Magendar Rajasekaran in Directors and Executives, Sales and Marketing, Sales The B4B Guy, Client Engagement Expert • Agility Nexus Oct 8, 2016 · 3 min read · 2.7K

B2B is dead. B4B is born.

B2B is dead. B4B is born.
(Reading time - 4 mins. Lengthy post but intriguing)

    Isn't it a bold idea?

    What's in a title? Maybe everything.

    Something that is very personal and possibly deep. A worldview that can shift our thinking and inspires us to do few things totally different.

    Nah. How can that be? How is it possible?

    How can you change a word, a preposition, 'to' and replace it with 'for' and call it a game changer?

    We have seen it all. Haven't we all been in business far too long to be moved by play of words. A small change from 'To' to 'For' means nothing.

    Well, I don't think so. I will tell you why in a moment.

    Here is the bold idea again: 'B2B is dead. B4B is born'.

    Now let's dive deep inside and explore the nuances that can help shape the idea.

    Defining Business to Business (B2B)

    Business to business, also called B-to-B or B2B, is a type of transaction that exists between businesses, not consumers. This term got popular around the 1998 dot com era when the internet phenomenon was at its peak.

    It was an acronym used to communicate how commerce flowed between two business entities. This term became so popular that it prefixed everything that connoted a transaction between two businesses.

    B2B procurement, B2B buyer, B2B marketing, B2B sales, B2B market place, B2B e-commerce, B2B market research, B2B Software, B2B Offering and many more.

    The idea caught on. It flourished. It also spawned into other variants. Say B2B2C or even B2B2G (where G is Government).

    It was going well. Until now.

    So why do I think that this terminology should die?

    Simple reason. The word 'to' in B2B is no longer relevant. To explore why this is not relevant we will need help of a dictionary.

    Here is the English dictionary meaning for the preposition 'to':

    "expressing motion or direction toward a point, person, place, or thing approached and reached, as opposed to from".

    In line with this meaning, so far businesses have marketed to, sold to, pitched to, offered services and products to and provided support to other businesses.

    This was very much needed as businesses needed to take their products, services and support to other business. It metaphorically meant the direction was from left to right. 

    Just like this arrow mark '---->'. One was the seller and the other was the buyer.

    The word 'to' is so ingrained in our psyche, like the arrow, the stress was more on 'motion or direction'. Our entire organisation structures were built to make, sell and service our customers. Along with it came top-down command and control, various functions/departments, centralised structures, and standardised routines.

    'To' was programmed deep in the business model. Resulting in a path dependency.

    We are all perfectly 'locked in' by behaviours that connote - motion and direction from left to right.

    Now, let's use another lens to see the world.

    The new world order - Business For Business (B4B)

    Before we explore this new terminology, let's understand the meaning of the preposition 'for' from English dictionary.

    "with the object or purpose of "

    "suiting the purposes or needs of"

    In the digitally connected era, as Nilofer Merchant points out in her book "11 Rules for creating value in the Social Era", successful businesses like Uber, AirBnB, Tesla, GE Digital, Alibaba, Etsy, KickStarter create value through a different paradigm - networks, collaboration, community, social purpose and openness.

    They are businesses built FOR businesses and consumers.

    They are businesses built suiting the purpose and needs of their customers. There can be many sellers and buyers across a community.

    Quoting General Electric, a 124 year old company, was once a seller of products to customers. Now it is a digital platform company with many buyers and sellers. It has now transitioned to a B4B company.

    When you do something FOR somebody you do care for the other business or person. Not just for yourself. The preposition 'for' humanises the act.

    Suddenly you shift from providing 'action and direction' to a business and think about what can you do for another business. You can even ask, 'Can I exist for my client's success?". This right away injects empathy into your business.

    Business For Business injects empathy in the language.

    In doing so, you will allow yourself to ask fundamental questions that can shift your thinking and behaviours:

      • What should be our business model that allows our customers be successful?
      • How can I structure my organisation for my customer's success?
      • How can I create products, solutions and services for my clients to be successful?
      • How do I create a Go to Market model for my customers to engage, experience and buy?
      • How do I create experiences for my customer so that I can partner for an extended life time value?

      B4B shifts thinking from you to your customer. 

      It brings purpose and empathy in everything you say and do.

      Over period of time it perhaps will bring your business closer to the customer. Isn't that we all want?

      It all starts with one change in preposition - substitute 'to' with 'for'.

      Let me know your thoughts?

      PS: Thanks to Frederik Haren who helped me conceive this idea in one of the brainstorming session.

      Follow through articles on B4B idea

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      (Reading time 4 minutes. Lengthy but intriguing)

      Magendar Rajasekaran 10/10/2016 · #7

      #6 Nick, let's pull up all business lingo and see if we have any humanity left?
      Account, Lead, Funnel, SQL, MQL, Go to Market, Account Management, etc. Nothing is even close to a human being. We have stripped humanity in the business lingo. We need a new narrative to inject humanity in the way we do things in business. We need humanness. My position is that let's begin with 'Business FOR Business'. FOR is a placeholder for more humanness in business processes and transactions.

      Nick Mlatchkov 10/10/2016 · #6

      There's nothing special in this! It's simply a name change.

      Belen Robles 10/10/2016 · #5

      Great challenge!!! the customers are demanding a new way of doing business based on adding value and you found the perfect name for this new concept. Congrats for your successful brainstorming session!!

      +1 +1
      Alexa Steele 9/10/2016 · #4

      A simple concept, but really very powerful.

      +3 +3
      Ben Pinto 9/10/2016 · #3

      Great minds think alike. Head over to the hive named Domain where I am pollubating this and look down to see you post (and logo idea) for the BEE domain I have for sale thst is sure to create a buzz: BZ4.BZ. That's all there is to it. No dot-com, dot-net, or anything like it. Just 5 letters/numbers; as in the email address

      +3 +3
      Sushmita Thakare Jain 8/10/2016 · #2

      Lovely! Totally a Game Changer!

      +4 +4

      Interesting!! nice point of view. ;)

      +3 +3