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From C2B to B2Spree, Most Models Falling Short

SAN FRANCISCO ( — The fervor for B2C (business-to-consumer) commerce has come and gone, and B2B (business-to-business) is close on its heels. What's the Next Big Thing? A brief look at five of the latest B2Whatever business models:

B2E — Business to Employee

The idea seems practical. Instead of selling products and services to disparate and often hard-to-isolate markets, businesses simply sell to their own employees. But the program has been a disappointment at companies like defense industry giant Raytheon.

B2E Business to Employee

+ Companies recoup money paid out in salaries.
+ Complex annual job performance evaluations replaced by simple question: "How much of the company's product did you buy this year?"
+ Overstocking no longer a problem as individual employees either buy heavily during year-end inventory clearance or become part of year-end inventory clearance.

- Wage increases may be necessary to allow employees to buy company product; e.g., average Boeing worker would need to earn $42 million.
- Ugly, face-to-face confrontations with Customer Complaint Departments.
- NATO may need to be expanded to include employees of firms such as General Dynamics, United Technologies, and Raytheon.

"What we learned is, the people who work for Raytheon don't necessarily need an AN/SLQ-48 Mine Neutralization System for their personal use," said spokesperson Anne Flagg. "The Patriot missiles, however, sold quite well for Father's Day."

C2B — Consumer to Business

In the few markets where the idea has been tested, this, too, has failed miserably. Cisco Systems, for instance, tried C2B for a month.

"After the first week, not a single consumer called to sell us anything," said Paul Riddle, vice president of consumer immigration. "So we started calling people at random: 'Hello, This is Cisco Systems. We need 12 gross of Catalyst 3900 token ring switches.' Or, 'Hello, this is Cisco Systems. We'd like to purchase 120,000 meters of coaxial cable. When can you ship?'"

The answers, Riddle lamented, were always the same: "It was either 'Mommy's not home,' or 'I'm calling the police.'"

Pharmaceutical giant Merck, meanwhile, took a slightly different C2B approach, but has reaped as yet no benefits.

"We initially tried asking for what we needed, but the average consumer just didn't have, say, a liquid nitrogen cooling system," said Merck purchasing manager Thelma Hackett. "So we changed the model and started buying whatever people wanted to get rid of." As a result, said Hackett, Merck now has the nation's largest inventory of Tickle-Me Elmos and Nordic Tracks, and is the largest shareholder of

B2Flea — Business to Flea (bass player, Red Hot Chili Peppers)

"Based on advice from our consulting company, we realigned our business model and production to match Flea's consumer habits," said Jonathan Price, vice president of business development at former copier company Xerox. "But as it turns out, not everybody wants Fugazi CDs and turquoise pants and tatoos. We are now in serious trouble, thought not as bad as, say,"

B2Spree — Business to Latrell Sprewell (forward, New York Knicks)

"It was going okay at first," said Nelson Weeble, product supervisor for tractor maker John Deere. "Sprewell was looking at a GT235 riding mower, but when he tried to start it, it wouldn't go. So I said, 'Let out the choke,' and he just went after me."

B2TB — Business to The Balkans

"Let me put it this way, last month, we sent an eight-person sales and marketing team over there to establish distribution channels," related Amy Lindstrom, vice president of international sales for office supply company Staples. "If anyone has heard from them, please let us know."


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