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There Is No More B2B or B2C: There Is Only Human to Human (H2H)

It used to be that marketing was segmented into two categories; business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C). This was done (I assume), to separate specialties, audiences and segments in an effort to more highly target the groups of people who ultimately would consume a brand’s message.

human to human h2hWhat it really did, however, was create an unnatural language for marketers – with words like “synergy” and “speeds and feeds” – to tell the stories of products to their buyers and partners. It’s become like one massive game of telephone, where by the time a message gets to the person actually buying the product, the things that make it special have been swallowed by marketing vernacular.

Consumers are confused. Why can’t we make it simple for them to understand what we’re selling, to share their experiences and the value they felt with others? More importantly, why is it that what we’re marketing most often does not align to actual consumer experiences?

The fact is that the lines are so far blurred now between the two marketing segments that it’s hard to differentiate between the two anymore. We all need to think like the consumers we are, putting ourselves in the mindset of the buyer instead of trying to speak such an intensely sophisticated language full of acronyms and big words, in order to sound smarter.

Marketing increasingly strives to become one-to-one, with solutions to collect and wrangle the big data about us to serve up more personalized offers and experiences. On the other hand, social has become a more public and vast medium, where the things we share skyrocket quickly to a “one-to-many” experience. The dichotomy between marketing and social has actually flipped… and it’s out of balance. Social and marketing need to work together to personalize individual conversations, as well as deliver shared global experiences that crowds of common values can benefit from. This is what our social and digital mediums have gifted us, and how humans interact and feel more compelled take action.

So, this is how I see it:
Businesses do not have emotion. People do.
People want to be a part of something bigger than themselves.
People want to feel something.
People want to be included.
People want to understand.

But people are also humans, and with that comes mistakes. Missteps. Failures. As humans, it’s in our nature to say the wrong thing, get embarrassed, and not realize the consequences of our actions. The rise of social media has given a digital platform to the dark side of anonymity, both as individuals and as crowds. I say it’s time to lay down the virtual pitchforks and torches and bring this behavior back into balance. The delightful side of humanity holds with it empathy, understanding, and forgiveness, and when remembered in our communication, it ties us together as a common group.

Communication shouldn’t be complicated. It should just be genuine and simple, with the humility and understanding that we’re all multi-dimensional humans, everyone of which has spent time in both the dark and delightful parts of life.

That’s human to human. That is #H2H.

KEY TAKEAWAY: Human beings are innately complex yet strive for simplicity. Our challenge as humans is to find, understand and explain the complex in its most simplistic form. This means you, marketers. Find the commonality in our humanity, and speak the language we’ve all been waiting for.

If you like this concept, you also may want to check out Mark Schaefer’s book “The Tao of Twitter” where he describes P2P (People to People) or watch my interview (click here) with SAP CMO Jonathan Becher who also believes B2B marketing is not relevant today.
(H2H / shutterstock)

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  • robertdodds's picture
    Nov 17 Posted 2 years ago robertdodds

    Great post


    Whilst I agree that behind businesses, are humans we are trying to connect to, I think there's definitely still a clear distinction between the type of communication that is expected, or acceptable, in B2C and it is different for B2B


    There is a lot of crossover however, and the line is definitely blurred.

  • Jul 11 Posted 2 years ago JonathanK

    Thank you for that post. Let me share a bit. The CFPB has finally finished its first regulatory probe. The probe was conducted into credit card-related goods sold by distributors used by Capital One, in an unlawful manner. The CFPB Capital One case has led to the bank spending more than $200 million in fees and restitution. If you have fees that need to be paid, use a short term  loan.

  • Jul 10 Posted 2 years ago logesh

    Bryan, I am totaly aggree with you, Also the discussion above make me very clear. Thank you so much to all.

