Business to business: What's different about B2B marketing?

Laurie Young

When marketers who are experienced in the fmcg sector change to the world of B2B, many find it unnervingly different and difficult. Laurie Young describes how to get to grips with marketing to other businesses.

There is no doubt that, in the past, the public discussion of marketing has been overly biased toward consumer marketing. Advertising and branding debates have focused on the likes of Unilever and P&G, while marketing academics have been obsessed with the consumer goods industries.

Until very recently, the text books of leading academics and the courses of most universities covered, almost exclusively, consumer marketing practices. There was a complete sub-discipline devoted to 'consumer behaviour' whereas 'industrial buying behaviour' was paid scant regard.

In fact, business-to-business (B2B) marketing was seen as a specialist, unfamiliar and strange backwater that did not understand branding or segmentation and had small budgets reserved for dull activities. This is surprising because business leaders have been investing in remarkable B2B 'revenue-generating' activities for at least 300 years; they just haven't always been recognised as 'marketing'.

B2B is a huge sector