Customer centric B2B company

It’s Time for a More Customer-Centric Approach in B2B Services

Have you ever thought about how important B2B is to the economy (globally and close to home)?



We started thinking about this recently, and here’s what we discovered. If you measure importance in terms of market size, B2B is pretty important.



In fact, some estimates put B2B at over five times as big as B2C.



Here are a few statistics that put this into perspective:



  • The global B2B eCommerce market is about $15 trillion, which is five times that of the same B2C market (Statista)
  • B2B spending on advertising in the US exceeded $6 billion in 2019.



So, if B2B is so important to creating value in today’s world, why are so many B2B companies still falling behind in meeting customer expectations?



At Bevelroom Consulting, we believe the core purpose of a B2B services business is to make clients successful, plain and simple.



Business growth and financial gains are the result of being customer-centric: having a commitment and intentional strategy to uniquely serve client needs for competitive advantage. It means making and keeping great brand promises that customers reward and that competitors cannot match.



In today’s economy of unlimited choice, noise, and disruption, we believe being customer-centric is the most reliable and cost-effective source of advantage – especially for B2B service businesses.



We all know that the B2B buying journey is inherently complex, with buying cycles that can take several months — or even years — for a whole committee of decision owners and stakeholders to make sense of a dizzying stack of trends, vendor and product information, and all of the technical and business constraints that challenge the end purchase and eventual transfer to value.



For buyers, personal stakes can be extremely high, with jobs and personal reputations at risk if the ‘mine field’ of the buying process isn’t navigated correctly.



In other words, B2B isn’t about things: it’s about people. Those people are your prospective buyers that hopefully become long-term clients. It is up to you to attract their attention, earn their trust and enable their success.



The Benefits of a Customer-Centric Approach


Being customer centric isn’t just about being nice, it’s also smart business strategy. And, in many cases, it doesn’t have to be that hard. In fact, it is almost a matter of common sense.



Untapped Source of Competitive Advantage

Here’s one thing we absolutely love about being customer-centric: your competitors can never know as much about your customers as you do, and a result, cannot use this knowledge (customer IQ) to gain an advantage over your business.


In other words, simply knowing your customers well is a tremendous source of competitive advantage. By knowing customers well, we mean knowing:



  • What motivates them to seek out and choose solutions like yours.
  • What are their most important goals, business drivers and pain points, related to your solution area.
  • What are the key steps and obstacles in their buying journey.
  • What triggers their search, what answers do they seek, and how do they find them.
  • What influences their decision to buy and stay loyal.



The more you know about your customers, the better you can deliver awesome experiences and build lasting, profitable relationships. No competitor can truly replicate your unique brand experience. And if the experience is outstanding, customers will reward you with more business.



Accelerates 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.



Reduced Churn

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.



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.



Customer Centricity Generates Real Business Value


Here are a few practical ways in which a customer-centric approach generates real business value, backed up by statistics.


According to Forrester Research:


  • Customers reward attention to their needs and problems: Customers are 2.4 times more likely to stay with companies that solve their problems more quickly.
  • Customers appreciate clarity in communications: Customers are 2.7 times more likely to increase spend when companies communicate clearly.
  • Customers will refer business to you: Customers are 10 times more likely to recommend your business when you answer customer questions.


The Opportunity (and Expectations) Extend Across the Entire Buyer Journey


Certainly, there is ample opportunity to re-invent your marketing and sales operations to suite today’s B2B customers. However, the opportunity to be a customer-centric innovator and gain competitive advantage doesn’t end there.



The latest research continues to confirm that B2B customers want more out of their experiences with suppliers, across their entire journey, all the way from problem discovery, to brand introduction through to the first and continuous delivery of services and support.



McKinsey calls this trend, the “rule of thirds” in their latest global B2B Pulse study and reveals that leaders in B2B are embracing the desire of their customers to have a choice in how they interact with service businesses.



This means designing and operating your business to deliver brand promises across all channels (omni-channel) when and how customers want it, including: traditional in-person selling and customer service, remote / video call experiences, and provision of more self-service options, such as online help and chat.



Read more:
How to Meet the Demands of Today’sB2B Buyer



How to Adopt a Customer-Centric Approach in Your B2B Service Business


So, from our perspective, being customer-centric is one of the smarting things a B2B leader can invest in to grow their business.

Here are our top recommendations to get started.



Boost Your Customer IQ


Businesses that embrace a more customer-centric approach to everything have a significant competitive advantage that is hard to replicate.



Here’s why:

  1. Your competitors can never know as much about your customers as you do.
  2. Your clients value relationships, not transactions. And building profitable long-term relationships requires customer intelligence.
  3. Modern B2B buyers expect outstanding experiences from their service providers, just as they do from consumer brands.



Additionally, for many B2B buyers today, their journey is really a function of coping with poor experiences that don’t meet their expectations. 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 professional services that caters to their unique needs and challenges.



