We are in the age of the customer. Consumers are now far more in control of their relationships with businesses than ever before as digital has revolutionised how we interact with the world and each other.
Even our B2B customers are starting to behave more like consumers, searching out information online and on social media to inform their decision-making.
They also have higher expectations of what their marketing experience should be. The challenge for marketers is to improve the experience when the needs of traditional B2B segments are evolving, decision-making and product set are often complex, and they have to deliver growth from often unpredictable digital marketing efforts.
So what should a B2B marketing experience look like? Firstly, it has to be data-driven to bring together and understand customer interaction – whether online, social or offline – to identify and anticipate needs.
It has to be personal, as B2B buyers want to be treated as individuals as per their consumer experience. It also has to be consistent, creating positive and relevant customer experiences across all channels and touchpoints to win the trust and confidence that B2B buyers need for a long-term relationship with a supplier.
But most importantly, it should be customer-centric. You need to look at all the points of interaction from the customer’s point of view, not from an internal point view with the associated limitations.
According to a survey by Squiz, 41% of B2B marketers admit their organisation is not customer-centric but 83% of B2B marketers recognise that customer-centricity is “very important”.
So how can you move away from the organisational perspective and develop a more customer-centric mindset?
1. Interview your customers
Gather as much information as you can about your customers and listen to them. Identify the key stakeholders and create buyer personas to pinpoint their motivations and needs.
It may sound obvious but 50% of B2B brands admitted they don't have buyer personas in place.
2. Map the customer journey
Research from B2B Marketing revealed only 38% of marketers consider their content marketing efforts to be ‘very customer-centric’. It’s important to understand how and where your customers interact with you – particularly in B2B where the process is complex and you interact with different people at different points in the process.
Who is where in the buying cycle and what are their needs and expectations? Focus on acquisition as much as advocacy.
3. Develop a scorecard
Your customer experience is different from your customer journey. Just because the journey is easy doesn’t mean it will be good.
Again, it might sound obvious but if you don’t define what a good experience is, how will you know you are delivering it?
Measurement is also important and you’ll need to decide how to score your interactions. There are many ways to do this, some of the most popular are Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Effort Score (CES) and Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT), (CHI) Customer happiness index. Measure the softer aspects as well as the hard metrics such as what the customer is thinking & feeling.
4. Plan your content as an experience
Map content to the customer journey and make sure it surpasses their needs at every stage. The Content Marketing Institute Benchmark Survey found that fewer B2B marketers have a documented content marketing strategy in 2016 compared with last year (32% vs. 35%), even though the research consistently shows that those who document their strategy are more effective in nearly all areas of content marketing.
5. Ensure you have the right data foundations
You need to create a 360-degree view of your customers to see all their actions and understand their intent.
If they have given you information on the website, talked to someone at an event and had some interaction on social media, you need to know this to provide the right information at the right time. Bringing different sources of customer data together will help you make informed and consistent decisions about how to engage with them.
6. Put your customer at the heart of decisions
Customers need to be at the centre of every decision at every point. Use the data and insight you learn from your customers and how they interact with your content to inform decision-making and align everyone’s priorities, responsibilities and objectives with customer needs.
While B2B marketing has some way to go to catch up with the customer experiences its B2C colleagues offer, swift progress is urgently needed.
Putting yourself in the mindset of the customer, engaging with them and using relevant content to develop your marketing strategy will go a long way to improving the B2B marketing experience.
The inherent challenges of B2B marketing mean this won’t be easy but the rewards are there to be taken. Forrester’s Age of the Customer research predicts that the gap between customer-obsessed leaders and laggards will widen considerably in 2016 and many of the laggards will start to fail.
- Customer experience in B2B marketing is becoming as important as in B2C marketing.
- A B2B marketing experience involves data-driven, consistent and personal interactions that are focused around the customer.
- Developing relevant content that addresses the needs of your customers at each stage of the customer journey will improve the B2B marketing experience.
- This year will see customer-led organisations widen the gap between those not implementing operational change centred around the customer experience.
Discover how a thriving B2B community can prove substantial ROI for CMOs and inbound marketing activities.