There is no more B2B or B2C: It’s Human to Human, #H2H

Posted 01.27.14 by 3188 total shares

It used to be that marketing was segmented into two categories; business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C). This was done (I assume), to separate specialties, audiences and segments in an effort to more highly target the groups of people who ultimately would consume a brand’s message.


What it really did, however, was create an unnatural language for marketers – with words like “synergy” and “speeds and feeds” – to tell the stories of products to their buyers and partners. It’s become like one massive game of telephone, where by the time a message gets to the person actually buying the product, the things that make it special have been swallowed by marketing vernacular.

Consumers are confused. Why can’t we make it simple for them to understand what we’re selling, to share their experiences and the value they felt with others? More importantly, why is it that what we’re marketing most often does not align to actual consumer experiences?

The fact is that the lines are so far blurred now between the two marketing segments that it’s hard to differentiate between the two anymore. We all need to think like the consumers we are, putting ourselves in the mindset of the buyer instead of trying to speak such an intensely sophisticated language full of acronyms and big words, in order to sound smarter.

Marketing increasingly strives to become one-to-one, with solutions to collect and wrangle the big data about us to serve up more personalized offers and experiences. On the other hand, social has become a more public and vast medium, where the things we share skyrocket quickly to a “one-to-many” experience. The dichotomy between marketing and social has actually flipped… and it’s out of balance. Social and marketing need to work together to personalize individual conversations, as well as deliver shared global experiences that crowds of common values can benefit from. This is what our social and digital mediums have gifted us, and how humans interact and feel more compelled take action.

So, this is how I see it:
Businesses do not have emotion. People do.
People want to be a part of something bigger than themselves.
People want to feel something.
People want to be included.
People want to understand.

But people are also humans, and with that comes mistakes. Missteps. Failures. As humans, it’s in our nature to say the wrong thing, get embarrassed, and not realize the consequences of our actions. The rise of social media has given a digital platform to the dark side of anonymity, both as individuals and as crowds. I say it’s time to lay down the virtual pitchforks and torches and bring this behavior back into balance. The delightful side of humanity holds with it empathy, understanding, and forgiveness, and when remembered in our communication, it ties us together as a common group.

Communication shouldn’t be complicated. It should just be genuine and simple, with the humility and understanding that we’re all multi-dimensional humans, everyone of which has spent time in both the dark and delightful parts of life.

That’s human to human. That is #H2H.

KEY TAKEAWAY: Human beings are innately complex yet strive for simplicity. Our challenge as humans is to find, understand and explain the complex in its most simplistic form. This means you, marketers. Find the commonality in our humanity, and speak the language we’ve all been waiting for.

If you like this concept, you also may want to check out Mark Schaefer’s book “The Tao of Twitter” where he describes P2P (Person to Person) or watch my interview (click here) with SAP CMO Jonathan Becher who also believes B2B marketing is not relevant today.
Click to Order the #H2H Book on Amazon: There is no B2B or B2C: It’s Human to Human H2H

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  • George Iovchev

    Very interesting! I think, good advice – useful for marketers, to improve their strategies.

    • Bryan Kramer

      Much appreciated George!

  • William Powell

    Brilliant post Bryan! Completely in line with my message that “Human flourishing is profitable.” The renaissance to human centricity is gaining speed. Thanks for the reminder!!

    • Guest

      You bet, thank you @disqus_GyZWd2U06p:disqus!

    • Bryan Kramer

      Thanks William, cheers!

  • Kenna Griffin

    This is a great slogan for anyone in business to remember!

    • Bryan Kramer

      Thank you @krgriffin:disqus!

    • Bryan Kramer

      Cheers @krgriffin:disqus!, thanks for your comment!

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  • Jay Mavani

    Excellent! I love how the article is in the title itself. Great read, thank you.

    • Bryan Kramer

      Thank you @jaymavs:disqus!

  • Amar Trivedi

    Nice one, Bryan. Great points on simplicity, diffusing confusion and jargon-busting…The second B in B2B has always been a C, right? Business is about relationships and they are people-to-people, human-to-human.

    I read this Michael Porter nugget: “The function of marketers is to simplify what customers already want to do. Think like them. Not for them.” Can’t agree more. Loved #H2H and your take on it.

