Today’s consumers control their own experience with your brand—not the other way around, and that’s as true of B2B customers as it is B2C ones. There are more touch points, more complexities, and more options than ever before, and prospects seek, find, and consume information differently. As a marketer, the challenges are many, so how do you find success with B2B marketing? The answer is: There is no answer. There is no one-size-fits-all blueprint for B2B digital marketing success. But one thing matters more than anything—customer experience. When you understand the role customer experience plays in B2B marketing success, and build your marketing strategy on a foundation focused on customer experience, you’re going to find that success you seek.
The Challenges for B2B Marketers
Today’s B2B buyers are a different breed altogether. They’re smart, they’re plugged in, they are busier than ever before, and they have high expectations of their experiences with your brand. They want information and they know how to find it. What they don’t want? They don’t want to be sold to before they are ready to buy. And if you try to push that, sell to them before they’re ready, chances are good you won’t get an opportunity when they are ready. Here are five tactics marketers can embrace that will not only help create better customer experiences—for both prospects and customers, but will also ultimately lead to more sales.
Five Tactics for Creating Better B2B Customer Experiences
- Connect offline and online
With all the focus on digital these days, it’s easy for marketers to overlook traditional marketing tactics—like direct mail. Sending your team to trade shows or submitting to speak at conferences are also “offline” marketing activities. Far too often brands invest thousands of dollars in having a presence at a trade show and/or send a key team member off to speak at a conference, and completely fail to leverage that.
How do you leverage those things? By having up-to-date LinkedIn profiles for your team members, blog posts on relevant topics bylined by those team members featured on the corporate blog, and using email campaigns pre- and post-event to connect with customers and prospects and work to deepen those relationships. All of these things are ways marketers can connect what they (and their team) are doing offline to what they are doing online. It’s relatively easy, but far too often these things are overlooked.
Business cards are, for many of us, passé. When we meet someone at a trade show or a conference, we head straight to LinkedIn to check them out. When that happens with your team, what do prospective buyers find?
- SERVE them in the buying process instead of selling them
Every day we work with B2B clients developing cost-per-lead campaigns, putting on webinars, or developing email campaigns that feature downloadable assets. In almost every instance, the marketing (and sales team) is interested in just one thing: leads they can immediately call and expect a purchase from. We get that. Leads are important. But what most aren’t taking into consideration, no matter how much we talk about this, converting leads takes patience, and time. Expecting a prospect to move from “random prospect” to “ready to buy” because of an action like a webinar registration or the downloading of a whitepaper is both not only incredibly selfish, it’s incredibly short sighted. In about 95% of situations, those actions, that accessing of information offered up to a prospect, does not mean “I want to buy today.” Yet all too often, the minute that asset is accessed or downloaded, the marketing team considers that action on the part of a prospect a “hot lead” and delivers contact information to the sales team. Phone calls immediately happen. Calls to improperly qualified “prospects” are either not answered at all or answered result in an irritated prospect and a lost opportunity for the sales team.
When B2B marketers (and sales teams) can step back and embrace the act of serving prospective customers in their respective buying journeys, nurturing leads along instead of rushing in for a sale, you’ll find your efforts deliver infinitely better results. It’s easy to understand if you try—nobody wants to be sold to. But when you give buyers the information they need, when and where they need it, and understand they’ve got a problem that they’re looking for a solution for that’s step one. Also recognizing that they want to buy from someone they can trust and with whom they have developed a relationship, chances are good that’s a deal that’s going to close. But that is not going to happen overnight. So let’s quit acting like it should.
- Don’t underestimate the importance of thought leadership and subject matter experts
Many B2B companies, of all sizes, are completely overlooking the importance of developing a reputation for thought leadership for their company’s senior executives and the value that subject matter experts brings to a B2B buyer’s journey. Here’s the thing: The messaging on your website isn’t enough, and chances are good it’s way too brand-focused and sales-y to convince a prospect to buy from you.
When you invest in positioning your company’s executives as thought leaders on topics that are relevant to your prospective customer base, and position your business development team as subject matter experts in their respective areas of focus, you’re marketing your company and the expertise of your team in a manner that can be incredibly effective.
Don’t believe me? Take a minute here and go visit the LinkedIn profiles of your top three salespeople. Do those profiles read like they are job hunters or problem solvers? Do they say things like “top producer, and great sales person” or do they highlight successes they’ve had for clients and results they’ve delivered? Look at the LinkedIn profiles of your company’s senior leaders? How do they read? Is what you see there enough to convince you they are thought leaders on topics relevant to your company’s prospective customer base?
Is there content on your corporate blog bylined by any of these individuals? Are they contributing to any relevant industry publications that might showcase how they think, how they approach problems, or the solutions they can be counted on to deliver? If not, you’ve got the beginnings of your 2018 marketing strategy right there.
- Don’t ignore social media
You may not be a Facebook user, but chances are good your prospective customers are. You might think LinkedIn and Twitter are stupid, but chances are good your prospective customers don’t. Social media channels are where people, including B2B buyers (many of whom are Millennials, btw), go to find information and resources they need. B2B brands are very successfully using Facebook and delivering highly targeted ads that convert. LinkedIn and Twitter both offer paid advertising solutions that are also being successfully used by many B2B brands.
Social media channels are where your company can be sharing content that’s relevant to prospective buyers’ needs and finding and connecting with those prospects. Social media channels are where prospective buyers can see your team talking and engaging with other customers, answering their questions and providing value. Social media channels are where your thought leaders and subject matter experts can shine. It’s where they can, with a modicum of effort, establish themselves as individuals who have their respective fingers on the pulse of the industries in which your company operates as well as possessed of a keen understanding of prospective customers pain points and relevant solutions. Think social media doesn’t play a role in delivering great customer experience? You’re wrong.
- Don’t forget your customers after the sale
Last but not least, after the sale is perhaps one of the most important times to deepen relationships with your B2B buyers and to deliver the very best in customer experience. Don’t ignore them after they buy from you—serve them even more. Nurture them with email campaigns designed to provide information on industry trends, business insights and resources that might be valuable to them. The old adage that an existing customer is ten times more valuable than a new one remains true and it’s the very personification of exemplary customer experience. Happy customers tell others about how happy they are. These brand advocates are not only your best source of “advertising” they are also a customer base likely to buy additional products or services from you. Making their customer experience as amazing after the sale as it is before the sale is tremendously important.
B2B marketing success is what we’re all looking for, and understanding the important role customer experience plays is how to accomplish that. Connecting offline and online marketing efforts, establishing a reputation for thought leadership and subject matter expertise, serving not selling, integrating social media into your sales and customer service processes, and remembering that post-sale relationships are just as important as pre-sale ones is how today’s successful B2B marketers make that happen. What did I miss?
Other Resources on this Topic:
- MarTech Role Finally Recognized as a Real Job - April 2, 2019
- Why Podcasts Rule as Part of Your Content Marketing Strategies - March 18, 2019
- B2B Buyers Are Bored to Death with Your Marketing Speak - March 12, 2019