This article originally appeared on Forbes.
B2B platform business models are distinct from B2C platforms, as B2C platforms generally focus on transactional e-commerce as a digital matchmaker.
B2B platforms, on the other hand, focus more on relationship-building and create value by facilitating interactions between consumers and producers. This allows B2B companies to create an impact on customers by enabling externalized innovation by third-party producers.
Most people are likely familiar with Amazon, a global B2C and B2B marketplace, which offers a wide array of options while making ease and searchability key. The B2B side of e-commerce is less known, as are B2B platforms, but they can help drive marketing value in:
1. Promotion and education.
2. Product/service by highlighting value propositions and addressing customers' pain points.
3. People by enabling connection with stakeholders.
This article explores the transformative power of B2B platforms, with a focus on ecosystem development and value co-creation, especially within industries that have yet to fully embrace the platform model. I'll also consider how marketing can be an enabler in creating strategies for effective co-creation and successful B2B ecosystem development.
The platform paradigm: beyond digital frontiers
Even within industries characterized by their institutionalized nature and traditional practices, B2B platforms offer a pathway to revitalization, collaboration, and enhanced value for all stakeholders. This is done by curating the demand and supply side via accrediting mechanisms and improving the comparability of similar and likeness offerings on a platform.
As such, the platform orchestrator builds the foundation for monetizing the ecosystem. Here the orchestrator creates a foundation for transactions at minimal cost by covering the cost of the transactions via a standardized business model and accompanying processes.
Take financial services, specifically asset management, which is often deeply ingrained in institutionalized cultures and traditions, where we find aspects of cognitive-cultural, normative, and regulatory factors that restrain change. While these factors exist, organizations are also looking to break this restraining logic and streamline the distribution network in the process, through technology and selective interactions.
Here are a couple of high-level ways that marketing teams can drive B2B platform strategies for their customers:
Ecosystem development: catalyzing collaboration
Essentially, a business ecosystem is a purposeful arrangement between two or more entities or actors who aim to share. This produces a network of interconnected companies that create interactions to drive sales and share in collective value for a common set of customers.
Every ecosystem has what we call an orchestrator and a participant, or contributors and consumers. Ecosystems help enable B2B platforms to expand and create economies of scale, where marketers can connect these actors by outlining value.
By connecting all actors, these platforms foster interconnected networks that promote collaboration and streamline processes.
Value co-creation: navigating uncharted waters
With platforms, value creation arises from minimizing transaction costs to create value by matching demand and supply.
This allows the possibility of products and services to be jointly created. It also helps B2B platforms foster greater interaction between consumers who represent the demand side of the platform and the contributors who represent the supply side. The orchestrators enable contributors and consumers on the platform to realize the value propositions to boost their efficiency and productivity.
Achieving value co-creation in institutionalized industries necessitates a fundamental shift in perspective, urging actors to look beyond their immediate interests and embrace the collective advantages of collaboration, which I write about extensively in my academic dissertation on the same topic.
Marketing practitioners driving B2B platform strategy
Gaining a profound comprehension of the industry's intricacies, processes, and platform content is instrumental in enabling marketers to formulate efficient and effective strategies.
Marketing leaders, in their daily responsibilities, concentrate on collaborating with customers to address their business challenges and issues using B2B strategies. As a chief marketing officer, I have found that working with customer value propositions to construct platforms and emphasizing the strategic role of marketing in ecosystem development is of immense value.
Addressing these aspects can drive effective marketing and contribute to the growth and sustainability of a company.
Building a platform model: a blueprint for transformation
Transitioning a non-platform-oriented domestic industry into a thriving ecosystem demands a carefully crafted strategy. Here's a blueprint for building a B2B platform within such an industry:
1. Identifying pain points: Understand the challenges faced by stakeholders within the industry. Whether it's inefficient processes, limited access to markets or lack of information sharing, pinpoint the pain points that a platform can address.
2. Stakeholder engagement: Convince key stakeholders of the potential benefits of collaboration through a platform. Highlight how ecosystem development can amplify their efforts and lead to shared success.
3. Platform design: Develop a platform that aligns with the industry's unique dynamics. Create user-friendly interfaces, intuitive navigation, and integrated features that cater to the specific needs of participants.
4. Data-driven insights: Leverage data analytics to provide actionable insights to participants. This can enable informed decision-making, predict trends, and identify opportunities for process optimization.
5. Incentive structures: Design incentive mechanisms that motivate active participation. Rewards for sharing knowledge, offering resources, and driving positive outcomes can foster a culture of collaboration.
6. Education and training: Offer resources and training to help stakeholders adapt to the platform model. Address any concerns or skepticism by demonstrating the tangible benefits of participation.
7. Governance and regulation: Establish clear governance structures to ensure fair participation, data privacy, and conflict resolution. A transparent framework builds trust and encourages broader adoption.
8. Ecosystem evolution: Continuously refine and expand the platform ecosystem. Encourage the development of complementary services and solutions to enhance the overall value proposition.
9. Value co-creation and marketing as enablers: Shifting toward a platform-oriented ecosystem requires strategic planning, which marketing is well positioned to do as an inter-functional strategic lead.
The emergence of B2B platforms is not confined to technology-driven sectors; it represents a paradigm shift in how industries can collaborate, innovate, and co-create value.
By embracing ecosystem development and value co-creation, industries can reinvent themselves, transcending geographical boundaries and traditional practices.
B2B marketing has evolved quickly. Find a global network of CMOs and marketing leaders to help you keep pace on the CMO Alliance Community Slack channel.