Consumers in B2B Markets

For being successful in B2B marketing it’s crucial to understand the structure, organisation and processes of B2B procurement. B2B customers can be classified according to the following criteria: users of products and organisational goals.

User, consumer
The classic customer in B2B markets buys a product for production of other goods or services. Products in this context are investment goods and capital equipment like machinery, computer, office furniture, vehicle fleet but also raw materials and supplies.
User, OEM
Firms buying products to assemble them unchanged into their own products are called user or OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) e.g. component suppliers in the auto industry (tyres of Conti etc…). The origin of component can be seen differently sometimes highly important to the costumer (Intel inside …) and to the marketer.
Traders and distributors
These organisations buy products of one or more manufacturers and distribute the products together with own products and services to users.
Engineering and consultancy firms
Their formal position is a consulting one. They create and design the requirement profile for the new facility or application. They are paid by the customer, act independently from suppliers and are eminently respectable.
Types of customers according to company goals

Enterprises – their overall aim is achieving profit
Government authorities – their procurement has to follow budget rules; they have to prefer suppliers from a certain region to secure jobs.
Other organisations – private and public organisations like churches, political parties, environment organisations….behave as government authorities when following budget rules, have a different goal system when privately organised.
Revision questions
Which types of consumers appear in B2B markets?

Business Markets versus Consumer Markets

B2B marketing is different from consumer goods marketingB2B marketing is different from consumer marketing.

B2B marketing is different from consumer marketing.

The most important areas of differences are: market structure, products, buyer behaviour, demand, distribution channels, prices and communication. These differences affect marketing processes in a critical way.

Market structure

B2B markets are more segmented than consumer markets. That means fewer prospects for a specific product or supplier. The customer are often segmented geographically  e.g. steel industry in Ruhrgebiet or banks in Frankfurt/Main sometimes there is only one customer for suppliers e.g. Deutsche Bahn for locomotives or Telekom for local telecommunication systems. Furthermore the number of suppliers of specific products is much smaller than in consumer markets. The structure often is an oligopoly  e.g. in the airplane market exist only a few competent suppliers.


Products offered in B2B markets are technically complicated and require more explanation and information than most products in consumer markets. Costumer expectations concerning technical features are extremely high; often products are especially designed for certain customers. Product development can be carried out by a cooperation of supplier and customer. B2B markets can be characterised by product and service packages. Consulting, implementation and maintenance are playing a significant role. Though there are also products offered in B2B markets and consumer markets. A car can be bought for private purposes or as part of a fleet in a company.

Buyer behaviour

Organisations behave differently from private consumers. The main difference lies in the buying decision. In B2B markets a number of persons are involved, the decisions are made in a more rational way, spontaneous buying decisions don’t exist. Many persons on the buyer’s side are extremely competent because they can heavily influence their organisation. In many cases a customer organisation seeks to win their suppliers as consumers of their own products, intends to close countertrade deals.


The demand of an organisation is a result of the organisation’s targets; therefore it’s a derived demand that cannot be influenced by the supplier. If a business finds itself in a crisis for its products – e.g. the German car industry – their suppliers have no chance to increase their sales.

Distribution channels

Long distribution channels via wholesalers and retailers are characteristics of consumer markets. The distribution channels in business markets are much shorter. Mostly there is a direct selling from supplier to consumer. If there is an indirect distribution there is hardly more than one distribution tier. Many aspects of B2B market affect the relationship between a producer and a trader.A wholesaler selling its product to organisation has to follow the rules of the B2B-marketing.

Prices and terms of delivery and payment

There is a lack of transparency in B2B markets. The power of customers is a big one, pricing policy is complicated and characterised by a wide range of marketing tool features. Price plays an important role in consumer markets too, but usually only expensive consumer goods – like cars or real estate – are subject to negotiation.


There are significant differences in the communication sector. Impersonal forms of communication don’t play an important role in B2B markets compared to the dominant role of personal selling carried out by the producer himself or by an employee of the wholesaler.

Distribution channels

The following methods of distribution can be found in B2B markets:

  • Producer of goods or services – direct marketing – business customers
  • Producer of goods or services – indirect distribution – OEM, trader, distributors, direct marketing,  business customers
  • Producer of goods or services – key account marketing, wholesale and retail , even the relationship between producer and trade in the consumer goods sector is characterised by aspects of B2B marketing.

Revision questions

Read the text and answer the following questions:What are the main differences between B2B markets and consumer markets in

  • market structure
  • product
  • buyer behaviour
  • demand
  • distribution channel
  • pricing policy
  • communication?