It's what makes the world go round!

Caroline Williams, Chief Executive, Norfolk Chamber of Commerce

Time was, back in the 1960s, when any form of marketing, and advertising, that wasn’t directed at the consumer was seen as, frankly, less important. It was rather ‘second division’ stuff often referred to, almost derogatively, as ‘trade’ work. London based advertising agencies and marketing consultancies, high on awards and even higher budgets would gladly let their provincial cousins handle the ‘trade’ campaigns for brands, while they grabbed the glamour of the ‘consumer’ work.

Gradually though it became clear to the more rigorous marketing thinkers that there was little point continuing to sell a product ‘out’ to the end users if there had been no effort put into selling it ‘in’ to the wholesalers and retailers who would actually get it to market - and generate the revenue.

When it became clear that the business that goes on between businesses was really very important, and indeed that some of that activity was a finite process in itself, it was as if a breath of fresh air had blown through the commercial landscape. Now, the practice of ‘Business to Business’, or ‘B2B’ marketing was given the attention and importance it warranted.

All of this coincided with the explosion in communication techniques, and inevitably, and understandably, the new media were used within the B2B arena as much as they were in the consumer field. With a website as your shop window you could reach more consumers than ever before. With virtually no expense you could e mail more potential customers in a moment than even your wildest fantasy print budget would have allowed you to direct mail. Why wouldn’t you then e mail your B2B contacts, and direct them to the ‘trade’ section of your website?

No reason at all.  Except that, with a supreme irony, it’s not enough. The B2B market will seldom be as massively numerous as the consumer sector, and most consumers of most products and services do not expect direct personal contact with the manufacturer. But, in the business to business world, there is still a high expectation of personal involvement, and evidence that it’s worthwhile.

There’s another irony to add to this evolving picture. As markets become more global there’s a real shift to doing business locally. There’s a parallel in the natural world where our heightened awareness of the meteorological ‘big picture’ hasn’t altered what appears to be ever more localised weather conditions.

Businesses buying from and selling to other businesses is the DNA of commercial life. The fact that it’s best done when those organisations get face to face is what drives us at the Norfolk Chamber to continue to deliver events to facilitate that. Our next one - The B2B Exhibition, in Norwich on October 15 - seems set to build on the success of its predecessors.

Local businesses, engaged with one another in profitable commerce; it’s what makes the world go round!

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