B2B Personalization Strategies Pivoting As Buyers Require Confidence, Consensus

Published: September 18, 2019

As B2B companies continue to develop their personalization strategies to ensure content is relevant and contextual, they are also beginning to understand that opportunities with confident buyers lead to closed business. Therefore, leading companies such as Phononic and ExtraHop Networks are using personalization strategies as a confidence builder versus a relevance builder to ease buying decisions for their customers.

Research from Gartner shows that 89% of B2B buyers agree that the information they encountered as part of their purchase decision was generally of high quality.

While this is a clear sign that B2B businesses are making headway providing relevant information for their prospective customers, it can also be a double-edged sword. Half (50%) of respondents from that same Gartner survey also said that the amount of trustworthy information they encountered during the purchase decision was overwhelming.

“The problem is that, in many ways, personalization in the B2B space is a bit of a red herring,” said Brent Adamson, Principal Executive Advisor at Gartner, during an interview with Demand Gen Report. “What we’re finding in our research is that, the better you get at [personalization], the more potential damage you can do. Marketers have never before been equipped as well as they are today to do more personalization than they have in the past, so the potential for harm here is higher than it’s ever been.”

Get the latest B2B Marketing News & Trends delivered directly to your inbox!

Adamson continued by elaborating how the shift to buying committees in B2B purchases also increases the potential for personalization tactics to do more harm than good.

“The need for consensus creates serious troubles for personalization when done incorrectly,” Adamson said. “Each [stakeholder] has a different role, different priorities, different way of keeping the company’s best interest in mind. That’s an overwhelming odd; and even if you could do it, they are struggling on creating a single vision. In many ways, sellers are exacerbating instead of helping them.”

To combat this, progressive B2B organizations are looking to utilize personalization strategies that ultimately help their buyers reach that consensus and build confidence. Along with this, companies are also looking to build stronger partnerships with their current customer base, as well as indirect sellers, to ensure they have a complete understanding of their buyers’ needs to make a confident purchase decision.

“A lot of people still don’t really know their customers,” said Anna Hrach, Strategist at Convince & Convert. “They don’t genuinely know who they are and are just generalizing. B2B sellers need to know what their buyers value, what they want and how they want to communicate.”

Information Overload Leads To Focus On Building Buyer Confidence

Experts agreed that it is now vital for B2B sellers to promote consensus within buying committees to streamline purchase decisions.

“Sellers must help connect all the stakeholders together,” Adamson said. “The challenge is having them buy together. Sellers must equip buyers to have that internal conversation and connect the buying committee together to reach a consensus.”

With the aforementioned research from Gartner signaling that the majority of buyers find the content they consume to be trustworthy, industry thought leaders noted that it has become crucial for sellers to use personalization tactics to build buyers’ confidence in their purchase decision.

“When I talk to people about this, I use the term empathy, and not personalization,” said Mike Rabbior, Chief Strategist for the Commerce practice at Perficient Digital. “It’s not only about targeting that individual, or even that individuals’ organization. It’s really about understanding them and being empathetic to exactly who they are, what they are and what they’re trying to accomplish.”

For example, the solid-state cooling solutions company Phononic recently won a B2B Innovator Award for their ability to build an ABM framework to target key stakeholders with personalized messages based on predictive modeling, firmographic, behavioral, intent and contact data. Once the company identifies a stakeholder’s role in the buying committee, specific messaging and emotional plays are created to drive deeper engagement. The company has been able to achieve win-rates as high as 100% within a year and has delivered dramatic improvements in both pipeline and revenue contribution.

Experts agreed that, along with content and experiences that provide relevant and contextual information that they need, B2B companies should look to content that helps them understand their buyers’ specific needs. This includes tools such as calculators, diagnostics, digital assessments and more.

“It comes down to buyer enablement,” Adamson said. “How can we not just create information, but create information that will help them make progress? Sellers must help buyers structure all this information.”

Hrach also noted that, to get to a point where you’re having personalized conversations that build buyer confidence, its important to build stronger relationships with current customers and move beyond gut-check assumptions.

“It’s important to conduct an in-depth discovery process of the tech you have, the data you have, the budget you have, what will provide value for the organization and its potential customers,” Hrach said. “It always goes back to really understanding your audience. Everything you do is designed to inform them, build their confidence.”

Hrach highlighted a list of open-ended questions that are great to ask customers and open them up:

  • What’s it like to be our customer? This helps ensure customer satisfaction and understand whether the customer’s needs are truly met.
  • What steps did you take to become a customer? This helps detail the path to purchase and understand what needs to happen to move to the next step.
  • Did you explore other offerings/companies? This helps uncover how competitors are engaging prospects and helps identify messaging gaps.
  • What made you choose us and why? This helps uncover specifically what’s working — and what’s not — with messaging and personalization tactics.

“Something really funny happens when marketers get into a room,” Hrach said. “We need to step into the customer’s shoes and understand what is helpful and beneficial for our customers.”

Leveraging Your Indirect Sellers, Product Teams To Understand Buying Needs

Along with ensuring consistent communication is happening with customers, experts also agreed that it has become more important to have deeper conversations with teams and departments that have a more hands-on relationship with buyers. This leads to a more holistic view of what customers need to reach a consensus.

“If you have a distributor, for example, chances are that you know that distributor really well,” Rabbior said. “While you may not know their processes, you know that they have a phenomenal understanding of the customer that they can share.”

While indirect channel partners are a great resource, experts noted that other internal departments — such as customer success and product marketing teams — can also provide a different perspective on the customer journey. ExtraHop Networks, who recently won a B2B Innovator Award for their initiatives, works cross-functionally to ensure ABM campaigns are being used in new, unique ways. Specifically, the company’s ABM leaders worked with its product marketing team to determine different content that would resonate with accounts at each buying stage. The approach has seen an increase in all key metrics for the company, including an engagement boost with content.

Ultimately, including indirect sellers and customer-facing departments in internal conversations around personalization better positions brands to gain a third-party perspective of how buyers buy and what they need to make a confident decision.

“For the most successful programs that I’ve seen, the first step is inviting those dealers — those handful of trusted distribution companies that you have pretty intimate relationships with — into some of the first-round innovation conversations,” Rabbior said. “Get their input on how you would do things differently and understand that curating the ecosystem is probably the easiest, most fruitful way to get started.”

B2B Marketing Exchange
B2B Marketing Exchange East
Campaign Optimization Series
Buyer Insights & Intelligence Series
Strategy & Planning Series