With the death of traditional sales roles, B2B marketing is coming into its own. It has experienced a significant shake-up in recent years with businesses digitally transforming. Marketing is now a much more active and powerful role with a lot more engagement with buyers. Today, there is a blurring of roles between sales and marketing when digital investments are made. This involves a shift from a product-centric to a customer-centric approach.
B2B marketing is becoming influenced by B2C. Articulation is moving away from messages that resonate with business to ones that resonate with people. B2B marketing is all about content, in the business realm this is not about content that is focused on entertaining, but informing buyers, and the wider business community.
The traditional model where marketing generated interest from buyers, then sales closed in on the prospect, did the deal and expanded the relationship, is somewhat dead now. Marketing, sales and after-sales, powered by data, are now a close-knit team. The focus is on delivering superior customer experience, through the right content, at the right time.
“Many B2B brands are guilty of selling on price, rather than selling on value. Value marketing means that you might not be the cheapest on the market but you’re better at meeting different groups of customer needs.” Julia Cupman, Global Director at B2B International.
B2B marketing strategies
Account-based marketing- Also known as ABM, account-based marketing is increasingly the cornerstone of B2B marketing strategies. In a world of complex B2B sales and marketing, focusing on the accounts that will drive the most revenue, opposed to a more broad-brush approach, is essential.
Putting real companies and people, and coupling them with content and experiences, is at the centre of an ABM strategy. The focus is on creating account-based experiences (ABX) that both meet customers’ expectations and also drive more revenue. In this data-driven era it is easier to achieve tailored campaigns, targeting core decision-makers. There is also a greater ability to concentrate sales and marketing resources on a clearly defined set of target accounts.
In a poll, 97% said ABM had a somewhat higher or much higher ROI than other marketing initiatives. Research from the Altera Group.
Customer experience marketing
The experience is now very much part of the solution, this allows marketing teams to be focused on complex buyer journeys, which are endemic in the B2B sector. The aim is to serve very specific content to buyers in the right place at the right time. This has the potential to nurture leads, convert them into sales, and drive retention.
B2B customer experience marketing involves identifying and understanding the various personas involved in decision-making, then creating content that appeals to them. Different decision-makers within business have differing behaviours, preferences, and priorities. It doesn’t help that the number of people involved in a B2B purchasing decision is growing. The key element here is not to simplify it. Creating a thorough B2B customer-centric marketing strategy takes time and effort.
“We predict that in 2020, the number of B2B marketing leaders who say that their companies are organized to support customer journeys will jump from 18% to 48%.” Caroline Robertson, Vice President, Research Director, Forrester.
Delivering B2B experience
We live in an era of great expectations, where customer-centricity and experience mean everything. B2B is no different, just more complex. We’re continually told that B2B buyers are the same individuals that shop on Amazon on their mobile phone every day.
With digital transformation focused around customer needs, clients can be the focal point of a business. This is the first thing digital-first firms and start-ups focus on, and is why they see success relatively quickly. One issue is that many people approach B2B buyers as companies, not people.
Don’t forget that business buyers now expect the same personalized customer experience from B2B eCommerce sites as they get from consumer-focused ones. The issue is that the B2B customer experience still lags behind other sectors and can often struggle for attention against other corporate priorities.
How the B2B customer experience is different to B2C:
- The buying journey is often much longer than a simple click-to-purchase.
- More people are involved in the buying decision and therefore the customer experience.
- B2B buyers are not companies, they are individuals that often make up a buying team.
The voice of the customer
VOC has been a very important tool for B2C for a long time. You just have to look at fashion or health and beauty to realize how customer reviews and user-generated content are driving some businesses, even whole business models.
The voice of the customer, via reviews, advice, ratings, and likes, is now becoming more important for B2B companies. In fact, one can argue that there’s even more reason for B2B companies to use VOC initiatives. B2B customers are risk-averse, take a longer time to purchase and sales involve groups of decision makers. Therefore, customer reviews can be crucial.
Personalization used to be the domain of consumer marketing only, not anymore. B2B clients appreciate personalization too. B2B buyers want offers that are tailored and focused on them. However, personalization needs to be focused on each particular business function in question. Each function has different needs, so prioritizing information that relates to each professional role is crucial, although this can take a lot of effort.
B2B content and experiences
If it’s all about the customer experience, then content is king – from blog posts and videos to case studies, even e-Books. Good B2B content focuses on solutions that address customers’ needs and help them achieve a positive business outcome. This means B2B storytelling is now more important. These aren’t strategies driving emotional exchanges with customers, but ones that create positive business-focused deliverables.
Creating engaging content is crucial of course, in that way it is no different to B2C. However, every sales cycle is different, which means the methods need to be customized according the target audience. The good thing is that if you get B2B content marketing right it can make the sales function a lot easier. It can also build trust.
Many companies fail to see the kind of results they want with B2B content marketing. Getting inside the mind of customers is crucial. B2B customers have completely different motivations and reasons to buy, and that should reflect in content marketing efforts.
Written by Richard Mathias, Senior Technology Architect at LiveArea.