How to Meet the Demands of Today’s B2B Buyer
Is your marketing and sales process customer-centric?
Your prospective buyers choose to do business with brands they trust and find inspiration in. Outstanding content and service experiences are essential to building and keeping their trust and loyalty.
Customer-centricity means putting your customer first and at the center of your business. This more empathetic approach to business involves developing a deep, iterative understanding of target customers for more personalized experiences and meaningful relationship building.
For many B2B businesses, this can be a challenging shift in how to operate. Traditional B2B marketing is focused on lead generation. By contract, a customer-focused demand generation program places emphasis on generating deep customer insights and educating them, even if it doesn’t result in immediate sales.
Demand Generation Checklist
10 steps to growing your service business using a customer-centric approach to demand generation.
Why You Need to Be Customer-Centric
Here are three of the biggest reasons why your business needs to be customer centric.
#1. Customers Set the Standard.
Most businesses don’t realize that customers actually define the brand experience, through their own unique expectations and perceptions. This leads to a big gap in what businesses ‘assume’ what customers expect, vs. reality.
Customer experiences are inherently unique to each individual, and each person has his/her own attitudes and specific needs that shape their perceptions and behaviors in doing business with you. This is true for B2B as well as consumer brands. And the standard is continually being raised by digital innovation and expanded choice.
#2. Relationship Building Relies on Customer Knowledge.
Most B2B businesses are built on relationships, developed over long sales processes. This requires automation and activation of customer knowledge across the full marketing and sales funnel and service experience using marketing automation, CRM and data intelligence.
#3. Customer-Centricity Makes Good Business Sense.
Being customer obsessed isn’t just about being nice, it’s also smart business strategy. Research by Deloitte found that customer-centric companies were 60% more profitable compared to companies that were not. And 86% of customers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience. (CEI Survey).
No competitor can truly replicate your unique brand experience. And, if the experience is outstanding, customers will reward you with more business. Thus, a better experience is a reliable source of durable competitive advantage and return on investment.
B2B buyer expectations and demands have rapidly evolved in recent years. And over two-thirds of the buyer’s journey is primarily completed in digital channels motivated by distrust of ads and powered by an abundance of online choice and information.
Your potential clients don’t want to be sold. They want to find answers to their questions easily, immediately and on their terms. They want to be listened to, helped and appreciated. They expect a personalized approach to professionals services that caters to their unique needs and challenges.
Here are a some statistics that demonstrate the dramatic change in how prospective B2B clients will find and choose you:
- 93% of B2B buying processes begin with an online search (HubSpot)
- 80% of business decision-makers prefer to get company information in a series of articles versus an advertisement (Content Marketing Institute)
- B2B researchers do 12 searches on average prior to engaging on a specific brand’s site (Google).
- 96% of B2B buyers want content with more input from industry thought leaders (Demand Gen Report).
- Only 2 percent of cold calls result in an appointment (DuctTape Marketing)
The Connection Between Brand and Customer Experience
Your brand is built upon a promise to deliver on your company’s stated mission and goals, which translates into a particular value proposition for the customer. Your brand expresses to the market what prospects and clients can expect from your services.
Ideally, it fulfills (even exceeds) the expectations they bring, even before the relationship begins. The promise – and your delivery on that promise — differentiates you from the alternatives. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be.
When the promise is met or exceeded, the result is positive experiences, and growth in revenue and brand affinity. So, in short, the connection between brand and experience is in ‘meaning what you say’ because you are delivering on what is promised, as a brand.
How to Meet the Demands of Today’s B2B Buyer
Modern B2B buyers demand brand experiences that match to their unique needs, on their own terms. Modern business decision makers are much more willing now that before to conduct their own research.
This means being able to discover and connect with brands digitally and easily finding guidance and inspiration to make them more successful. And, they are consumers too, which means they expect and appreciate intuitive, personalized experiences, across digital and physical touchpoints.
Begin by Understanding Their Journey
Generally, there are two methods of collecting data and generating insights in order to better understand your prospective and current customers.
The Quantitative Method: Digital Analytics
When we say data, most people gravitate to digital analytics, i.e. your website, CRM, and other digital analytics data reporting. And it’s true, these can be a valuable source of insights about how people find you, and what kinds of content they most respond to.
While digital analytics are great for determining the ‘what’, ‘where’, ‘when’ and ‘how’, quantitative analytics methods usually fall short on explaining ‘why’ people do what they do. Clicks just cannot explain a person’s motivation and intent, and doesn’t provide a lot of context about their emotional drivers of behavior. Remember that much of the B2B sales process is already completed before the first generation of digital analytics, because your buyers are doing a lot of formative research before their first interaction with your brand.
