B2B marketing is getting transformed and overhauled to be in sync with the digital world. The environment, technology, processes and buying behavior is changing at a very rapid pace. How does each of these changes driven by the ‘digital’ world impact your approach towards B2B marketing? We present a framework on how to think about this from our own experience of working with several B2B brands across the world.
3 changes affecting the B2B Marketing Process
Customers wait for longer time-periods and prefer to learn about potential vendors and suppliers on their own. Only when the consideration set has been reduced to merely 2 or 3, does the B2B buyer think of inviting them for a pitch or request them for proposals.
An estimate by the Corporate Executive Board suggests that nearly 60% of the diligence is complete through this “self – education” process prior to the first serious face to face meeting!
The implied question: How do you make an impression, without meeting your customer? We will try and answer this question further.
Gone are the days when one could get away by saying: “Marketing is upstream and sales is downstream” or better still, “Marketing is demand generation and sales is demand capture!” The overlap in the roles and responsibilities of sales and branding has significantly increased. Those generating demand digitally, are also facing customer questions on social platforms. Those in sales are now enhancing their own ‘Klout scores’ to become more effective. The line separating the two functions is getting blurry!
The implied question: Does the conventional organization structure separating the two functions still work? Or a more collaboration enabling horizontal structure works better in today’s digital world?
Decision making for B2B sales now involves many more people. This change has more to do with the way organizations of the 21st century function: meritocratic & factoring various opinions rather than going by what the “boss” says. The sales decision therefore may get influenced by multiple participants from the customer’s side. One may have a good rapport and relationship with the decision maker, but that need not be enough.
The implied question: How does one positively influence as many people involved in the decision making as possible?
We use the popular McKinsey Research’s sales cycle model to understand how all the above questions should be ideally dealt with using digital marketing. A combination of understanding the buyers and their buying behavior and usage of technologies available to us can make the B2B marketing effort significantly effective. We explore how at each of the stages of the consumer’s journey, how can digital marketing be used most appropriately and answer the implied questions from above.
TRIGGER: How can the first interest trigger be created using digital?
Building a B2B brand and keeping invested in its continuous enhancement is the short answer. The long answer is as follows:
Content led marketing which reaches the right audience is a sure way of creating the trigger. Ensure that sufficient budget has been allocated for digital marketing, in addition to the usual budgets you might have for travel, participation in expos and conferences. Linkedin, Twitter, Youtube and content published on your website can be the right platforms to use.
CONSIDERATION SET: The customer is evaluating you, but doesn’t want to meet you yet! What could you do?
Persistent follow-up, once considered to be an ingredient for success in sales, is falling out of favor. Boils down to the earlier point that the customer is reluctant to meet and would to like to learn more about your offerings on his/her own. Seems like a deadlock? Digital can help get inside the customer’s mind by tracking his/her browsing behavior on your website.
Knowledge about your consumer is the crux of winning the B2B marketing battle. Technology exists to help you understand:
This understanding of the buyer’s behavior and interest helps immensely and helps tailor to information being fed to him/her. Linkedin’s sales navigator as well as Leadbase, a technology we use, helps understand the buyer’s behavior on and off your website.
ACTIVE EVALUATION: The customer is deep in his/her evaluation. How do you sway the decision your way, steadily & non-intrusively
When the customer is deep in the evaluation stage, it is important to provide supporting data and information which reinforces their belief and trust in your brand. But, without being intrusive and annoying. Digital technologies allows one to do that. Use re-marketing, newsletters to provide the needed support to sway the decision your way!
Existing customers are gold dust! How do we keep engaging the existing customers? How can one ensure that “loyalty loop” is traversed by existing customers rather than the full buying cycle all over again?
Inviting customers to webinars where they share their experience (in using your solution). This is a great means to keep the existing customers in good humor. This helps build a stronger relationship and provides opportunities to discuss new opportunities, thereby breaking the typical sales process and directly moving to the active evaluation stage.
Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more. We’d be happy to share our experience on B2B digital marketing.