Is B4B the next generation business model?

b4b business-for-business model

Growth Orbit Insights

We all know B2B means business-to-business. So, what is B4B? B4B is a relatively new acronym in the business sector. It means business-FOR-business. At first glance, B4B appears to be some marketeer-born term. But it is a real concept that represents a strategic shift in business models. Business-for-business is being readily adopted by many forward-thinking organizations. In fact, your organization may already be practicing some of the B4B model’s concepts. So, how can you tell, and does it really matter?

by Shawn Harrington and Connor Jordan

B2B vs. B4B – Understanding the B4B Model and Comparing it with B2B

Historically, B2B functions with a transactional mindset – a business creates a product or service, sells their offering, then moves on to the next customer/transaction. It is a 1:1 relationship between buyer and seller. The business sells to the buyer, the customer buys from the seller. Typically, there is no collaborative effort in creation, configuration, or customization of the solution for the buyer. Although relationships sometimes are built, with B2B the goal is short-term oriented, and the business is always looking towards making the next sale.

By comparison, the B4B model shifts a business’ focus to becoming customer centric. With empathy, open communication, and a customer-first mentality a B2B company can shift to a B4B organization. It is all about understanding the problems your customers face, having concern for the challenges those problems cause, and collaborating with the customer to create a solution to solve those problems. This is in sharp contrast to the B2B model because it requires a close, long-term, mutually beneficial relationship.

The Key Element is Collaboration

collaboration with customers is key for B4B companiesCollaboration is one of the key traits of a B4B organization. They strive to truly understand customer needs and work with them to develop products or services based on those needs. This means that long before a sale is made, an environment exists for connecting and communicating with buyers of a defined community. Often these types of organizations offer subscriptions and recurring business models, linking their success directly with the success of their customers.

How are Companies Using B4B?

To build relationships and establish long-term success, B4B companies structure resources and processes based on what’s best for the customer. Customer experiences are meaningful before, during, and after the sale.

First, customers participate in the creation of the solution. Then they work with the seller on implementation options. Next, the buyers provide authentic feedback on their post-sale experience and the real-world implications. With B2B companies, the feedback loop is often adversarial and ineffective. But with B4B, complaints are looked upon as opportunities; and customers know their experience is valued and their opinions matter.

Businesses Structure Operations Around the Customer Experience

Even if they are not utilizing the term quite yet, many organizations are beginning to adopt aspects of the B4B model. An example of this is the movement to improve customer experiences [CX] including:

  • Embracing a seamless omnichannel experience in customer service
  • Customized and personalized interactions before, during, and after sales
  • Listening to feedback and adjusting based on customers’ needs

Reasons to Adopt B4B Strategies:

Make more money. According to PWC, 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience. Let’s face it, don’t we all want to do business with companies that make our life easier?

Keep Customers Longer. The relationships B4B businesses form truly matter. Establishing trust is possibly the most important reason to adopt a B4B strategy. It is the foundation of every successful business. In today’s digital world, companies who build relationship on trust will not lose customers to easy-to-find alternatives.

Continuously Improve your Products. Since B4B companies collaborate with their customers throughout the buyer’s journey, enhancing and improving their products doesn’t stop once the sale is made.

Reshape Your Business Around Responding to Needs. B4B organizations can be more flexible. They can shift resources and processes to respond to the needs of their customers.

How to Look at Your Business through a B4B Lens

Businesses considering the adoption of a B4B attitude can start by asking themselves a few questions:

  • Do we directly ask our customers what they need?
  • Before the sale, how can we help our customers?
  • What products/services can we create or modify to help our customers?
  • Is there a complementary solution that would help our customers?
  • What insights can we deliver that are valuable to our customers?
  • Do we have a post-sale process for ensuring our customers succeed?
  • How can we enhance our technology stack to provide a seamless customer experience?

Going from B2B to B4B is an Evolution not a Revolution

There is nothing inherently wrong with the B2B model. For a few decades, organizations have been using the moniker to describe what they do, and it works. As with everything in business, however, things change. The B4B model is a natural evolution that many organizations already are moving toward. With these shifts, the acronym for business-for-business may catch on and become the next big thing… will your company be ready?