The Revolution Guide to b2b in association with Yahoo! UK & Ireland: Get down to business

Online consumer marketing has long been a high-profile discussion

topic. But how much of the experience gained in that market applies to

business-to-business (b2b)? Should business marketers consider the web

as a medium to increase customer loyalty and reduce customer acquisition


B2b marketers face different challenges to their business-to-consumer

(b2c) counterparts. The most notable of these is that the purchasing

decision between businesses is a longer, more involved process than

consumer purchasing. It requires input from people in both the vendor's

and the customer's organisations. It also needs frequent post-sales

interaction between vendors and customers, to support the sale and cut

customer acquisition costs through repeat buys.

Until recently, the focus of b2b has been almost exclusively on trade

exchanges - web sites with real-time trading capabilities between

customers and suppliers. These might be high-profile, but the excesses

of the internet boom mean that many have failed to deliver.

Increasingly, businesses are building the services provided by exchanges

into their intranets and extranets.

Firms are also moving beyond static brochure web sites and are building

interactive, personalisable sites for their suppliers and customers

(extranets) and for their staff (intranets). This approach is based on

the concept of a personalisable web portal like My Yahoo!.

Firms in industries as diverse as pharmaceuticals (Merck Sharp & Dohme)

to facilities management (Honeywell) are using portal software to change

the way they market to customers. Portals enable vendors to provide

customer access to internal and external content sources, as well as

interactive tools - all in a personalisable user interface. Customers

can interact at multiple levels in the vendor's organisation. In turn,

vendors are rewarded with a higher frequency of interaction - helping

them to differentiate from rivals.

The use of portals might hold the key to fulfilling the internet's

promise as an interactive, value-added medium. The marketers' Holy Grail

is building close customer relationships. Personalised, interactive

portals can equip firms with the tools to do just that.