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To B or not 2B

Author: Gary Slack/Thursday, December 8, 2016/Categories: Our Thoughts

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 abbreviation was “b-to-b” marketing. When I started my career 30 years, 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.

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 the websites, and in the blogs, of almost all b2b marketers, they use “b2b.”

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

One other exception 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 one, 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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