    On a similar note, I wrote a post inspired by social business leaders – Ted Rubin, Ray Wang, Sandy Carter, Brian Solis, Charlene Li –> <– turns out, it was my most read/ shared blog post of 2013.

    • Bryan Kramer

      Thanks Amar! Great thoughts as always. :-)

      • Amar Trivedi

        Much appreciated, bud. Best Wishes to all at Pure Matter. Have a great 2014. H2H, baby… and as always, keep the madness alive :-)

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  • iRikal

    Marketers will not be in”tune” with this but I agree with the general idea. Howe many times do you buy “synergy” or “efficience in design”… Personally… never. I buy something (or a service) that will make my life easier (simpler) for the most part… I buy something that will work for me. I don’t really care how much “synergy” the company that made it thinks the product or service has… i chose because it suits me.

    Too many times i look at commercials and laugh at the description made of what is being “sold”… Marketers… be the unadvertiser. Stop trying to confuse people, you are confusing yourselves. I mean… a car that will make me reach the moon (or a higher level of human understanding?) really?

    I just want a car that looks good, is comfortable and will meet my taste… like 100% of people buying cars (even the Ferrari buyer is looking for tangible things). It does’t matter if you feel it can reach the moon…

    Sell me what I want to buy.. not what you want to sell……..

    • Bryan Kramer

      iRikal, that’s exactly right. Marketers often market to themselves rather than to the end consumer. Cheers!

  • Ruta Budaviciute

    The article was so much to the point in my long contemplation on what a conceptually new move can be taken in marketing of a mobile telco company… Thanks for the hint, Bryan!

    • Bryan Kramer

      Thank you Ruta!!

  • Mark Johnstone

    Oh wonderful, another digital marketer gets all fluffy, while completely missing the bigger picture on business, sales, and lead generation. You think CFO’s of huge pharma companies sign off because they like the person opposite them? No, it’s shareholder and profit-driven. You think Government contracts on weapons are exchanged because the army general and the Finance Minister like each other? No.

    No wonder businesses are looking at social media and thinking it’s a fad, when we have fluff like this.

    • Bryan Kramer

      I am ok with people disagreeing with me. But in a blog that is about being human, that also implies that we should be constructive….this comment is not.

    • Darrell Keezer

      Mark, couldn’t disagree with you more. Do you know how many deals are made on the golf course? Social is the new course, and those who refuse to play, or see it as ‘just a game’ are going to be outdated soon. It’s always been about relationships, and it will continue to be.

    • mikeellsworth

      Mark, the answer to both your questions is, yes. Yes, relationships are important in the sales cycle, especially B2B. I’m thinking perhaps you’re not a B2B sales guy. And, yes, I know for a fact of one government contract that was going to the husband of the general’s daughter because we sued in federal court to get an open competition. True, there’s lots of buying via machines and based on the merits of the products, but relationships are important for stuff that’s bought by humans. It’s not the only factor, but it can be a very important factor.

    • DJ Waldow

      How is this “fluffy?” What am I missing? Serious question back at you Mark.

  • Darrell Keezer

    Common’ Bryan – write a book about this. I’ll buy 10 copies, you have my word!

    • Bryan Kramer

      Thanks buddy :-)

  • bridgetwillard

    You make a great point!

    • Bryan Kramer

      Thanks @bridgetwillard:disqus :-)

  • Dena

    @ Mark-I need to pull out my big guns here; a quote from one of the greatest advertising icons of all time, Bill Bernbach: “All of us who professionally use the mass media are the shapers of society. We can vulgarize that society. We can brutalize it. Or we can help lift it onto a higher level.”

    • Bryan Kramer

      Thank you Dena!

    • Darren Pearson

      …a superb quote…as well as an excellent summation of what must lie at the core of a strategy also and in-order to resonate, stand-out, have impact from screen-to-screen etc, all the above, fully agree Dena

      • Bryan Kramer

        Thank you @disqus_uuorRQ6HUy:disqus :-)

    • Phil Whomes

      Dena, let me bring out a bigger gun (and in relation to Bryan and his work it is maybe slightly harsh) but:

      David Ogilvy: “Our business is infested with idiots who try to impress by using pretentious jargon.”

