In some business circles, B2B is shadowed with an unfair reputation as a bland, behind-the-scenes affair, an operation born strictly out of necessity and mostly above the volatile fluctuations that keep B2C on its toes. Ask the leaders involved in successful B2B implementation, however, and you'll get a very different story—one of spirited competition, innovative marketing and a delicate balance on the cutting edge of fulfillment. Where does your supply chain strategy fall? If you feel more like the former than the latter, it's time to stop dragging your feet and start guiding your B2B efforts to lasting victory.
A Competitor is a Competitor
If your business is mainly or exclusively B2B, the stories of heated price wars and battles for market share that shape the B2C landscape might feel like a distant concern. In fairness, the fluctuation of a few pennies per unit for components or reams of paper are unlikely to make headlines outside of B2B publications, but that doesn't mean that competition isn't alive and well. If you're resting on your laurels and the comfort of a longstanding—though uncontracted—business arrangement or two, you could be in store for an ugly reality check if an upstart lures a client away. Investing in innovations is an excellent way to stay at the head of the pack, and value-added features such as VR training capabilities for B2B machine sales can be enough to turn heads, advises AdvertisingAge's Jack Neff.
Their Concerns Need to Be Your Concerns
Proactive marketing is the best kind of marketing as it helps solve issues before they have a chance to annoy or inconvenience an end customer and sour brand perception. B2C companies achieve this through comprehensive product return and service offerings, but B2B can do the same by staying in tune with their customers' challenges. In the interest of efficiency, you'll want to aim your research closer to your end of the supply chain, but you should still know how a shortage (or a surplus) of the items you provide affect your customers. This also means formulating a few backup plans that keep them running smoothly in the event of a shortage on your end.
It's Not a Plateau
For every retailer, scalability is a consideration, whether on a small scale, like SKUs within a store, or a larger one, such as number of retail outlets in a given country. If you've been concentrating on optimizing your current B2B setup using only your current numbers, you're disregarding the cresting wave your industry is riding. In an article for MultiChannel Merchant, author Daniela Forte delivers a surprising bit of news: B2B has surpassed B2C in online sales growth. What will you do if your company grows by 1% tomorrow? What about 10% by next month? If explosive growth could put you on shaky ground, your success could be your undoing—come up with a B2B growth strategy plan that works for your company to make sure that doesn't happen. Building a realistic growth plan will help you gradually adapt to greater order volume and demand, keeping your course steady even if key employees are replaced or retire along the way.
Your to-do list is already a challenge as a supply chain professional, but that doesn't mean your B2B supply chain strategy can be shuffled off to the back burner. B2B isn't simply fulfilling a need and checking off boxes on an invoice—it's as important to holistic commerce as B2C is to the consumer. Don't let the moves of your competition determine where you fall in the B2B pecking order: set your goals, your boundaries and your plans now to keep from falling further behind.