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Understanding your customers
Understanding your customers

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3.3 Definition of business-to-business marketing

As a first step to defining B2B marketing, consider the nature of the B2B market itself. Zimmerman and Blythe (2018, p. 3) define it as:

all organisations that buy products and services for use in the production of other products and services that are sold, rented, or supplied to others.

At first sight, this definition looks as if B2B is basically about manufacturers that buy products such as raw materials, and services such as advertising, to make and market products to their own customers. But, as Zimmerman and Blythe (2018) go on to point out, the definition also covers:

  • intermediary organisations such as retailers and wholesalers
  • non-profit organisations such as hospitals and charities
  • government (national and local) and the public sector.

Organisations in all of these sectors buy goods and services as inputs to their activities to enable them to provide whatever they supply to their own customers and users. A more appropriate definition, therefore, is that B2B marketing is:

marketing activity that takes place between organisations of any kind for purposes other than personal consumption.

It’s rather like the signs outside some building supplies shops, which say ‘We supply the trade only’.

Described image
Figure 6 Many organisations only sell to other businesses

Activity 10 Definition of B2B marketing

Timing: Allow 10 minutes for this activity

Having considered the definition of B2B marketing critically for a moment, is there anything you would add to it? Note your thoughts in the text box provided.

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As you may have concluded from thinking about it critically, even the amended definition is not quite accurate. B2B marketing is not restricted to organisations; it is also performed by individuals such as independent consultants supplying an expert service to a corporate client. Perhaps the key to the definition lies in its second part – that the goods and services marketed are for professional rather than personal use. However, even here a bit more critical thinking will reveal the blurring of boundaries between personal and professional in some areas, such as the ‘company car’. So the definition is not perfect, but it’s good enough for our purposes of understanding the scope of B2B marketing compared to consumer marketing.

Thinking critically is an important skill to develop in your study and working life. In this context it means asking how accurate or complete a definition is. In general, it means not being prepared to take things at face value. Instead, critical thinkers ask intelligent questions, in the hope of generating new and better ideas and solutions to problems.