In the broadest sense, the practice of one purveyor of goods doing trade with another is as old as commerce itself. As a niche in the field of marketing as we know it today, however, its history is more recent. In his introduction to Fundamentals of Business Marketing Research, J. David Lichtenthal, professor of marketing at the City University of New York's Zicklin School of Business, notes that industrial marketing has been around since the mid-19th century, although the bulk of research on the discipline of business marketing has come about in the last 25 years.
Morris, Pitt and Honeycutt, 2001, point out that for many years business marketing took a back seat to consumer marketing, which entailed providers of goods or services selling directly to households through mass media and retail channels. This began to change in middle to late 1970s. A variety of academic periodicals, such as the Journal of Business-to-Business Marketing and the Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, now publish studies on the subject regularly, and professional conferences on business-to-business marketing are held every year. What's more, business marketing courses are commonplace at many universities today. In fact, Dwyer and Tanner (2006) point out that more marketing majors begin their careers in business marketing today than in consumer marketing.
Although on the surface the differences between business and consumer marketing may seem obvious, there are more subtle distinctions between the two with substantial ramifications. Dwyer and Tanner (2006) note that business marketing generally entails shorter and more direct channels of distribution.
While consumer marketing is aimed at large demographic groups through mass media and retailers, the negotiation process between the buyer and seller is more personal in business marketing. According to Hutt and Speh (2001), most business marketers commit only a small part of their promotional budgets to advertising, and that is usually through direct mail efforts and trade journals. While that advertising is limited, it often helps the business marketer set up successful sales calls.
Marketing to a business trying to make a profit (Business-to-Business marketing) as opposed to an individual for personal use (Business-to-Consumer, or B2C marketing) is similar in terms of the fundamental principals of marketing. In B2C, B2B and B2G marketing situations, the marketer must always:
* successfully match the product/service strengths with the needs of a definable target market;
* position and price to align the product/service with its market, often an intricate balance; and
* communicate and sell it in the fashion that demonstrates its value effectively to the target market.
While "other businesses" might seem like the simple answer, Dwyer and Tanner (2006) say business customers fall into four broad categories: companies that consume products or services, government agencies, institutions and resellers.
The first category includes original equipment manufacturers, such as automakers, who buy gauges to put in their cars, and users, which are companies that purchase products for their own consumption. The second category, government agencies, is the biggest. In fact, the U.S. government is the biggest single purchaser of products and services in the country, spending more than $300 billion annually. But this category also includes state and local governments. The third category, institutions, includes schools, hospitals and nursing homes, churches and charities. Finally, resellers consist of wholesalers, brokers and industrial distributors.
So what are the meaningful differences between B2B and B2C marketing?
A B2C sale is to an individual. That individual may be influenced by other factors such as family members or friends, but ultimately it’s a single person that pulls out their wallet. A B2B sale is to an organization. And in that simple distinction lies a web of complications that differ because of the organizational nature of the sale and which vary widely by firmographic (i.e., “demographic” for segmenting businesses) such as business size, location, industry and revenue base.
The marketing mix is affected by the B2B uniqueness which include complexity of business products and services, diversity of demand and the differing nature of the sales itself (including fewer customers buying larger volumes).. Because there are some important subtleties to the B2B sale, the issues are broken down beyond just the original 4 Ps developed by McCarthy.
The purpose of B2B marketing communications is to support the organizations' sales effort and improve company profitability. B2B marketing communications tactics generally include advertising, public relations, direct mail, trade show support, sales collateral, branding, and interactive services such as website design and search engine optimization. The Business Marketing Association is the trade organization that serves B2B marketing professionals. It was founded in 1922 and offers certification programs, research services, conferences, industry awards and training programs.
Hutt and Speh (2001) note that "business marketers serve the largest market of all; the dollar volume of transactions in the industrial or business market significantly exceeds that of the ultimate consumer market." For example, they note that companies such as GE, DuPont and IBM spend more than $60 million a day on purchases to support their operations.
Dwyer and Tanner (2006) say the purchases made by companies, government agencies and institutions "account for more than half of the economic activity in industrialized countries such as the United States, Canada and France."
A 2003 study sponsored by the Business Marketing Association estimated that business-to-business marketers in the United States spend about $85 billion a year to promote their goods and services. The BMA study breaks that spending out as follows (figures are in billions of dollars):
The fact that there is such a thing as the Business Marketing Association speaks to the size and credibility of the industry. BMA traces its origins to 1922 with the formation of the National Industrial Advertising Association. Today, BMA, headquartered in Chicago, has more than 2,000 members in 19 chapters across the country. Among its members are marketing communications agencies that are largely or exclusively business-to-business-oriented.
The tremendous growth and change that business marketing is experiencing is due in large part to three "revolutions" occurring around the world today, according to Morris, Pitt and Honeycutt (2001).
First is the technological revolution. Technology is changing at an unprecedented pace, and these changes are speeding up the pace of new product and service development. A large part of that has to do with the Internet, which is discussed in more detail below.
Technology and business strategy go hand in hand. Both are corelated .While technology supports forming organization strategy, the business strategy is also helpful in technology development. Both play a great role in business marketing.
Second is the entrepreneurial revolution. To stay competitive, many companies have downsized and reinvented themselves. Adaptability, flexibility, speed, aggressiveness and innovativeness are the keys to remaining competitive today. Marketing is taking the entrepreneurial lead by finding market segments, untapped needs and new uses for existing products, and by creating new processes for sales, distribution and customer service.
The third revolution is one occurring within marketing itself. Companies are looking beyond traditional assumptions and adopting new frameworks, theories, models and concepts. They're also moving away from the mass market and the preoccupation with the transaction. Relationships, partnerships and alliances are what define marketing today. The cookie-cutter approach is out. Companies are customizing marketing programs to individual accounts.
The Internet has become an integral component of the customer relationship management strategy for business marketers. Dwyer and Tanner (2006) note that business marketers not only use the Internet to improve customer service but also to improve opportunities with distributors.
According to Anderson and Narus (2004), two new types of resellers have emerged as by-products of the Internet: infomediaries and metamediaries. Infomediaries, such as Google and Yahoo, are search engine companies that also function as brokers, or middlemen, in the business marketing world. They charge companies fees to find information on the Web as well as for banner and pop-up ads and search engine optimization services. Metamediaries are companies with robust Internet sites that furnish customers with multiproduct, multivendor and multiservice marketspace in return for commissions on sales.
With the advent of b-to-b exchanges, the Internet ushered in an enthusiasm for collaboration that never existed before--and in fact might have even seemed ludicrous 10 years ago. For example, a decade ago who would have imagined Ford, General Motors and DaimlerChrysler entering into a joint venture? That's exactly what happened after all three of the Big Three began moving their purchases online in the late 1990s. All three companies were pursuing their own initiatives when they realized the economies of scale they could achieve by pooling their efforts. Thus was born what then was the world's largest Internet business when Ford's Auto-Xchange and GM's TradeXchange merged, with DaimlerChrysler representing the third partner.
While this exchange did not stand the test of time, others have, including Agentrics, which was formed last year with the merger of WorldWide Retail Exchange and GlobalNetXchange, or GNX. Agentrics serves more 50 retailers around the world and more than 300 customers, and its members have combined sales of about $1 trillion. Hutt and Speh (2001) note that such virtual marketplaces enable companies and their suppliers to conduct business in real time as well as simplify purchase processes and cut costs.