This is why you need to examine their full journey of discovering solutions, all the way to becoming a repeat and loyal customer. Getting at this level of insight requires the next step, which we call qualitative, voice of customer research.
The Qualitative Method: Voice of Customer Research
To truly get to know your target customer, you have to talk to them and dive deeper into the path that leads them to discovering and doing business with your brand.
Key to this approach is trying to see the world as your customers using an empathic approach. This is a great first step to better orient your service experience around customer needs and expectations.
Two popular ways of organizing your customer research into an actionable format are personas and journey maps.
Personas are a collection of insights organized around a specific person (usually a fictional person) that models your target customer. Personas can reveal valuable insights about your prospects’ decision process — the specific attitudes, concerns and criteria that drive them to choose you, your competitor or the status quo.
These findings help to improve your positioning and messaging for your content marketing and sales enablement approach, so they align with your customer’s expectations.
Map Their Journey
Journey mapping is a great method to structure and communicate your understanding in a visual way. A journey map is a visual storyboard of your ideal client’s relationship with your business, from their point of view.
It starts with key moments that trigger a need or recognition of a problem to solve, then progresses through engaging with your brand. If done well, journey maps uncover powerful insights into the motivations and attitudes of the people that make up your target market, that you can use to build better offerings and marketing strategies.
For growth strategies to work well, you have to focus on optimizing for buyer behaviors, decisions and touchpoints that drive conversions. It’s about delivering information that helps prospects solve problems, make better decisions, removing friction in services.
Combine Data Analytics With Voice of Customer
Hopefully, your customer research will generate a lot of detail. You’ll want to synthesize and summarize all of this into actionable insights that you can use for business decisions. This makes it easier to pull out the most salient points that will inform the design of all your customer facing business activities, including marketing, sales and service processes.
And, you’ll want to combine the quantitative and qualitative insights in a way so they can reinforce one another. For instance, starting with digital analytics can uncover clues that can lead to a hypothesis that can be further explored and tested by talking to customers. On the other hand, a new solution test that is informed from persona and journey research can be verified through digital analytics post launch.
Buyer Research Helps to Determine:
- Which messaging will garner the best response
- Which channels are likely to reach the most potential customers
- Tone and type most effective for writing compelling content
- The calls to action that will generate the best response rate
- Knowledge to make your marketing and sales more efficient.
Do These Things to be More Customer-Centric
Know what your brand is. It is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from your competitors. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be.
Know and listen to your customer. This goes well beyond just conducting satisfaction surveys and monitoring Net Promoter score. Listening to your customer means asking them what they think–and why. Then acting on it. It is about helping the customer- informing, educating, guiding the customer to make the best, most informed decisions. To do that well, you have to understand and study their journey and pain points.
Define a customer experience strategy. Customer experience strategy flows from your company’s business and brand strategy. Just as brand strategy creates (and manages) customer expectations of a brand, your customer experience strategy is your plan to meet or exceed those expectations. Develop objectives that balance customer and company goals. Measure KPIs that matter to customers, as well as the company. Develop a plan to competitively differentiate based on outstanding experiences that not just satisfy but delight and wow customers.
Make customers part of the solution. How often do you involve customers in key business decisions? Consider getting their point-of-view as you develop new services or make other changes to your business. After all, most of these changes will probably affect customers, so it makes sense to proactively ensure your actions will match with what they would expect.
Measure what matters to customers. Enable all key touchpoints and underlying people, technology and processes to listen and learn from customers. Set KPIs and measure them to enhance the journey and service touchpoints.
Empower and reward employees to improve the customer experience. Employees are a huge source of insight about customers and internal operations and can quickly improve customer experience through one-on-one interactions and behind-the-scenes decision-making. Empower employees to make the decisions required to meet those customer needs. Reward them based on meeting the needs of customers.
We Can Help
At Bevelroom Consulting, we believe a customer-centric approach is essential for growth because thoughtful experience design is essential for differentiation and advantage in increasingly competitive and disruptive markets.
Our approach to marketing brings in a healthy dose of customer-centricity and design thinking that optimizes for both the customer experience and business outcomes. It starts with the customer and the journeys they follow in discovering and doing business with you.
We combine research methods such as buyer personas and journey mapping with process optimization, prototyping and experiments to design and build better marketing, sales and service experiences.
Rewiring a company to provide leading customer experiences is a journey in itself, and we have 15+ years of experience guiding businesses through this transformation.
We’ll work together to create intuitive and desirable digital experiences that seamlessly integrate the entire journey, not just marketing. Ultimately, it’s about making your business the most preferred not just because you’re the best at what you do, but also because you offer the best experience.
If you want help making your company more customer-centric, get in touch!