B2B Marketing is Just B2P. Right?

B2B salespeople are looking to talk to people that influence or make decisions for business purchases.

Businesses do not make decisions. People make decisions on behalf of businesses. And outside of some trusts run by lawyers following the direction of legal documents, this has always been the case.

So why all the fuss about B2B being B2P (business to person)?

The problem with the current B2P mantra is you risk forgetting just who these people are. (Maybe not you, but some B2B marketer will). They are corporate decision makers, entrusted with significant budgets and their career opportunities may turn on the decisions or recommendations they make.


What makes these people different?

They Make Bigger Decisions

There is more resting on business decisions than on personal decisions. Consider buying a home: a huge personal decision, but until recent low interest rates and home buying booms, a common rule of thumb was that a mortgage should be no more than 2x your income.

If a business decision impacts a career, positively or negatively, the impact over a career is far bigger than a mortgage. These are big decisions!

They Make Group Decisions

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to have a discussion about what type of toilet paper or toothpaste we buy in our house. And there certainly will not be a committee meeting about it, an opportunity and risk assessment or a debrief following the purchase.

In contrast, major business purchases often go through the ringer. They are vetted through committees, negotiated with procurement, risk assessed, and budgeted. Multi-million dollar expenditure decisions are not made lightly.

Marketing in this environment is not about one person. Marketing must address the perspectives of multiple influencers, meet a range of requirements and anticipate questions and objections. You need to remove rational barriers to a recommendation and win internal champions for your solution.

They Buy Complex Products

Not many people try to decipher the ingredients on a toothpaste label, understand what their purpose is and if they are safe. Few of us are experts in toothpaste.

Enterprise B2B is different, the products and solutions are complex and need to be understood. Stakeholders are often experts in the business, a functional disciple (ie IT) or in the solution category (ie CRM). Further, these areas require expertise.

When we bought a car recently, certainly a complex product, the most complicated “integration” requirement was that it could fit three car seats. In contrast, the cost, complexity and feasibility of integration with existing systems and business processes is a key consideration for enterprise purchases. Determining the cost and complexity of integration is not trivial.

In B2B, products and requirements are complex.

In Summary

B2B marketers, you are marketing to people and that hasn’t changed. Do not forget who those people are, the magnitude of the decisions they are making, the expertise they have, and the buying process they are working within.

Your Turn

What is your view on Business to Person (B2P) marketing? Is this a major change in B2B marketing, a new label for what good B2B marketers have always recognized, or bad advice that can lead B2B marketing astray? Share your view in the comments below or with me on Twitter (@wittlake).

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  • I have a cartoon in my book depicting a family meeting – where the family has narrowed their laundry detergent choices down to the top three contenders and have called the Top Three in for final presentations.

    So – you’re right on the money when reversing the B2P logic. It doesn’t make sense to treat B2B buyers as B2C buyers. Completely. Different.

    Great post here, man.

  • Carmen Hill (@carmenhill)

    Integration requirement = fits 3 car seats: There must have been a trigger event that pushed you to commit to change ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Hmm, I will have to think about that one. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Eric,

    I’m not sure when the B2P thing became the new buzz word. I’ve been writing copy for a few years now, and I’ve always written for people — not companies (or buildings, as I like to say). However, you have to know the people to whom you’re selling and you have to know their stresses, challenges, and pain points. You have to know the politics in an org, how decisions are made, and who has power and who doesn’t. None of that is applicable when selling to consumers.

    Great post!

    • Writing for buildings, I love that! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, I appreciate it.

  • Amy Clausen


    It always amazes me how some can take old concepts and make them “new” with a new buzz word. B2B is so much more complex than the simple B2C sale. Even some of the resources I have always thought were good and reliable have gotten on this B2P bandwagon. SO much emphasis on the social conversation and the person – but if you remove the context of the organization, drivers of business, role in company etc – you will be just as irrelevant. You have to know everything – this is nothing new.

    Glad you brought this out.

  • Eric – You make some good points here. In the ‘good ol days’, individuals were very open to meeting early and often with vendors. Gartner recently stated a research metric: 73% of decision makers will not accept inbound calls from vendors. This dramatic shift forced many organizations to abuse emailing to their target lists. With ‘Batch and Blast’, it was easy for marketing organizations to forget that they were marketing to individuals and they almost never took into account all the different people (and perspectives) involved in the buying cycle. The sooner that companies can move to content rich marketing based on prospect behavior, the sooner they can begin to drive down to micro level segmentation and ultimately what you call B2P. (IBM calls it Human2Human; we like to call it Bto1).

    • Eric Wittlake

      Ellen, thanks for the comment. Yes, becoming relevant means considering the individual you are marketing to and both their personal and professional involvement in purchasing. Thanks for sharing the Gartner statistic. Wow, time for me to stop taking inbound vendor cold calls. ๐Ÿ™‚