I get told that B2B is special I simply ask: “Who buys your stuff? Is it a machine? Is it a business? Or is it a person?”. Often people stumble out a reply saying, “well obviously it is a person,” then there’s a pause and they add “but they are in a business”. This last bit is simply justification for their thought that B2B exists.

So, I pursue my line of enquiry, rather detective-like. “Which businesses then, give you most of your business? Which companies do you sell most to?” People are usually able to say who their best clients are. Then I ask, “And do you have good relationships with the people in that business?” Naturally, the answer is yes.

Then I ask them to think about the businesses they do little business with. I ask them to consider the personal relationships they have in those firms. “Well, I don’t really know anyone there,” is the usual reply. Then it slowly dawns: the “businesses” with which a company has the best personal relationships are the ones which generate the most cash. In other words, you are not selling to a business, but to a person – often a friend.

Asking people in a B2B environment about who they do business with always reveals this fact: most business is done with individuals in a company with whom a good, solid personal relationship exists. Ask any B2B owner if relationships are not important to their sales and they will look at you like you’ve just arrived from the planet Zog.

B2C is the same as B2B

In the “B2C” sector companies, such as retailers know this. They know that each purchase is a one-on-one experience. They are selling to you the individual, whether you are buying a bottle of fizzy pop or a new dining room suite. They focus on selling to individuals, to people – they just call them “consumers” in order to make it sound much more fancy than it is.

The truth is – whether you are selling to businesses or to consumers – it all comes down to relationships. It is all, ultimately person to person business – P2P.

What this means is that “B2C” companies are merely those which concentrate on personal selling. “B2B” firms are often not focusing on the person-to-person nature of their business enough. Once they do, the difference between them and a “B2C” company gets eroded.

Whatever business you are in  your buyers make the same purchasing decisions. Whether it is a bottle of fizzy pop or a multimillion pound mega deal, the brain processes are the same (and ultimately emotionally driven). The buyers do not divide themselves into “B2B” or “B2C” – to them they are just a person buying something. When B2B companies realise they are just a person selling something they will then be able to connect – P2P – using all the wonders of the online world.

Social media may be dominated by “B2C” examples, but that’s only because they are one-step ahead of most “B2B” firms in realising that they are selling to individuals. Social media is P2P – when you focus on being a P2P business instead of a B2B one, that’s when it will work for you.

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Graham Jones
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+
Graham Jones

@grahamjones

Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist, professional speaker and author of 32 books who helps businesses understand the online behaviour of their customers
@chriscfox It was a bit of both. - 6 hours ago
Graham Jones

5 thoughts on “There is no such thing as B2B – or B2C either…!

  1. I really agree with you, Graham, b2b is all about p2p! I think that only real difference in the buying process is that often a business buyer is accountable to other people, so has to be able justify the buying decision in a logical way (but emotions and relationships are still a huge influence). Plus the fact that a really bad decision could affect your career! Consumers are probably not accountable in the same way – unless you count being accountable to your other half! I do know both accountants and solicitors who Tweet, and they love Linked-In…

    • Hi Beryl, thanks for your comment. Yes, accountability does have an influence but I don't think it is as powerful as we might at first think. Brain scans of buying processes of all kinds show that it is the decision-making pre-frontal cortex that sorts out that kind of information first (whether it is just our own desire to buy, pleasing our partners, or accountability to our bosses) – but then the signals are then sent to the emotional centres of our brain for final approval it seems. So, even though we think we are justifying our "B2B" purchasing as a conscious, logical decision, the scientific evidence suggests otherwise – it is an emotionally driven, sub-conscious matter. And our emotions are driven by person to person, gut feel connections.

  2. Hi Graham,

    I found you via LinkedIn and your response to the question on B2B vs B2C. As soon as I saw your answer, I knew you and I thought alike.

    Here's a link (below) to a blog post I wrote a few weeks ago… think you'll see what I mean…

    http://bit.ly/lETLtq

    Thanks and have a great day!

    Steve O

    • Hi Steve

      Thanks for the comment; great to see we are like minds.

      Loved your blog too – lovely example; sad that it is so commonplace in the "B2B" world.

      Kind Regards

      Graham

Comments are closed.

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