To B Or Not 2 B?

To B Or Not 2 B?

Gary Slack | August 24, 2017

The nomenclature most b2b marketers have settled on to describe our niche of the marketing profession.

That’s the question for a lot of b2b … er, btob … er, b-to-b marketers.

What’s the right, or at least the most accepted, way these days to abbreviate the somewhat unwieldy phrase, “business-to-business”?

Maybe the Business Marketing Association (BMA) has it right in just saying, “business marketing.”

For many years, the accepted industry abbreviation was “b-to-b.” When I started my career 30 years ago, that’s how we did it.

Then in the late 1990s, with the growth of the internet and the rise of all kinds of now largely defunct online vertical industry exchanges, the alternative abbreviation “b2b” suddenly came into being. In fact, well into the 2000s, Silicon Valley thought it owned “b2b.”

Why did the dot-com crowd start using “b2b”? One school of thought has it that “b2b” is easier to text and takes a lot (to the time-challenged) less time to type than “b-to-b,” what with those two pesky hyphens.

Whatever the case, though, the “b2b” moniker gradually came to replace “b-to-b” for all kinds of business marketing, and today you rarely see “b-to-b” used any more.

Do a search, and you’ll see what I mean. On their websites and in their blogs, almost all business marketers use “b2b.”

There are a few exceptions (not that there is anything wrong with that). One is BMA’s parent, the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), which is fixated on “B-to-B” (yes, with capitals) due to an illogical adherence to some ancient style guide.

Another is (or was) Crain Communications and its BtoB Magazine, but the magazine is now defunct, and no one else uses “btob.”

You might consider us an exception, too, as our agency’s tagline is, “The shortest distance from b to b.” In this case, though, we felt we had to mirror the classic line we’ve mimicked: “The shortest distance from a to b.” We use “b2b” everywhere and everywhen else.

So that’s the quick, 30-year tale of the rise of “b2b.” Question answered!

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