Most business-to-business organizations have barely reached the starting gate of their digital transformation, much less the finish line, and getting there won’t happen overnight. A recent survey by Accenture Interactive found that while 90 percent of b-to-b sales executives now believe digitally-driven customer experience is crucial to their companies’ strategic priorities, most b-to-b marketers only feel on par with their competitors in what they deliver.
Organizations finding success in b-to-b marketing’s new wave will be those that invest in new partnerships, data-informed creative and cutting-edge mar tech, which deliver renewed brand value through personalized customer experiences at scale when orchestrated together.
To successfully embrace modern marketing’s new rules, b-to-b marketers should incorporate these actions into their next marketing life cycles.
Sync with your sales force
Digital transformation starts with executive buy-in and sales force collaboration. Well before digging into creative and execution, the first and biggest challenge b-to-b enterprises face is ensuring that sales and marketing teams align their success metrics. It’s the CMO’s task to lead the charge in fostering collaboration within his or her organization, along with instilling a customer-led culture that permeates all departments. But because salespeople sit at the last mile when it comes to converting sales of solution-based services, their input should be considered a non-negotiable requisite when planning all owned-media marketing activities. Silo these departments at your own risk.
Differentiate your value
Marketers benefit more when they can shine the spotlight on the value that their b-to-b brand delivers customers, with “value” (not feature or capability) being the operative word. Successfully cultivating this value-centric mind-set drives product innovation and elevates the importance of customer experience. It’ll also protect your solutions from being treated as commodities. In championing the delivery of value, b-to-b marketing ought to tell relatable human stories (a page from b-to-c marketing’s playbook) that describe how the brand helps current and prospective customers achieve specific goals. In this way, content strategies should offer engaging narratives that customers recognize as their own as well as detailed technical content that gives your prospects the confidence to pull the trigger on purchases.
To make the kind of impact that earns brands genuine purchase consideration, modern b-to-b marketing needs to deliver striking visuals, compelling and highly relevant content and absolutely stellar digital experiences. Marketing creativity isn’t just a nice to have for b-to-b prospects, it’s increasingly what they expect. In sharp contrast to one-off efforts and random acts of marketing that have—let’s be honest—been the norm across many b-to-b companies, modern b-to-b campaigns should extend to sales, channel partner materials and feature data-driven creativity, planning and coordination so that each element reinforces the whole. Customers’ interest ought to be buoyed by a steady flow of marketing experiences across a variety of media, from video to tools and calculators to intelligent CRM experiences, with each carrying them closer to the end of the purchase funnel.
Mine your data for opportunities
Even in our golden age of data, readily available (and hugely beneficial) data still isn’t mined, shared or leveraged widely enough across an organization. Threading together data across websites, ad servers, email platforms, CRM, social listening and content management systems will supply insights that inform and justify nearly all future initiatives and investments. B-to-b marketers need to go a step further in mining this data for opportunities to assist salespeople, call centers and other personnel integral to shaping customer experiences. Neglecting data in your new intra-departmental synchronicity will leave key opportunities for improvement untapped.
Architect for the long term
Make your current b-to-b marketecture decisions with future automation in mind by using analytics to help build your case for increasingly more robust CMS, CRM and related mission-critical tools. B-to-b marketers should adopt a test-and-learn process on existing platforms (web, CRM, etc.) to help guide incremental improvements to these channels today. Be sure to nurture support by educating influential and decision-making peers about the effectiveness of current efforts as well as the broader capabilities that will be provided by new infrastructure and staffing investments.
As b-to-b marketing takes a firmer hold of direct commerce and as b-to-c delves for deeper insights into areas like customer purchase history, the two are likely headed for a confluence with relatively little differentiation remaining. For now, though, b-to-b marketers have an outsized opportunity to get and leverage access to product, sales and customer touch point data to put them at the forefront of delivering creative, compelling and transformational b-to-b customer experiences that successfully spark and foster engagement.
Jason Michaels is managing director at Accenture Interactive.