Create Outstanding B2B Journeys That Generate Real Business Value / ROI [With Examples and Checklist]
As we’ve said before, it’s time for a more customer-centric approach in B2B.
B2B is so important to creating business value in today’s global economy. Yet so many B2B companies still fail in meeting business goals and customer expectations.
Here’s the thing about customer centricity that gets lost in strategy: being customer-centric is a tremendous source of competitive advantage.
- Your competitors can never know as much about your customers as you do.
- Your clients value relationships, not transactions. And building profitable long-term relationships requires customer intelligence.
- B2B buyers expect outstanding experiences from their providers, just as they do from consumer brands.
- Since most B2B businesses aren’t meeting customer expectations, a customer-centric approach presents even more opportunity.
The more you know about your customers, the better you can deliver awesome experiences and build lasting, profitable relationships.
Businesses that embrace a more customer-centric approach to everything they do have a significant competitive advantage that is hard to replicate. No competitor can truly replicate your unique brand experience. And if the experience is outstanding, customers will reward you with more business. It’s that simple.
One of the most important elements of a customer-centric B2B business strategy is maximizing the potential of your customer’s journey.
Through a strategic and well-implemented customer journey, B2B businesses can build a robust client base, fostering relationships that are not just transactional but collaborative and advocating, nurturing long-term partnerships that contribute to sustained business growth.
In this guide, we explore how a B2B business can tap into the full potential of a customer-centric strategy using mostly existing company resources – without added promotional spend – to generate durable financial gains and sizable return on investment.
We also provide examples for each stage of the journey — and a mini-case study with financial calculations.
Let’s get started!
The Benefits of a Customer-Centric Strategy in B2B
Being customer centric is a smart business strategy and evidence is mounting that shows this.
Forrester Research, who has been tracking ‘customer obsession’ trends for several years, recently released a study showing that customer-centric companies are 3x more likely to achieve 10% YoY revenue and profit growth compared to companies who fall short on customer centric measures. These same customer-centric leaders also are 2x more likely to have improved employee engagement.
And competing isn’t getting any easier. With inflation, market volatility, and supply chain disruptions complicating the playing field, B2B organizations should be forging stronger relationships with customers and partners for more predictable paths to growth.
Here are some of the benefits of a customer-centric approach to B2B.
Accelerated growth and sales velocity.
Better insights about the customer journey leads to more opportunities to answer the right questions earlier and overcome obstacles to conversion.
More efficient use of resources.
Focus sales and marketing efforts on value-added interactions with prospects and customers in their key moments through automation of manual tasks.
Better experiences lead to improved retention and less churn. Building high-touch relationships and continually providing customers with the best resources will endear them to your brand.
Improved employee engagement and retention.
Happy employees = happy customers, so goes the saying. It goes the other way as well. Improved customer experience and engagement creates more meaningful work environments where your employees can be proud of the benefit they’re providing to clients. Highly engaged employees go above and beyond because they feel more closely connected to your organization’s purpose. And, making customers successful should be a key part of that purpose.
Customer-centric companies are 3x more likely to achieve 10% YoY revenue and profit growth
Unlock innovation over time.
Understanding the foundational motivations of customer need and behaviors helps to solve current paint points as well as drive product and service innovations over the long term.
Increased customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.
Understanding and mapping the digital customer journey helps in creating personalized experiences. When customers find what they are looking for with ease, it elevates their satisfaction levels. By facilitating smooth and engaging digital customer journeys, businesses can foster stronger relationships with their customers, encouraging loyalty and advocacy.
Optimized marketing strategies.
A well-designed customer journey helps in identifying the touchpoints that are most influential in the decision-making process, thereby helping in optimizing marketing strategies and budgets. Through personalized engagement and targeted communications at various stages of the journey, businesses can increase their conversion rates significantly.
Analytical insights and continuous improvement.
Customer journeys offer a tremendous source of insights into customer behavior, preferences, and future opportunity discovery. When journeys are well understood and teams are using the signals they send, this data can be used for continuous improvements and innovations across the entire revenue cycle.
Customer Journeys vs. Sales Funnels
Let’s review what we mean by customer journey and how this differs from the typical B2B sales funnel and process.
The customer journey is the most typical path that your customers take as they discover and decide on solutions that solve their needs, as well as the touchpoints they use as they interact with your brand throughout the entire relationship.
Note we said ‘typical’, and not ‘ideal’. This is because a journey is sometimes a function of coping with poor experiences. These instances represent business opportunities for those astute companies that pay attention and take steps to optimize the journey for their specific customers.
The ‘journey’ has always been there; however, digital innovations and an explosion of choice in products and information have significantly evolved the economics of how individuals interact with businesses and institutions.
