All businesses sell something, whether that means offering products to help other businesses run more smoothly or a service that lets people watch movies from home. What the business sells and who they sell it to defines the type of business market they participate in. It is critical for every business owner to be able to identify their business market so they know how to best identify their target audience and promote their products efficiently.
A business-to-consumer or "B2C" market is one in which a business advertises and sells its products directly to individual consumers. This is the largest type of business market because of its mass market of customers. Examples include grocery stores, clothing stores and car dealerships. Franchises, or businesses that sell the rights to operate branches of their company to others, also fall under the consumer market category as long as the final buyers are individual consumers. A well-known consumer market franchise is the chain restaurant.
The business-to-business or "B2B" market has a focus on products, goods and services that are typically sold to other businesses rather than direct to consumers. Examples include office furniture, corporate accounting services and conference and exhibit supplies. Many business-to-business markets have some overlap with consumer markets, for example, a cleaning company may provide both residential and commercial services.
In a service market, a business sells services rather than products. The business might deal exclusively with consumers, for example, providing telephone services, plumbing and electrical work to the consumer market. Or, it could be a B2B services firm, selling business accounting or consultancy services, for example. In some instances a consumer product may be sold in conjunction with the service. An example is a hair salon that provides the service of cutting hair, but also sells shampoo and other personal care products.
Industrial markets sell industrial or production products, good and services to other business industries. These are often goods that are not marketed to consumers, such as raw materials like steel, glass and wood or large-scale goods such as multi-network computer systems. Industrial markets have a much smaller target audience than other markets because the products and services it supplies are not focused on a mass market.
Professional services are those categorized as specialized areas of business that typically come with a degree of accountability in terms of licensing and certification. Examples include legal and medical services. As with the business-to-business market, there is sometimes overlap between markets. For example, a law firm may represent both individuals as well as corporations.