  • Jun 12 Posted 3 years ago Kristine Helm

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  • Jun 4 Posted 3 years ago jacobwhite Bryan, if I may just add my 2 cents to this... I think you are missing the point here. As William Chouffot pointed out earlier there is a vast differences in selling complex industrial machines to shoes. Yes, I agree that we should all become more human focused and I agree there's a lot of acronyms in business and marketing literature. But creating H2H is a new one, and it should not be confused with wether we are talking about organisational selling or individual selling. If you ask me you are trying to say something new for the sake of it... While the general idea of being more human is right, there are certain insights that are unique to purchase decisions in businesses compared to, say, households and vice versa. There's nothing wrong in identifying wether we are talking of marketing for massive industrial machines vs a sports shoe. Yes it's also humans buying industrial machines - but I don't think you can sell them these very expensive machines into complex organisational structures under a "Just do it" banner. Technical information and a knowledgable salesforce is crucial in (many/most) B2B scenarios, compared to say selling in a shoe shop. In fact that article tells me that you have had very little exposure to organisational selling to begin with and you are falling into a fallacy trap. As indicated above emotional Branding such as "Just do it" have far more impact in a B2C context and in B2B Technical Branding has a lot more impact than Emotional. That's a massive difference! Short: We need H2H in both instances - but strategies in both areas will be massively different and is a proven fact. Yes it evolves, and yes it'll always be different...
  • Apr 27 Posted 3 years ago EllaTrezise

    I'm drafting a blog post at the moment about creating more engaging posts on Facebook and it was one of the first key points I thought of as well, just be human! It is so simple yet I think there are still a lot of companies and brands who don't seem human. It's so true what you said about people wanting to feel a part of something bigger than themselves, to be included and be understood.  Thanks for the article Bryan!

  • Bryan Kramer's picture
    Apr 21 Posted 3 years ago Bryan Kramer

    H2H = facets of why & how communication today needs to be adjusted in order to keep up with our ever-evolving social and digital world. To your point, there is a lot of people putting out the wrong message, or the right message delivered in a way that is not clear and concise. I have to think that this message is resonating if it's going to drive the H2H book into the third consecutive week of being in the top 1% of sales on Amazon. I mean, I'm good, but not that good.

  • patmcgraw's picture
    Apr 21 Posted 3 years ago patmcgraw

    Replacting "B2B" and "B2C" with "H2H" because some people/humans write terrible copy is confusing to me.  Now, I like to consider myself as mildly intelligent despite what my wife and daughter say about me...but great marketing communications has always been about providing people/humans with the right information at the right time via the right channel in order to motivate the right action.  And if the other person/human is motivated by "4th Gen Intel® Core™ i3 processor; 8GB memory; 1TB hard drive" rather than "No more waiting forever for programs to open - save time, money and sanity with the fastest computer system in the world", so be it.

    But if the person/human is getting the wrong message, or the right message delivered in a way that is not clear and concise, it's most likely due to a terrible writer or terrible targeting, not because the people involved refer to B2B and B2C rather than H2H.

  • Mar 26 Posted 3 years ago Democons

    Person 2 Person is the only way to do business. I am a partner in a Green Demolition company and deal with a wide range of customers who want buildings taken down in a green manner. Being polite and being able to give honest advice and in a friendly manner is very important.

    I have made a wide array of friends in this business, and wouldn't trade the blood, sweat and tears that goes into the physical labor it takes to make my customers happy.

    Thank you for this post.




  • Startupzap's picture
    Mar 17 Posted 3 years ago Startupzap

    Love this whole mantra Bryan.  Somewhere in the midst of the ‘business models’, the ‘value proposition’ and how we build a business is ‘the Human’.  The Human is our customer; our business is made of ‘Humans’; our products designed by ‘Human’; serviced, sold and delivered by ‘Human’.  When we forget that, we will fail to succeed – in whatever the pursuit - whether it is marketing, selling or parenting.

    I agree, I often think that we seem to be obsessed with making things complicated. As if the more complicated it is, the cleverer we become.  Complexity becomes a currency somehow to gain credibility. As Albert Einstein coined it "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough." But we seem to surround ourselves in the belief that it has to be complex to win.  It doesn’t.   

