Why I hate the ‘2’ in ‘B2B’.

2 does not mean 'to'

I don’t hate B2B marketing. I hate the term “B2B marketing”.  Actually, the term “B2B”.

It’s that bloody ‘2’. I mean, what are we, rappers? Are we Boyz2Men? Are we 2Fast or 2Furious? We are not. We are businesses that help businesses market themselves to other businesses. We have no business using the number 2 to stand for the word ‘to’. It’s embarrassing.

Yes, the 2 saves valuable time. I get it.  But is the fraction of a second saved really worth the shame of it all? Is it okay with you that you look like your Dad dancing every single time you write the accepted term for your own profession? Or, worse, like the kind of people who use the word ‘hashtag’ in speech? (Thanks to Ann Handley for this).

I’ve tried to kill ‘B2B’ in my own vocabulary. But it won’t die. It’s all over our website and in every piece of content we’ve ever created.
I’ve tried ‘Business-to-Business’ but if B-to-B is a slog, then the extra 18 keystrokes required by the fully-unfurled version just kills that one stone dead.
I’ve tried ‘Business Marketing’ but that can imply any business that’s marketing itself (not necessarily to another business).
‘Trade Marketing’ sounds like the loading docks out in back of the supermarket. Too hairy-arsed.
I’ve suggested “B-Two-B” just as a joke but someone took me seriously and tried to explain why it was all wrong and I had to pretend to stand corrected so I didn’t embarrass him or me and ended up leaving the whole exchange feeling ashamed.
And, yes, I got the memo that “there’s no such thing as B2B only P2P!”. But it makes me feel like those guys who go door to door (D2D?) with badly-designed brochures for the saviour Jesus Christ. And the truism doesn’t really help us here, (or anywhere else), does it?

So come on you marketing geniuses: Let’s turn our craft on ourselves and re-brand this sucker. Let’s get rid of that goddamn 2 that’s spoiling everything bright and beautiful about our noble profession.

Any suggestions?

Pause for some research:

Weirdly, the God Google tells us that Business-to-Business returns many times more results than B2B:

  • B2B – 309,000,000 results
  • Business-to-Business – 5,490,000,000 results (Holy Moly)
  • B2B Marketing – 27,500,000 results
  • Business-to-Business Marketing – 1,090,000,000 results (Homina-homina)

Holy Cow. I just realised that most B2B marketers don’t actually use the term B2B. They spell it out. All 20 characters.  So I’m actually the perpetrator here. I’m in the minority that is polluting my own profession with a nasty, adolescent abbreviation that has gone viral on us and not in the good ‘going viral’ way but in the bad, original way, as in contagion and plague and ‘Bring out your dead’. I’m a carrier.

Help me.

Please.

Bring Valium.

I’m going back to bed. (B2Bed).

But wait! A bonus for those of you still with me on this stream of consciousness (one question: why?):

Hamlet’s Soliloquy with every ‘to’ replaced by the number 2:

2 be, or not 2 be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind 2 suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
Or 2 take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them: 2 die, 2 sleep
No more; and by a sleep, 2 say we end
The Heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks
That Flesh is heir 2? ‘Tis a consummation
Devoutly 2 be wished. 2 die, 2 sleep,
2 sleep, perchance 2 Dream; Aye, there’s the rub,
For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There’s the respect
That makes Calamity of so long life:
For who would bear the Whips and Scorns of time,
The Oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s Contumely,
The pangs of despised Love, the Law’s delay,
The insolence of Office, and the Spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his Quietus make
With a bare Bodkin? Who would Fardels bear,
2 grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered Country, from whose bourn
No Traveller returns, Puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have,
Than fly 2 others that we know not of.
Thus Conscience does make Cowards of us all,
And thus the Native hue of Resolution
Is sicklied o’er, with the pale cast of Thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment,
With this regard their Currents turn awry,
And lose the name of Action. Soft you now,
The fair Ophelia? Nymph, in thy Orisons
Be all my sins remembered.”

(Wow. even this shameful act of literary graffiti can’t spoil some kick-ass writing).

Next time I go to confession (also, incidentally, my first time), I will have three added things to confess:

  • I regularly use the term ‘B2B’ which includes the number 2 in place of the word ‘to’.
  • I referred to William Shakespeare’s talent as ‘kick-ass’. In public.
  • I didn’t just write this ridiculous act of free association, I hit ‘Publish’.

Comments

I want what pills you’re taking, Doug. I think the term is unnecessary anyway. People decide to buy things, not companies. Sadly, I just realised that I used to hate the expression b2b too, and since I started working IN it, I’ve become immune and don’t even notice it. Ugh!

Exactly — I’ve become immune to it, too.
But every once in a while — like when I’m talking to a ‘civilian’ – I realise how embarrassing it is to use a term like B2B. Actually I don’t mind saying it — it’s just writing it that sucks…

To misquote Bill Clinton: ‘it’s the brand, stupid’. B2B is the brand. It is how nearly everyone, except maybe you Doug, instantly recognizes us. It does’t have to have a literal meaning. Apple doesn’t market fruit, does it?

True, Richard. I just don’t LIKE it.

It does have a literal meaning. An accurate one.
But it uses a 2 instead of the word ‘to’.

And I H8 that.

This isn’t the answer you’re looking for, but I heard the first argument the other day that managed to convince me we might be better off ditching marketing full stop and creating combined strategy/marketing/sales (starkles?) teams. Imagine if those three teams actually worked as one!

Paul

You’re right: that isn’t the answer I’m looking for.

But it IS interesting. And that’s even better.

I have to disagree with you, Doug. B2B’s fine in my book. if nothing else, it’s better than the only really viable alternative, which of course is BTB. Blurg. Dull, or what?

I know what you mean about trying to explain B2B to a civilian, and I believe I have a solution for you. Don’t even try. When someone outside the B2B marketing ‘space’ (ugh) asks what you do for a living, fib. Tell them you’re a stockbroker. Or a farmer. Or a documentary filmmaker. These require no explanation, and you can find yourself having some interesting and unexpected conversations. You can try a new job every day if you like, or focus on one job and hone your knowledge to become more convincing over time. It’s a great hobby.

And you might stop worrying so much about that 2. Just sayin.

Yeah, maybe you’re right, Simon.
I’ve lived with that ‘2’ for a few decades. Might as well admit it’s here to stay.

Love the idea of lying to civilians, though. Think I’ll be a fireman. No, someone might ask me about fire safety… A pole vaulter. Yeah. I do pole vaulting. P2V.

The 2 does seem juvenile, and I do try to avoid getting all jargon-ey in conversation. If I can avoid using the phrase B2B, I am considerably less embarrassed. What I would argue though is that it should be BWB. Business-With-Business. I can’t say it would have the SEO clout that “Business-to-Business” has, but I would like to argue that it better portrays the relationship aspect of B2B (yep, I did it). I think there needs to be greater emphasis on relationship/partnership development in B2B and with that in mind, I think BWB would be much better, extra syllables and all. Wbe, or not Wbe, that is the REAL question.

Thanks Chaz.

Not buying BWB but, hey, if it takes off, I’ll dump B2B and hop on board in a New York minute (30% shorter than other minutes).

Another great post by one of my favorite marketing leaders, Doug Kessler. Well don, Doug,

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