The journey your customers take may be very different than your sales process ‘assumes’ it might be, or wants it to be.
B2B buyers (as with B2C consumers) typically don’t buy products and services in a neat straight line assumed by the sales process. They get distracted, go down multiple paths and loops, and search using a wide variety of inquiries.
They are influenced by the enjoyability and usability of the experience in the moment, and by what others they trust say. Advertising and sales messages don’t have the sway they once did on the nature of our customer journeys.
This is because customers have so many choices of media and information, and so many ways to learn, long before a sales contact.
And, since the customer is in control during most of their journey, their behaviors and decisions are influenced more by their expectations and social proof, vs. advertising and sales pitches.
Businesses define their sales funnels usually without input from customers to suite the way in which they operate, which allows for a lot of control and ability to measure and tweak the process.
This works out great, until it doesn’t for your customer. Remember, the customer is a stakeholder in the process too. In fact, buyers control most of their purchase journey leading up to becoming a client (the journey starts way before their first interaction with you).
If you focus only on the internal sales process, you are blind to most of the customer journey and will be at a competitive disadvantage to companies with a more complete understanding of the overall experience that shapes the decisions and viewpoints of your customer.
How to Generate Business Value at Each Stage of the Customer Journey [With Examples]
There are plenty of actions you can take to optimize each stage of your customer’s journeys that will result in enhanced customer experience and measurable business results.
In this section, we’ll take each stage one by one and offer strategies for each along with examples.
The Discovery Stage
During discovery, B2B buyers are either realizing that they have a problem to solve, or they are actively researching to understand it better. At this point, prospective buyers are likely encountering your brand for the first time. It’s also important to note that the vast majority aren’t ready to buy. You may also find that existing clients are cycling through discovery for new problems that you might not have been aware they had.
The goal is to introduce them to your brand, your solutions they aren’t aware of yet, and begin to build interest in learning more about those. This involves establishing your credibility as an ‘expert’ in your space to build confidence in your company and solutions.
Once you have the buyer’s attention, create a ‘buying vision’ and conversion path that answers the following questions for your buyers:
- Why do I need to make a change?
- Why should I consider you for this change?
- Why now?
Actions to Take
Significantly increase your brand’s visibility and attraction in those key moments of discovery:
- Build and test authoritative and compelling messaging and offers to capture the attention of these buyers as early as possible during their discovery.
- Deploy content using a multi-channel, orchestrated approach including SEO and paid media powered inbound, thought leadership distribution, partnerships and coordinated sales prospecting.
- Once prospective buyers engage, use an automated stream of personalized, helpful nurturing follow ups to increase engagement rates and the likelihood of conversions, thereby boosting sales.
- Continue nurturing interested buyers with thought leadership, targeted offers and retargeting methods such as paid media on Google and LinkedIn.
A health and wellness startup uses SEO strategies to create informative blog posts on various health topics, infographics on social media channels, and YouTube videos with workout tutorials. By doing so, they reach individuals looking for health and fitness information, gradually building a community of followers who are likely to be interested in their forthcoming product releases.
The Consideration and Requirements Stage
At this stage, prospective buyers are evaluating different options available in the market. They are comparing brands, solutions, features, prices, and getting reviews from their peers. They begin to engage with your content and request information from your sales team. In addition to the experience, they have on your website, they are also evaluating the sales interactions as they consider different service providers and solutions.
A strongly differentiated value proposition helps you cut through the clutter of your market and get the attention of the right people at the right time. The more you know about your right-fit customer, their attitudes, motivations and behaviors, the more effectively you can tailor messaging their context.
Actions to take:
- Here is where focus shifts to showcasing your differentiated value proposition and proof of value through detailed product descriptions, customer testimonials, and comparison charts to help prospects make an informed decision.
- Highlight how you applied your value proposition in client work through case studies, whitepapers, and client testimonials, which can help in establishing trust and showcasing the competency of your services.
- Arm sales with talk tracks, detailed product information, high quality offering materials and nurture communications as needed.
In the consideration phase, the health and wellness startup introduces webinars and virtual workshops focusing on holistic well-being. They also create detailed guides and comparison charts that highlight the unique features and benefits of their products compared to competitors. Email marketing campaigns are utilized to nurture leads by offering valuable insights and showcasing customer testimonials to build trust.
The Decide and Buy Stage
During the decision stage, clients are moving close to making a buy decision. Your sales team is taking the lead during this phase, but that doesn’t mean marketing cannot contribute value with tailored content to address questions from the buying team.
Actions to take:
- During the proposal negotiation and upon acceptance, it’s crucial to provide buyers with a smooth and transparent buying and onboarding workflow.
- Minimize un-necessary steps, providing clear and concise information on product pricing and features and inserting upsell offers at strategic points.
