B2B marketing isn’t just about helping sales get a foot in the door anymore.
B2B customers want more than product features and bundled services – they’re demanding engaging, personalized human experiences. Designing a B2B sales experience that lives up to their expectations requires addressing both their business and emotional needs.
As the battle for attention and loyalty intensifies, marketing, sales and services will need to work in parallel and operate seamlessly to reimagine interactions and deliver on a differentiated human experience. To do this, CMOs must develop new capabilities and leverage data to target, craft, and deliver not only messaging, but also orchestrate moments that matter.
What’s behind the shift?
Business customers are heavily influenced by their experiences as consumers. B2C has led the way with mobile, omnichannel, data access, peer reviews and on-demand support. These consumers, many of whom are younger professionals, now seek the same experiences in their business interactions.
To complicate matters, business problems are now technology problems, and the solution choices can be overwhelming. Customers seek the confidence and security to make the right buying decision – and quickly. There are more decision makers involved in the buying decision too. New business models (e.g., flexible consumption) and the prevalence of connected ecosystems require end users to adopt selected solutions fast, leaving little time for trial-and-error.
Here are four things to consider as you work to design better human experiences for B2B customers:
1. Create a frictionless, personalized buying process
Three-quarters of business buyers expect companies to anticipate their needs, make relevant suggestions, and deliver the right level of engagement across the buying journey. To achieve deeper insight into customer needs, organizations can invest in analytics and predictive data science models.
Customers expect streamlined, digitally enabled transactions too. Marketers need to consider how the right mix of customer-facing digital tools, roles, and partnerships can deliver end-to-end interactions and experiences. To identify critical touchpoints, carefully map and design the customer journey, and then continuously evolve it to reflect customer feedback. For example, a technology hardware company created personalized B2B web stores enabling their customers’ end-users to make purchases directly.
2. Focus on delivering successful outcomes
Buyers want to feel secure in their purchase decisions and see value at every step of the way, from identifying root causes of problems to understanding how to successfully implement and adopt new solutions. This might require contract terms that align to customer outcomes, or investments in post-sales customer success and enablement. For example, some B2B customers ask for a portion of fees to be contingent upon specific outcomes after installation and execution of the solution.
3. Build trustworthy partnerships
It’s not enough for sellers to stand behind their products. They need to become partners in ensuring success for the individual buyer and the organization. New skills are needed to deliver on promises and build trust across multiple vendors, functions, processes and technologies. Tracking customers’ success is one way to help them maximize the value of their investment. At one international logistics company, innovation centers bring customers together with their supply chain partners to share ideas and create new solutions together.
4. Continue messaging and influencing beyond the sale
Buyers are held accountable by their organizations for the outcomes of their decisions, so sellers must help them create and deliver end-user experiences that drive adoption and value. This means staying engaged well beyond the sale. Cloud companies have historically invested in a customer success function, professional service organizations, and third-party partnerships to help their customers implement their solutions and ensure value is created through end user adoption. Other sectors are now adopting this approach.
Creating a human experience in the B2B environment poses several new challenges, but it also presents opportunities. There are new tools, technologies, and techniques available that offer ways to increase reach, decrease cost, and drive differentiated experiences.
As you formulate strategies for the next three to five years, start by asking the hard questions. How well do you understand the buyer journey? What are the critical moments in this journey? And how can you as a marketer deliver the experiences sellers need at those critical moments? Answering these questions provides insight for crafting a B2B experience that’s human-centered and future-ready.