Pivoting from B2C to B2B

I’m friends with an entrepreneur running an automotive service business focused on consumers. He’s been at it several years and is thinking about possibly selling the business one day. He would need to grow revenue and increase margins to make it attractive for acquisition. He has various ideas about how to do this, but his current model creates obstacles:

  • Consumers need his service only once every five to ten years, so he must acquire new customers every month.
  • Consumers view his service as an expense (i.e., its cost exceeds its perceived value) and negotiate hard, which negatively impacts margins.
  • Managing relationships with consumers is a constant pain point for his staff and requires that he run at elevated staff levels, reducing margins.
  • Each consumer has a different car, which adds operational complexity to servicing vehicles and reduces throughput.

He recently shared an idea he’s experimenting with. The automotive service he offers is something fleet owners can use too. Instead of continuing to focus on consumers (B2C), he may switch to targeting businesses (B2B). Here’s what he learned from some customer discovery:

  • Small fleet owners are growing in his area.
  • Each vehicle in a fleet needs to be serviced annually, so he could expect monthly repeat business.
  • Down vehicles reduce revenue, so fleet owners view his service as helping them generate revenue (i.e., its perceived value exceeds its cost), which positively impacts margins.
  • Working with repeat fleet owners simplifies relationship management, reducing the burden on his team and making it possible to operate with a smaller team, thereby increasing margins.
  • Fleet owners buy the same vehicles, which simplifies operations and increases throughput.

Through trial and error, this entrepreneur has learned a valuable lesson: why some businesses are better suited to focusing on other businesses (not consumers) as their core customers.

It’s early, but I suspect this entrepreneur will pivot his business from B2C to B2B and finally reach the scale and profitability that’s eluded him thus far.