What does it mean if a business is B2B? What do B2B organisations do and in what areas do they operate? While "B2B" is a relatively common term, you may not have a complete understanding of what it encompasses. Here, we provide you with a working B2B definition and take an in-depth look at what the sector really covers
What does B2B mean?
B2B stands for “business to business.” As the name suggests, it refers to those organisations who specialise in providing other businesses with goods and services. It is often perceived of as the opposite of B2C – “business to customer” – but the two are very much connected and many companies will offer both B2B and B2C services.
B2B companies can operate in a wide array of specialities and sectors, including manufacturing, advisory services, product development, training, and financial services, amongst others. It's common for large organisations to outsource some functions, such as recruitment, payroll, or accounting, to B2B providers. Typically, they are outsourced because they can be offered at a lower cost and to a higher standard by the B2B provider.
How long have B2B companies been around?
Though B2B companies have played an essential role in all major economic models in recent history, they've become particularly important in modern, service-based economies – especially those that make considerable use of digital technology. In large part, this is because businesses of all shapes and sizes need to cut costs but improve services if they're to remain competitive.
Outsourcing certain parts of their business operations allows companies to do this by delegating the responsibility to a business with niche expertise and the organisational structure necessary to deliver the service at a lower cost. Essentially, the B2B sector has become more important and influential as businesses have become increasingly specialist and economic survival depends on offering more for less.
In what areas do B2B organisations operate?
B2B organisations operate in all industries and perform every type of work. For instance, in the traditional manufacturing industries, B2B businesses may manufacture specialist components used elsewhere in the manufacturing process, or they may service and maintain factory equipment. When it comes to service-based B2B companies, you're likely to encounter organisations that offer high-quality recruitment services or offer to organise and manage a business' employee payroll.
One of the main areas where there has been considerable B2B growth is the digital sphere. Whether it's website development services, tech support, or digital marketing, the digital B2B industries are booming. This is because these are such modern developments that contemporary businesses don't have the in-house expertise or resources required to handle it themselves.
B2B marketing definition
If you’re looking for an area of growth that best typifies the new, digital B2B sectors, B2B marketing is probably the finest example. Advertising has always been a B2B sector, as customers and consumers don’t need to advertise. However, the widespread adoption of digital technology has upset the apple cart and caused the balance of power to move away from traditional advertising mediums, such as print and radio, towards newer, digital channels.
This has resulted in an explosion in the number of businesses offering digital marketing expertise and assistance to those companies who don’t understand how to leverage social media or work their online presence to their advantage. Whether it’s content creation, social media management, or viral advertising, B2B organisations can help businesses improve their online marketing efforts and increase profitability in the process.
B2B digital services definition
B2B marketing falls under the wider umbrella of "digital services." While marketing focuses on the communication aspect of digital media (e.g. projecting the right image, adopting a suitable tone, and ensuring a business' voice is heard in all the right places), digital services encompass so much more.
For instance, B2B digital services can include managing and maintaining customer service technologies, such as chatbots. It may involve offering analytics services or looking at ways more customer data can be harvested. A B2B company may be brought in to oversee or advise on the digital transformation process. Essentially, B2B digital services include any service offered by a business, to a business, that helps them improve their digital processes. As you can imagine, this makes it an incredibly diverse sector.
B2B companies and digital disruption
This reliance on B2B service providers is mainly due to digital disruption. Digital disruption is the idea that the remarkable pace of technological development, particularly in the digital sphere, is "disrupting" the way businesses traditionally operate and are managed. These companies cannot afford to fall behind the pace of change, or a competitor will enter the market and, employing the latest technology, offer a superior service that better meets the needs of consumers.
However, businesses cannot develop the in-house expertise necessary to keep up with the pace of change. Consequently, they look to other B2B service providers who specialise in guiding these businesses through the process of change and supplying them with effective digital solutions. The modern business cannot afford to be a jack of all trades and must look to other companies to ensure that they don't neglect those areas outside of their particular specialism.
What does the future hold for the B2B sector?
In the UK, the B2B sector is in rude health, and the future looks bright. New technological developments are radically altering the digital landscape, and many businesses are still struggling to work out ways to best employ older technology, such as social media. In particular, AI and machine learning are likely to be areas that experience enormous B2B growth.
Developments in the field of AI will revolutionise the modern economy and have an astounding impact on manufacturing, customer service provision, and almost all other types of work. As a highly specialised field, there will be fantastic opportunities for any B2B organisation who is well positioned to advise other businesses on AI adoption or to supply them with the necessary technology.