    Working in the startup community I always point founders to the fact that the most important capital a company with 3-5 employees in its infancy, is its human capital = the Human.  

    #H2H #bringiton

  • Elizabeth Allen's picture
    Feb 18 Posted 3 years ago Elizabeth Allen


    Lovely article. One interesting point? When marketing goes one to one, it actually becomes sales (lead generation). I believe we are rapidly heading to into this convergence, where our collective social currency will translate into measurable economic activity. It's the subject of a book I'm writing called Driving Demand. The fact we are all in sales is a new universal truth requiring us to embrace an entrepreneurial mindset that allows us to fuel sustainable growth in our Economy of One. It is the final evolution of the flat organization. With 60 million people posed to become free agents by the year 2019 (US Dept of Labor), we all better know how to sell. 

  • Feb 6 Posted 3 years ago ghostwriter

    Human to human is probably a long way off for marketers especially. I believe marketers cloak everything they post to disguise that it is an advertisement. But obviously the commercial must shine through at some point or their mission would fail. I would consider poets as attempting to communicate on a human to human level but most of the rest of us have an agenda. By the way I find the language of this post to be quite complex for a post that is pushing for more simplicity in copywriting. You are correct simple to the point communication is always the best. If there is a simpler word it should be used. For example: 'It is hard to differentiate' could be 'it is hard to tell' You have to practice what you preach especially if you are preaching simpler language is better. Marketing vernacular? The dichotomy? Crowds of common values? 

  • Paul Friend's picture
    Feb 1 Posted 3 years ago Paul Friend

    A very refreshing view point and have to agree, marketing is so full or jargon that we have lost what the whole point is really all about. I fully understand in this modern world we are all striving for the best ROI possible. But sometimes the message is lost in the management of marketing.

  • 3H Communications's picture
    Jan 31 Posted 3 years ago 3H Communications

    Great article. We at 3H Communications have the opportunity to work in both segments. I always start off by saying to my b2b clients that you must remember that although you are talking to a professional, he or she is a person! They get up in the morning, kiss their families, fit traffic to work, just like everyone else. People are people,first. What they do is secondary!

    One of my colleagues just posted a blog about the marketing differences between b2c and difference. The questions you ask are the same,you just have to learn to listen to the answers!I would welcome your comments on the article.

  • Jan 31 Posted 3 years ago Lenny Volynsky

    Main promise is based on assumption, that there is no other entity exist. It is wrong. There is a new B2B networking design, which is based on concepts introduced originally by social networking, and looks at B2B relationships as a living, breathing, autonomous (self aware?) environment.

    • Instead, only try to realize the truth.

    • What truth?

    • There is no spoon.

    • There is no spoon?

    • Then you'll see that it is not the spoon that bends. It is only yourself.


  • Jan 31 Posted 3 years ago Roger Baker

    Bryan, as much as I agree with the need to create content that connects with the audience I feel that you proposition that B2B and B2C as categories are no longer neccessary is overly general.

    Those "Labels" also serve identify the media through which you can connect with your target audience as there are clear paths that certain products and or services can be promoted through. Failure to stick to the correct channels could well derail the best intentioned marketing plan no matter how "humanized" the content EG you wouldnt advertise an industrial oven in a local daily newspaper or in a half time advertising slot during the football, you also wouldn't advertise discounted products at a local supermarket in a global Automotive component magazine.

    B2B and B2C identify chanels of communication not a style of marketing.

  • Zarine Jacob's picture
    Jan 31 Posted 3 years ago Zarine Jacob

    I liked this as this is intuitively where I do my stuff. As a solopreneur I've never really got b2b other than yet another fancy term. For work, what I do is enable meaningful conversations to happen that lead to positive action, sustainable results/profit, more engaged people & win-win outcomes (even if you lose the game, what did you learn?) personally & professionally. So I like that this post makes the marketing stuff more real. I'm not a marketer but I have to do it (or pay s/o else to do it for me) & there r zillions like me, small biz owners who struggle with marketing. Sometimes I feel we're sitting ducks for the marketing industry! So it helps me to focus on what I do best & rely on that to also do my marketing. Thank u Bryan.

