B2B or B4B? Does it really matter? After all, what’s in a title? Perhaps everything….
Isn’t that a bold idea?
What’s in a title? Maybe everything.
Something that is very personal and possibly deep. A worldview that can shift our thinking and inspires us to do few things totally different.
Nah. How can that be? How is it possible?
How can you change a word, a preposition, ‘to‘ and replace it with ‘for‘ and call it a game changer?
We have seen it all. Haven’t we all been in business far too long to be moved by play of words. A small change from ‘To‘ to ‘For‘ means nothing.
Well, I don’t think so. And I’ll tell you why in a moment.
Let’s dive deep inside and explore the nuances that can help shape the idea.
Defining Business to Business (B2B)
Business to business, also called B-to-B or B2B, is a type of transaction that exists between businesses, not consumers. This term got popular around the 1998 dot com era when the internet phenomenon was at its peak.
It was an acronym used to communicate how commerce flowed between two business entities. This term became so popular that it prefixed everything that connoted a transaction between two businesses.
B2B procurement, B2B buyer, B2B marketing, B2B sales, B2B market place, B2B e-commerce, B2B market research, B2B Software, B2B Offering and many more.
The idea caught on. It flourished. It also spawned into other variants. Say B2B2C or even B2B2G (where G is Government).
It was going well. Until now.
So why do I think that this terminology should die?
Simple reason. The word ‘to‘ in B2B is no longer relevant. To explore why this is not relevant we will need help of a dictionary.
Here is the English dictionary meaning for the preposition ‘to‘:
“expressing motion or direction toward a point, person, place, or thing approached and reached, as opposed to from”.
In line with this meaning, so far businesses have marketed to, sold to, pitched to, offered services and products to and provided support to other businesses.
This was very much needed as businesses needed to take their products, services and support to other business. It metaphorically meant the direction was from left to right. Just like this arrow mark ‘—->’. One was the seller and the other was the buyer.
The word ‘to‘ is so ingrained in our psyche, like the arrow, the stress was more on ‘motion or direction‘. Our entire organisation structures were built to make, sell and service our customers. Along with it came top-down command and control, various functions/departments, centralised structures, and standardised routines.
‘To‘ was programmed deep in the business model. Resulting in a path dependency.
We are all perfectly ‘ locked in‘ by behaviours that connote – motion and direction from left to right.
Now, let’s use another lens to see the world.
The new world order – Business For Business (B4B)
Before we explore this new terminology, let’s understand the meaning of the preposition ‘for‘ from English dictionary.
“with the object or purpose of “
“suiting the purposes or needs of”
In the digitally connected era, as Nilofer Merchant points out in her book “11 Rules for creating value in the Social Era“, successful businesses like Uber, AirBnB, Tesla, GE Digital, Alibaba, Etsy, KickStarter create value through a different paradigm – networks, collaboration, community, social purpose and openness.
They are businesses built FOR businesses and consumers.
They are businesses built suiting the purpose and needs of their customers. There can be many sellers and buyers across a community.
Quoting General Electric, a 124 year old company, was once a seller of products to customers. Now it is a digital platform company with many buyers and sellers. It has now transitioned to a B4B company.
When you do something FOR somebody you do care for the other business or person. Not just for yourself. The preposition ‘for‘ humanises the act.
Suddenly you shift from providing ‘action and direction‘ to a business and think about what can you do for another business. You can even ask, ‘Can I exist for my client’s success?“. This right away injects empathy into your business.
Business For Business. B4B. Injects empathy in the language.
In doing so, you will allow yourself to ask fundamental questions that can shift your thinking and behaviours:
- What should be our business model that allows our customers be successful?
- How can I structure my organisation for my customer’s success?
- How can I create products, solutions and services for my clients to be successful?
- How do I create a Go to Market model for my customers to engage, experience and buy?
- How do I create experiences for my customer so that I can partner for an extended life time value?
B4B shifts thinking from you to your customer. It brings purpose and empathy in everything you say and do.
Over a period of time it perhaps will bring your business closer to the customer. Isn’t that we all want?
It all starts with one change in preposition – substitute ‘to‘ with ‘for’.
Magendar Rajasekaran is People Success Evangelist at Agility Nexus This article was orginally publishd on LinkedIn.