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B-ing in the Middle

Over the last several months some B2C Internet companies have been switching their focus to B2B by applying the technologies developed and the lessons learned in their B2C marketplace. Their strategy is to sell products, services, and technologies to other businesses to increase their consumer sales.

With revenues from advertising, product margins, and consumer sales slowing down on their B2C sites, these newly focused B2B2C e-businesses hope to derive revenue from custom program development, licensing fees, and charging for services. In short, the B2B2C company earns revenues from a business, not the consumer.

Take Beyond.com (http://www.beyond.com/) as an example. It has created a new revenue stream for its e-business by partnering with companies such as Compaq Computer, Symantec, and Hewlett-Packard's Shopping Village. Beyond earns revenues and transaction fees by building and operating software stores for these business partners. Businesses can also use Beyond's technology. Using Beyond's software download service allows independent software companies to sell directly to their users–something they couldn't do before because of their agreements with distributors and retailers.

Ask Jeeves (http://www.ask.com/) is another example of a B2B2C configuration. Ask Jeeves provides its natural language search technology to other Web sites and companies such as Wal-Mart and Chrysler. In Chrysler's case, it lets the automaker provide better responses to online customer inquiries.

But B2B2C is only one application of being the B in the middle. Companies can refocus their technology and products to help one business serve another (B2B2B), a business serve its employees (B2B2E), and even the government serve its constituents (G2B2C). With some thought, almost any e-business can focus its technology, products, and services, and position itself as the B in the middle as a business services supplier in the New Economy.

Whether your target audience is the consumer or other businesses, creating the right position for your e-business will be critical to your success in the New Digital Economy.

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