      • Bryan Kramer

        Phil, that’s just being hurtful. There is no room for that here.

        • Phil Whomes

          Apologies Bryan, I did dilute my comment in the brackets. Then again, if you are happy with the gushing sycophantic comments, you should accept mine. To use a cliché, I don’t agree with your opinion, but I defend your right to voice it. Marketing shouldn’t be complicated, and it does the discipline a disservice to introduce crass buzzwords and buzz phrases. It’s my opinion, sorry if you’re too protective of your position to accept it.

          • Bryan Kramer

            Thank you Phil, I don’t mind debating, just asking that we keep it constructive. Yes, too many acronyms. To my point, we need to consolidate them.

  • mikeellsworth

    I feel ya, Bryan. From my Infinite Pipeline book: “The You 2.0 sales person knows there is no B2B or B2C.
    There’s just B2P — Business-to-Person, or better yet P2P — Person-to-Person.”

    • Bryan Kramer

      Thanks Mike, cheers!

    • Darren Pearson

      must read this Mike, thx for the steer (Y)

  • Phil Whomes

    Where Bryan gets it so wrong, is implying that this is a new phenomenon, and that just because digital marketing and social media now exist, the rules of engagement have changed. They haven’t. Experienced face-to-face B2B salespeople, for example, will tell you that the purchaser buys the salesperson first, and then the product.

    Please stop pretending that digital marketing has changed the basics concepts of sales and marketing. It is undoubtedly a fantastic tool offering a tremendous wealth of riches, more than ever before, to use to achieve our goals.

    The bottom line – B2B marketing is based on ‘needs’, B2C marketing is based on ‘wants’. Incredibly, humans are involved in both, and have been for many, many years.

    • Bryan Kramer

      @philwhomes:disqus Thank you for your comments. But I didn’t say this was new. It was just my take on speaking human and simplifying how we speak to the consumer/customer. I am not pretending here, I am sincere in my thoughts and believe in them wholeheartedly. No matter who we are talking to, we’re speaking to humans. The more we automate, the less we lose touch. B2B is needs and B2B is wants? I need and want a better a database. That applies to both a need and a want, which makes it hard to discern your statement. I’m just talking about ‘how’ we speak. Send me your phone number and let’s have a constructive conversation? I’d like to hear more.

      • Phil Whomes

        Appreciate your reply. ‘There is no more B2B or B2C’ clearly implies that you feel the H2H approach is new, based on the changing environment.

        You have obviously captured the imagination of much of your audience – genuinely well done – and I don’t disagree with your sentiment, but I have a natural aversion to simple concepts being given buzz-phrases and over-thought, especially when they start to dominate my Twitter feed. That, fortunately, is within my control.

    • Mats

      Agree with everything you state except the last paragraph. The “needs” gets you on the contender list, but there are still hidden “wants” in B2B. It is the emotional connection – be it status, comfort, recognition, trust or other human emotional desires – that allow some suppliers to command a higher price and still succeed.

  • DJ Waldow

    LOVE LOVE LOVE … this post.

    • Bryan Kramer

      Thank you @djwaldow:disqus!

  • shoobe01

    I am sure there are still different market pressures, so we can’t quite wipe it all to H2H, but there are zillions of segments, so I like the principle.

    As some other comments have said, it’s not quite new, just nicely buzzworthy. Around 10 years ago a client group wanted something crazy for their business users (I think: “Make it a table! Business people like spreadsheets, so won’t mind side-scrolling”) to which I responded: “Even business users are still humans.” And we made something humans can use instead of their stupid idea.

    • Bryan Kramer

      I agree, it’s been around in many forms. With the advent of Social, I only think it’s become magnified. Thanks @shoobe01:disqus!

  • Denise DiNorscia Williams

    I agree but we can’t just say “it used to be” when in fact we all do still talk about B2B and B2C because we create experiences and strategies that way. We recommend channel and create messaging around sales/buy cycles of businesses or consumers. But yes, philosophically, we can say that P2P (as it’s generally recognized) or as you describe it H2H is a way to think about what drives other humans to think or feel a certain way and take action. Guy Kawasaki does a good job of explaining how to build trust and “enchant” in his book Enchantment. It’s worth a read.

