By Paul Mandeville, QuickPivot
Despite access to powerful marketing technology, B2B marketers continue to hamstring themselves when it comes to connecting with their customers — particularly in comparison to their B2C counterparts. While B2C companies and products maintain vibrant digital communities — fueled by content and conversations — B2B products are often conspicuously absent from these channels or focus heavily on pushing corporate messages that their buyers don’t care about.
By relying on these dated models and tactics to drive prospects down a marketing assembly line, B2B companies lose their humanity and ability to show today’s buyer that they are more than a corporate machine. By taking a lesson from B2C marketers, B2B companies stand to regain that personalized connection with their consumers and build life-long product advocates.
According to Marketing Sherpa, “a whopping 68% of B2B organizations have not identified their funnel.” Companies that don’t understand their consumers’ buying behaviors and patterns can’t possibly support and optimize the buying experience consistently across multiple channels.
B2B buyers are just as connected as B2C consumers, and even more invested in learning about how your solution will meet their needs and solve their problems. Sharing content that captivates and educates will win B2B customers who, like all consumers, need to trust sellers and feel understood. The days of B2B and B2C tactics being miles apart are over, but B2B also has to be aware of where and how the journeys diverge.
According to a McKinsey & Company study, B2B sellers talk past their customers, not to them. Striking data reveals that the majority of customers care about a company’s honest and open dialogue with their customers and society, while B2B brands believe that their global reach and sustainability practices are some of their most important characteristics.
It’s clear that B2B brands need to immerse themselves into the community of their potential clients, and clearly understand their value systems and needs. Given that we live in the age of big data and technological innovation, there is no longer an excuse for this limited view of the customer. We need to understand who our customers are, what they need and — equally as important — what they don’t need.
While you may not run out to revamp your Pinterest page or spend millions on a Super Bowl commercial, there are B2C tactics that make sense for B2B buyers. Some of the most important strategies to consider include:
- Educational content that validates their purchase;
- Transparent pricing;
- Freemium modeling;
- Easy purchase process;
- Rewards for customer advocates; and
- Unified, omnichannel experience, pre- and post-sale.
Note the strong focus on providing value to the customer over the brand. Close to 70% of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally, according to SiriusDecisions. With that understanding, B2B brands must master the delicate art of balance. This means stepping away from heavy branding and campaign-driven, knee-jerk reactions from overly eager sales reps. It means understanding the difference between a customer who is simply researching a product but not yet ready to buy, versus the one who wants to make a purchase but could use a timely, customized “in-the-moment” offer to close the deal. It also means closely following buyers’ journeys, being available, helpful and engaging — yet never overbearing or “creepy” — during the evaluation process, guiding them naturally to your doorstep.
All of this leads to the notion that B2B isn’t really about “Business to Business” anymore, but “Business to Buyer.” Think about it this way: an executive assessing a new analytics platform one day also has to order birthday presents for her kids on Amazon.com the next. Yet her heightened expectations around access to information, customer service and transparency are the same regardless of what she is shopping for.
At the end of the day, we’re all consumers. B2B brands must keep the human element at the forefront of their strategy, focusing on truly connecting rather than simply communicating. Many B2B companies already have the technology and channels available to them to facilitate this critical engagement piece; and if they are nimble enough to amend old-school processes, they will reap the benefits B2C companies have enjoyed for years.
Paul Mandeville is the Chief Product Officer for QuickPivot, a provider of real-time cross-channel marketing automation technology and services. Mandeville has been an innovator and entrepreneur in the marketing automation technology industry for over 15 years. Prior to QuickPivot, Mandeville served as the Chief Operating Officer of Conversen, a cross-channel marketing technology start-up.