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“B2B or B2C?” Often among the first things agencies ask their prospective partners is this question of initialisms, delineating whether the company aims to reach an industry or a consumer audience. Conventionally, B2B and B2C marketing share little in terms of technique, channel, or sensibility. A categorical difference in audience extends to numerous considerations that can lead marketers from one sector to struggle in translating their work to another, leading to ads mistargeted to the industry or a dry consumer presence.

The Interplay Among B2B, B2C, and Consumers

Business and consumer marketing, though, can never really be separated. As we have long insisted at MarketPlace, consumer preferences ultimately shape even the B2B marketplace; equally, consumer products exist only as the endpoint of B2B marketing. The best marketers have always understood this interplay.
More and more, contemporary marketing must speak to the concerns of both the business and the consumer audience: rather than just speaking of the interaction between B2B and B2C, increasingly it’s clear we must talk of a business-to-everyone era, or B2E.

What is B2E?

B2E arises primarily through digital, with companies like Adobe and Amazon pioneering business models where consumer and industry sales all live together in a single stream. Adobe is in the process of merging its consumer and industry sales channels, while Amazon has long positioned itself to serve both audiences as a retailer, hosting provider, and more. A single Amazon customer might buy both professional office supplies and personal web hosting from the tech giant, or the roles might reverse. Amazon aims to make it seamless for their customers to move back and forth, engaging with them in a professional and a personal capacity, and largely succeeds.

The Digital Age

B2E is not just a sales strategy for tech companies, though. It’s a reality of a hyperconnected, digital marketplace. Consumers can now operate more like B2B buyers, doing deep research into specifications, checking multiple sales channels for pricing, leaning on established relationships, and bringing in multiple perspectives on major expenses. Equally, B2B companies more and more seek the convenience and reliability in purchasing they have come to expect in their lives as consumers. Moreover, digital exposes B2B and B2C companies alike to questions and reputation concerns that used to exist in only one sector; consumer companies can be asked about their suppliers and their operational efficiencies, and B2B companies can be reviewed online.

Along with all these challenges, digital connectivity brings corresponding and perhaps even greater opportunities. Integrated sales and marketing can deepen a brand’s connection to its diverse audience and can open up new markets that were previously inaccessible. For consumer and B2B companies alike, the B2E era opens the possibility of a kind and scale of growth that never existed before—if they can take advantage.

Preparing for the Future

All of this means that effective modern marketing can’t adopt a purely B2B or B2C perspective any more. It must look at the whole ecosystem (another candidate for the E in B2E) of contemporary life, reading the culture and understanding the network of relationships we live in. Only a move to a true B2E perspective can prepare your brand for a strong future in the digital age.

MarketPlace has been preparing for this moment since our inception as an agency at the nexus of the B2B and B2C space. We are students of culture, media, and technology who never hold any one model of marketing technique too tightly, and accordingly this moment fills us with excitement. If you can use help navigating this new, dynamic moment in the life of your business, let’s talk.

Matt Miller staff photo
Matt Miller writes, teaches, and practices biodynamic gardening near Reeds Spring, Missouri. A MarketPlace alum with a background in academic research, he’s fascinated with how culture, media, and business interact—and equally with the best methods of cultivating healthy fruit trees.