  • Jan 31 Posted 3 years ago Kwalowsky

    Hi Bryan

    Great article; I subscribe to most of your thoughts, but think Jim makes a valid point. In terms of 'complexity' we need to consider that a lot of decisions in a B2B enviromoment are not made by one single person, but generally influenced by many different people at various stages of the buying process. Whilst this does not exclusively apply to B2B, high involvement B2C purchases can follow a similar buying process, adding B2B to your H2H idea (though not as controversial / conjusive to trending) may be the answer? It will also help uncover deeper motivations during the buying process that are B2B specific; 'advance my career,' 'limit risk of exposure '(related to the previous one) for example. 


    PS: comment form doesn't work well on mobile - apologies for any typos!


  • LarryCarillo's picture
    Jan 30 Posted 3 years ago LarryCarillo

    Hi Bryan,

    I posted your article to the Content Marketing Institute group on Linkedin, and it is producing a good amount of conversation and debate. Maybe you could weigh in on the topic over there? Here is a link to the discussion:




    Larry Carillo

  • AnnekevanderVoort's picture
    Jan 30 Posted 3 years ago AnnekevanderVoort


    Great post. I think we should more focus on the human side when communicating online. Many people I meet mention that they feel that social media is so massive. However, I think  it offers many opportunities to make that personal contact with others. Of course, numbers count, however, still it is all about the personal, human touch. 

    Your post inspired me to write a blog about showing your human side on LinkedIn (and other social media) In which I referred to your article.


  • Jan 30 Posted 3 years ago anwaar bent

    Good read... Thank you

  • Alan Stevens's picture
    Jan 30 Posted 3 years ago Alan Stevens

    I agree Geert, but for too long business coaches and so called marketing experts have been harping on about B2B and B2C.


    I'd be a millionaire with my business by now if H2H had had a broader focus :-)

  • Alan Stevens's picture
    Jan 30 Posted 3 years ago Alan Stevens

    We have always been emotional beings. Problem is, as it's been highlighted in the responces, that skills on dealing H2H have been forgotten.

    That's why my whole business is in bringing those skills back. Have a look at (especially the relationship coaching apps on the home page) and you may find the posts and other information helpful.

  • Jan 30 Posted 3 years ago Marcel Wiedenbrugge

    At the end of day, in business, people (not companies) want to do productive (and profitable) business. In my personal experience I have always worked with people first, then customers (both in B2C and B2B). Trust and performance are two fundamental elements in business. They reinforce each other, both negative and positive. 

    One major difference between business users (B2B) and consumers (B2C) is the communication process and via which communication channels this takes place.

    In B2C I can easily find much more information about a product / service, user experiences (good and bad) than in B2B. For example if I need audit services from accountancy firm ABC, it will be very hard to find a website were a customer (client) in detail complaints or praises this firm. It hardly happens.

    B2B complaints are discussed / solved one on one or in worst case in court, not in social media. Or take me as an author: when I am not happy with my publisher, I will complain one on one to my publisher, but will not post the whole story and juicy details on facebook, twitter, what have you. 

    Simplicity, transparency,honesty, trust and performance. These are my keywords.

    As such, there is still a lot to be done to tear down the walls between B2B and B2C.

  • Per Johansson's picture
    Jan 30 Posted 3 years ago Per Johansson

    Spot on!

  • Jan 29 Posted 3 years ago Metalurgico

    H2H looks nice on the PPT; I can understand that, but we don't have to reinvent the wheel. 

  • sprout_sarah's picture
    Jan 29 Posted 3 years ago sprout_sarah

    Great relevant topic, Bryan! It is sort of ironic that we are complex beings, yet strive for simplicity. I also think we strive for customized simplicity. We want a quick, easy answer, but we want it to cater specifically to our needs too. I completely agree that brands need to train support, marketing, sales and any other customer facing department to address customers like people and bring the brand to a relatable level. Business goals are always important, but you're never going to achieve them if you treat customers like they don't play the most key component to your success.   