    • Bryan Kramer

      Great point Denise, it has always been this way. I think social has only magnified this. Cheers!

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  • Tricia Hrotko

    Hi Bryan – your headline drew me right in (kudos!).

    I am wondering if what you are bring to the forefront is more about the manner in which we communicate to any audience (aka humans) and less about completely abandoning strategies to quickly and effectively reach certain humans? For me, that is the only real difference between what some may call B2B & B2C – the channels/tools/methods the deploy can be slightly different depending upon whether they are making a purchase decision for themselves or on behalf a company or business.

    I agree 100% that marketers should strive to keep their communications uncomplicated. This includes resisting the need to say everything all at once.

    After all these years, KISS still reigns in my book. Thanks for the great post.

    • Bryan Kramer

      @triciahrotko:disqus That is exactly what I’m saying. It’s the ‘what” we say, not the “how” we say it. I don’t think abandoning is the answer, rather enhancing the way we speak. Thanks Tricia!

  • Darren Pearson

    Superb piece, thoughts and words, all. I’ve gushed about this article elsewhere already this am on social-media but this to me is the absolute core & apex of the key to effective on-line comms. in the digital-world and between souls (real people people!) One has give of themselves in-order to resonate, trigger responses +++ That;’s my high-level snapshot of my head right now as well as a mantra & methodology too so, you just found a immediate disciple here Bryan, I gotta speak to you in the real-world soon! thank you Guru.. and respect

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  • Rahul Vyas

    Right now the time for competition. The world growing very rapidly on internet, that’s why peoples are come very nearby to their community. All business business owners are know that so this is not a B2B and B2C time. It is a H2H time.

    Thanks from Hi-Tech ITO

  • calazans1989

    This article is awesome, Bryan. Everything is about people.

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  • Lynn Abate-Johnson

    Thank you, once again, Bryan, for your insights and unique take on something that in my opinion is a timeless truth about human beings. It’s no wonder this post resonates world wide. I SO agree with this, mostly because I grow tired of the vernacular tossed around in meetings and in articles that is more intended to “dazzle” and separate us (as in: compete with each other), than to build community. As you say: “We all need to think like the consumers we are, putting ourselves in the mindset of the buyer instead of trying to speak such an intensely sophisticated language full of acronyms and big words, in order to sound smarter.”
    It doesn’t matter who said what first, or who coined another acronym. This is ancient wisdom, and the happy truth is that it’s becoming more than rule than the exception, in the realm of smart enterprises and SMBs.
    Bravo, Bryan!!

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  • Vidar Brekke

    Very true. Fortunately, the way companies communicate with their customers is improving, largely driven by the imperative to engage in more personal ways via social media. What I find most exciting is how companies are starting to empower both their traditionally “customer facing” employees as well as “back-office” subject matter experts to engage with customers directly. This shortens the distance between the company and it’s audience, lowering the risk of the message being muddled by the game of telephone.

  • Scott Buehler

    Bryan, I totally agree. This is why I quit making mini sites and ramming my head against the wall. Totally refocusing on the “human to human” element on my site now. Great timing.

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  • Ellen Henderson Sirull

    Great stuff, Bryan!

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  • vbhagat

    A succinct and timely post. While there has been acknowledgement that people are doing the buying vs. the companies, I still believe that B2B marketers are stuck in B2B paradigms and could learn a thing or two from their B2C brethren. One topic I’m passionate about is transparency. Consumer companies who focus on building great products and delivering awesome services welcome and even encourage transparency – peer to peer information sharing without them getting in the way. Most B2B marketers are still overly obsessed with controlling the message, and the information flow. I see big change on the horizon.

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  • Kevin Anchi

    Thanks Bryan for interview at social media examiner. Excellent thoughts and idea sharing thanks for your. Time

  • Kevin Anchi

    Can you please add the signup section at the top of comments section, I have to scroll all the way down to look for signup option. Its painful as I am on Mobile.and that to I was that section accidentally as the page was loading and latest was searching as where it was.

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