Returning to work after a holiday break—especially the start of a new year—can be the stimulus to look at workaday routines and what it accomplishes, as well as to wonder whether there could be a better way to reach our goals.

Maybe competitive environments have changed and your company’s response has not—at least not enough. Perhaps the year-end bottom-line results are disappointing and 1999’s budget demands innovation in an effort to bring a better outcome.

A more effective or efficient strategy might emerge from a short amount of time invested in creative contemplation. Over the next several issues of the Business Examiner, I propose to offer in this space ideas to stimulate that contemplation with the goal of improving your bottom-line and satisfaction.

New approaches or ideas can be expected along with a review of basics that perhaps we haven’t encountered since that business class we slept through years ago.

The suggestions won’t necessarily be my ideas. I will share what I’ve learned from the writings of others—and hope that you will do the same. Get involved, send me the pearls of wisdom you’ve picked up in your career, either from others or through experience.

Much of what I have to say will focus on Business-to-Business (B2B) commerce, since that is the primary mission of the Business Examiner, the only publication dedicated solely to informing and supporting the South Sound business community.

We aspire to being your South Sound Business News Resource by providing information that isn’t readily available elsewhere, while our advertisers aim their efforts at meeting the needs of other businesses.

If your firm’s customers are other businesses, their owners, managers and employees, you too are part of the B2B market.

Tacoma Mall, for example, would seem to be the epitome of a “consumer” environment. Yet officials there reported that corporate sales accounted for 75 to 80 percent of Mall transactions in the third quarter of 1998.

Retail sales are not the only factor in our overall economy. Firms buying from and selling to one another make up a huge share of GDP. And most consumers have the money they spend because of their participation, one way or another, in the business marketplace, whether it’s wages earned, payment for goods delivered or profits.

Many so-called experts suggest that sales and marketing efforts that recognize differences between B2B and retail consumer shopping will bring far better results. Unfortunately, these same pundits disagree, on what those differences are and how to serve them.

You—the owner or manager—will have to make that call for your own business. But it is useful to examine the viewpoints of those who claim to know—some of whom actually base their insights on experience in the real world.

In consumer markets, researchers say demographics (age, sex, education, ZIP code, etc.) predetermine and drive emotional purchases. Correlating demography to purchases reveals to the wise merchant who is buying what and why.

Psychographics, on the other hand, are our beliefs, values and political views, which can provide the intellectual justification for an emotional purchase that we’ve already made. Also valuable insights to have, but Michael Moon, a consultant from California, says many business executives incorrectly assume that psychographics drive marketing.

Demographics make the sale—and that’s as true in B2B markets as consumer ones. That’s why it is smart to learn all you can about your customers—and to consider whether your sales strategy should be the same for business customers as it is for the rest of your market.

By Jeff Rounce, Business Examiner publisher