  • ritishluc's picture
    Jan 29 Posted 3 years ago ritishluc

    Nice discussive article about B2B, B2C and H2H. Bigger picture is that we are human beings, and the silo has been B2B and B2C, and now because of social technologies that help us be more connected, we are marketing to an audience of people who have emotions please. We are all social animals whether we like it or not.

    We have to realise that we cannot afford to isolate the P2P (People to People) perspective in our business strategy in 2014 and up.

    Many businesses are finding it hard to differentiate between B2B and B2C nowadays, and the situation will stay as such if they don't want to know about H2H (Human to Human).

    Great article!

  • Graham Jones's picture
    Jan 29 Posted 3 years ago Graham Jones

    You make a good point which I wholheartedly agree with  - but this is something I have been pointing out as a business psychologist for many years. Indeed, I wrote about this topic two years ago. See: There is no such thing as B2B

    The whole notion of B2B or B2C is an invention simply to make life seemingly easier for business owners. There never has been such a split when you do consider it from a human perspective.

  • Jan 28 Posted 3 years ago Madhava Verma D...

    What a wonderful article and is simply amazing. This is absolutly true and the dynamics of sales perspective has changed into H2H now. This is a new term i heard for the first time.

  • Alan Stevens's picture
    Jan 28 Posted 3 years ago Alan Stevens

    I agree. When I first heard the term B2B and B2C many years ago I knew we were heading down the wrong path.  Whether you call it H2H or P2P, this is the only way to go if you understand people and how to read them and what motivates and makes them productive.

    I'd go as far to say that far too many executives and business people don't undersatnad this. As an example, when I presented new innovation in people skills to a state manager of one of the top 4 Australian banks he wrote back that he couldn't see people skills to be part of their new revamped leadership program.  humorously,  he has recently been made redundant and his position of "people and culture" has also been left vacant. So it looks like it's a company failing, and one of found in at least 2 of the other banks and across business in general


  • Bryan Kramer's picture
    Jan 28 Posted 3 years ago Bryan Kramer

    I think in both instances, it's a connection the customer has with a person or brand that leads them to purchasing a product. Sure, I love chocolate too, but I'll go for a snickers bar because "it satisifies me" before I purchase a Kit Kat. With the advent of Social Business, the relationship a customer feels when they have an extroidanary experience with any brand brings them that much closer to a brand the next time they have an "impulse buy."  No matter what we sell, B2B or B2C, businesses do not have emotion. People do.

  • Bryan Kramer's picture
    Jan 28 Posted 3 years ago Bryan Kramer

    Absolutely! We need to relate to the customer which we've had to do for years. Now with Social Business, it's forcing us to simplify our message (become more clear) and build relationships.

  • Bryan Kramer's picture
    Jan 28 Posted 3 years ago Bryan Kramer

    Thank you Larry!

  • Bryan Kramer's picture
    Jan 28 Posted 3 years ago Bryan Kramer

    YES! "It's not really how, but what." I couldn't agree more.

  • Bryan Kramer's picture
    Jan 28 Posted 3 years ago Bryan Kramer

    I agree, but with the advent of Social Business, it's made it harder to discern the difference between B2B and B2C.

  • Bryan Kramer's picture
    Jan 28 Posted 3 years ago Bryan Kramer

    Jim, there are complexities in everything that is sold. Period. To think that B2B is more complex isn't right. Getting a product to market, in store, online and sold is just as complex. People buy from people. And communication shouldn’t be complicated no matter what you are selling. Social business has brought b2b and b2c to the forefront, making it harder to discern the difference in the buyer/consumers perspective. I'd love to jump on the phone and have a constructive conversation about this. Let me know what works for you?

  • Bryan Kramer's picture
    Jan 28 Posted 3 years ago Bryan Kramer

    Thank you Jon!