To facilitate a seamless buying experience, the startup introduces a user-friendly website with a streamlined checkout process. They offer a virtual assistant to guide customers through the product selection process, a quick and secure payment gateway, and options for customer support through chat and phone. Exclusive discounts and offers are also presented to encourage immediate purchase.
The Customer Success Stage
In post-purchase, the goal is to ensure customers are successful because of doing business with you. Here, the focus shifts to retaining and expanding accounts through exceptional service, easily accessible support options, timely problem resolution and regular check-ins and services from your customer success team.
At this stage, another goal is to convince clients to become brand advocates, promoting your brand within their network. One of the most valuable – yet untapped – strategies for advocacy is a referral program, where clients are motivated (and perhaps incentivized) for referring new business leads.
A referral program can be expanded into a customer / partner community where clients and partners can share positive experiences and stories, while also showcasing their own brands through event-based case studies and speaking panels.
Actions to take:
- Offer value-added service such as exclusive webinars, workshops and loyalty programs, or perhaps early access to new features.
- Reinforce commitment to service excellence with project wrap-up feedback, satisfaction measurement, and client testimonials.
- Create communities where customers can engage, share experiences, and even co-create products, fostering a sense of belonging and encouraging more purchases.
The startup sends personalized thank-you emails along with tips and tutorials on how to use the products effectively. They introduce a loyalty program where customers can earn points for usage and referrals, which can be redeemed for discounts on future purchases. A feedback survey is sent to gather insights on the customer experience and to identify areas for improvement. To foster advocacy, the startup creates a referral program offering discounts to both the referrer and referee. They also build an online community where customers can share their success stories, exchange tips, and participate in challenges and events organized by the brand.
Now, let’s look at how some of these journey enhancements can produce real business value and ROI.
Suppose a company uses an ICP, journey mapping and data analysis to further delineate and target the unique needs and preferences of different customer segments.
They create personalized offers and nurture streams, which leads to improved lead quality and conversion. The same methods can also be applied to customer adoption programs to boost adoption, lower onboarding costs and even translate into higher customer satisfaction, a decrease in churn.
By deploying more personalized marketing, sales and customer success strategies, this company can achieve several financial benefits.
First, they combine prior deal and 3rd party buyer intent analytics to create far more compelling content and offers, aligning them with the identified customer preferences and needs. These improvements create a 20% boost in conversion rates of qualified leads and closed deals.
Additionally, their new intelligence drives the formulation of improved sales effectiveness motions and post-sale training, leading to notable 30% improvement in adoption and retention.
Assuming this company can close 10,000 leads better, from a 5% to 6% conversion rate, they would secure 600 deals annually. Additionally, they could increase average deal size by 15% from $500k to $575k.
These conversion and deal size improvements would net the company incremental annual revenues of $95 million.
In addition, these improvements could arguably lead to cost-saving benefits, due to optimized targeting and reduced asset waste. With an annual marketing budget of $10 million and assuming a modest 5% cost reduction, this adds another $500k to the bottom line.
These financial gains require no added budget for advertising or hiring. By adopting a customer-centric strategy that dives deeper into existing data and applies analytics to better attract and service customers, the firm strengthens its existing client relationships while improving profitability.
Understanding and optimizing your customer’s journey should be a key component in creating a cohesive and comprehensive demand generation strategy for any B2B business.
By carefully crafting and optimizing digital customer journeys, businesses not only enhance the customer experience but also create multiple opportunities to generate revenue through various strategies and tactics tailored to each stage of the journey.
By investing in these actions at every stage, B2B business can tap into the full potential of a customer-centric strategy to generate higher levels of engagement, satisfaction, and loyalty, which in turn, leads to revenue generation and profitability.
As an added benefit, most of these actions take advantage of existing company resources, requiring very little added promotional spend.
[Checklist]: 10 Steps to Customer-Centric Demand Generation
Get our checklist for developing a modern demand generation strategy and system that is customer-centric, insight-driven and digitally enabled, so you can work smarter and build the business of your dreams more confidently.
Demand Generation Checklist
10 steps to growing your service business using a customer-centric approach to demand generation.
Ready to Maximize Your Customer Journey Potential?
At Bevelroom Consulting, we believe in an approach that works for the business and the customer. Our approach to marketing brings in a healthy dose of design thinking that optimizes for both the customer experience and business outcomes. We combine several modern marketing practices including — design thinking, data insights, experimentation, growth hacking and smart technology — to help you grow your business.
We help B2B businesses who:
- Are unsure where to start in marketing their business
- Don’t know how well their marketing is doing
- Want to be more customer-centric and data-informed
- Need to prioritize limited resources for the biggest return
If you’re looking to grow in a more customer-centric way, we’d love to speak with you.