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B2B Marketing Enters the Customer Experience Era

How the B2B sector is using a B2C-inspired approach to CX

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Kindra Cooper

Image: Diggity Marketing

Marketing to B2B buyers is an entirely different ballgame than wooing individual consumers. Business procurements are driven by return on investment, while people purchase goods and services based mainly on emotional incentives.

In spite of this divergence, B2B marketers are taking cues from the B2C playbook to provide more personalized, data-driven interactions for their customers.  

Here are four major trends shaping B2B marketing, according to the 2020 Data-Driven Marketing and Advertising Outlook by Dun & Bradstreet. 

1. CX has become critical for B2B marketers 

More than 80 percent of B2B marketers said delivering consistent CX across online and real-world channels is extremely or very important. In fact, almost 90 percent feel that B2B organizations need to focus on the customer experience as much as their B2C counterparts. However, in order to provide a true experience, organizations need to adopt a data-driven approach to understand customer behavior, and anticipate unvoiced needs and pain points throughout the buying journey. 

Sean Crowley Dun & Bradstreet“A lack of data is not the biggest barrier, it’s: how do I identify the right customer touchpoints I want to influence,” Sean Crowley, leader of integrated marketing for sales and marketing solutions at Dun & Bradstreet, said in a webinar hosted by AdWeek to discuss findings from the report. 

While CRM systems are highly effective at collecting data, they lack the measurement and analytics tools organizations need to extract and interpret their data. 

Read more: 4 Innovative Ways Prudential Uses Big Data for Customer Centricity

Account-based marketing remains a critical approach for B2B marketers to use data as a competitive advantage, helping them understand complex B2B buyer journeys. Traditionally, B2B marketers used lead generation marketing to reach as many companies as possible in their target market. ABM takes a more personalized approach by prioritizing high-value accounts and communicating with stakeholders in those accounts in a personalized manner. 

At LinkedIn, for instance, the customer success and sales teams work together to triage their accounts according to those that prefer a high-touch experience versus those that are more hands-off, basing their communications entirely on the customer’s preferences. 

2. B2B companies are using B2C-type strategies to reach their customers

B2B advertisers have made digital marketing a critical part of their toolkit. According to eMarketer, B2B digital ad spend has increased $1 billion per year since 2017 and is forecast to hit $6.08 billion in 2019, up 18.7 percent. 

Content marketing is an important part of B2B marketing; it’s how companies educate consumers on the use cases for their product or solution, share success stories and case studies, and impart best practices through tutorials and knowledge bases. It’s key to establishing the business’s credibility as a solution provider at the start of the purchase funnel and for retaining customers by providing them with resources to optimize the solution or service they purchased.

Read more: How Does Google Market Google? By Putting Customer Data at the Forefront

While B2C companies often spend money on gimmicky ads, experiential retail and giveaways designed to drive brand awareness and appeal to people’s emotions, B2B buyers consider vastly different criteria. Business procurements are based on everything from specific product requirements to price, payment terms to logistics and legal considerations.

“Seventy-eight percent of decisions in B2B companies are typically made with three or more people involved,” said Crowley. 

In B2B Saas companies, the decisioning process usually involves eight or more people. B2B buyers want their vendors to anticipate their needs, make relevant suggestions and deliver the right level of engagement across the entire buying journey. 

3. B2B companies don’t know how to leverage their data 

Companies have more data than ever before, but they’re frustrated by their inability to access and activate that data to create personalized experiences that will give them a competitive advantage. Often, it’s because data lives in disparate enterprise systems that don’t talk to each other. 

“We need to break down these silos of information that exist across the different technologies, whether it be your CRM system, your marketing automation, data management and social media platforms,” said Crowley.

Without a cohesive data marketing strategy, or what Crowley calls “data governance” it’s impossible for a business to build a 360-degree view of its customers. 

“You need a unique identifier across these different businesses so you can aggregate that data, run analytics on top of it and gain the insights you really need in order to drive an effective strategy.” 

4. Selecting the right tools to tap the power of data

While most organizations have a CRM system in place to store and organize their data, fewer use tools like a consumer data platform (CDP) or data management platform (DMP) to unlock the value of their data. CDP are used for online and offline omnichannel activation, while DMPs are generally for digital activation. However, a good proportion of companies have invested in both. Last year, 45 percent of respondents said they use a CDP; this year it’s 54 percent. Meanwhile, the percentage of companies using DMPs went from 52 percent to 59 percent.

Rich analytics provide insights into customer behavior and provide the insights brands need to refine their personalization efforts across service, sales and marketing. 


Image: Diggity Marketing