  • Bryan Kramer's picture
    Jan 28 Posted 3 years ago Bryan Kramer

    I think we're saying the same thing, the point was to simplify our language and speak human (noncomplex) language. I can only publish things that are meaningful to me, there was never any intent on twisting anything. Let's schedule some time to talk on the phone and share our thoughts on this and have a constructive discussion?

  • Jon Leland's picture
    Jan 28 Posted 3 years ago Jon Leland

    great post. A key strategic distinction that most businesses still fail to understand. Thanks!

  • Jan 28 Posted 3 years ago dmeyerhoffer

    This is another example of a great descriptive technology term that gets adopted by marketing people and then abused until it means nothing useful. Marketing needs to stop abusing terms from other fields and start using real and accurate language. You have even twisted things in this article just to publish something you feel is meaningful. This isn't newsworthy. It's an opinion publicized by a member of the bright idea club.

  • SalesVPI's picture
    Jan 28 Posted 3 years ago SalesVPI

    Bryan, I have to completely disagree.

    While the general platitudes are fine, commonalities are present, and core principles apply to each, your premise is deeply flawed. 

    Distinctions are required when there are differences. Your article suggests there are none that marketers need to address. 

    The complexities and requirements of the B2B buying, selling and decision processes suggest otherwise. 

    Marketers who don't understand these distinctions and requirements put their B2B selling organization in serious danger.


  • Jan 28 Posted 3 years ago William Chouffot

    Having difficulty with this on a number of levels.

    • Social media is all about providing an emotional connection with businesses and products
    • Sure we are all human, but there's a world of difference between the impluse purchase of a chocolate bar and buying widgets for the engines of the next superjet.

    I feel the distinction between b2c and b2b is still useful and relavent as it provides a model that differentiates between decisions we make on our own for our own cratification of self improvement. And those that are made in business where mulitiple individuals may have a say, lives may be a risk, the company is taking risk, your job and others may be on the line and large financial commitments are being made.

    In b2b h2h exists in the sense that you have to have sales people (forgive the explitive) who know there stuff, can tell a good story, are sociable and can connect on emotional level with the needs of the buyer.

    Just my view.

  •'s picture
    Jan 28 Posted 3 years ago geertjhansen@gm...

    There has always been only been H2H.

  • Kimmo Linkama's picture
    Jan 27 Posted 3 years ago Kimmo Linkama

    I apologize if I appear a bit sarcastic, but the requirement to connect with your target has been recognized for at least 30 years. When I switched from sales into advertising copywriting in 1985, the first things I was instilled with were

    1 – In B2B, the seller doesn't sell, the buyer buys, and
    2 – Always talk to ONE person.

    This took place in Finland, to many not the most likely place to be in the forefront of B2B marketing & advertising.

    That's why, regardless of which letter-number combination is invented for the purpose for novelty, conversational marketing is old news.

    The point is: it's not really HOW you say it, because you need to address people as human beings, not machines or jargon-crunchers, in any context to achieve results.

    It's WHAT you say. Your message needs to be fundamentally different if you're talking to one person who has sole authority to make a purchase any time, as opposed to a person who is part of a purchase committee and/or needs to get buy-in from others in the organization.

    I published a comparison in a blog post: There Is Still a Difference Between B2C and B2B.

  • Jan 27 Posted 3 years ago josephmartins Too many adopt an "us versus them" mentality as if buyer and seller are mutually exclusive groups. We are all simultaneously buyers and sellers. The hat we choose to wear depends on the context of the moment we're in. Unfortunately it seems the vast majority of us embrace hypocrisy - our conduct as buyers forever at odds with our conduct as sellers. We're living two separate lives in the same bodies. Change must come from within. Until we're able to relate to the consumers and sellers within ourselves we'll continue to relate poorly to those around us.
  • LarryCarillo's picture
    Jan 27 Posted 3 years ago LarryCarillo

    Thank you for such a great article! I've worked in both B2B and B2C and at the end of the day it's about connecting with your audience. Anymore since marketers are connecting with people for business and personal via social media, it is more of a human to human interaction.  Great article!

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