Again, this can be a competitive opportunity. These instances represent business opportunities for those astute companies that pay attention and fill those gaps through innovation and attention to their customers’ needs.



To build competitive advantage, start by boosting your customer IQ.


In our Customer-Centric Demand Generation Checklist, we cover several practical steps you can take to boost your customer IQ, including:


  • Ask prospects and current clients about their goals, problems and fears. Listen for triggers and key moments.
  • Learn about the journey they follow to find solutions like yours. Pinpoint opportunities to make it easier.
  • Capture and organize insights into a right-fit customer profile to guide strategy.
  • Update the profile over time as new insights emerge.



Demand Generation Checklist

10 steps to growing your service business using a customer-centric approach to demand generation.

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.



You’ll want to use a combination of digital analytics (quantitative) and word of mouth (qualitative) sources to build these insights.



Why? Because while digital analytics do a great job of describing what, when, where and how a set of customer interactions happened, and even to what extent they generated business outcomes, they don’t explain the ‘why’.



Why (underlying motivations, goals, fears, context that lead to actions, such as a website visit or a conversion) is a much more powerful and predictive type of insight because it usually applies to most or all of your target market and buyer segments, and thus provides strategic intelligence you can use to build better business strategy.



So, digital analytics simply cannot explain the why.


To get at the why, you have to ‘talk to your prospects and customers and ask the right questions.



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.



Read more:

Seven Ways to Boost Your Customer IQ



Re-Think Your Sales Funnel


B2B sales funnels aren’t what they used to be. The classic (AIDA) sales funnel doesn’t really account for the modern B2B buyer journey. The journey your customers take to find solutions in your market may be very different than what is assumed by your sales process.



The customer journey for business buyers has been evolving for a number of years and tends to be less predictable than your sales process was originally designed for.



This is because B2B buyers 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 the majority of their journey, their behaviors and decisions are influenced more by their expectations and social proof, vs. advertising and sales pitches.



Being customer-centric means being empathic to your B2B buyer’s specific context: their motivations, goals and challenges.



Most B2B purchases are complex and multi-faceted. Sure, online information has made it easier to research and learn about solutions. But at the same time, the number of solution options have multiplied. And buyers are under increasing pressure to prove the ROI of their business purchases.



The customer ‘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 huge shift in power from businesses to consumers has also influenced how business and policy makers view the importance of understanding the customer’s point of view.



So, the first step to re-thinking the sales funnel is to make an intentional effort to better understand the B2B buyer journey and align your sales process closely to it. You may need to change how your sales team relates to customers. Have them shift into a more consultative, sense making advisor role.



Also, use the sales process and sales interactions as a source of new customer knowledge to improve their experiences across the pre- and post-sales process. Engage in more frequent ‘non-sales’ conversations that lend open-ended feedback. Customer feedback is an invaluable (and cost-effective) source of insights to inform future strategy. And customers will appreciate you more for listening and valuing their input.



Use these insights as a starting point to strengthen alignment between customer expectations and business objectives in every part of the company. Your sales process can serve as the catalyst for broader improvements that deliver more value.



Customer-centric selling isn’t just about closing a deal. It’s really about guiding prospects through a path to solve problems with expertise, openness and a genuine desire to help.



Approach sales conversations as an opportunity to empower a customer to overcome an issue now or into the future, rather than just pushing an immediate deal. Customers will reward your recognition of their challenges and preferences with loyalty and advocacy that boosts long-term relationship value.



Read more:
Building a Customer-Centric Sales Funnel



Craft Irresistible Value Propositions and Offers


Most B2B businesses don’t put enough energy into developing a crystal clear, super simple value proposition.



Your value proposition connects your business model to customer benefit. It answers this question in the minds of customers: why should I choose you? It is so understandable and persuasive, that there really isn’t any reason for buyers not to choose your service.



And, it is so differentiating that it creates a unique space in the minds of your buyers, to create a remarkable memory that stands apart from your competition.



A value proposition is not a list of features or a sales pitch. It is expressed as a short statement that clearly communicates the benefits that your potential client gets by using your service. The key is to define your value in terms of what is important to your customers and what sets you apart competitively.



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. Identifying what truly makes your brand different can be challenging, but it is time well spent. The more you know about your ideal customer, their attitudes, motivations and behaviors, the easier it will be.



Consider these two crucial components to articulate your value proposition:




Either the value and benefits you deliver, or the way in which you deliver them (your approach) should be as differentiated as possible. Focus on the specific benefits that are the most compelling for the target customer.




Your value proposition is essentially a promise until customers decide to engage. So, be sure you can deliver on your promise of the brand. Back up your stated benefits with reasons to believe, i.e., proof that you can deliver on your promise, Then – deliver on the promise in terms of your offering and through the way you service the relationship.



When crafting your value proposition, consider these questions.

  1. What needs do your customers have that are currently not being met?
  2. What influences whether or not a customer will make a purchase
  3. How is the value you provide better or different than your competitors?
  4. Why wouldn’t they purchase (i.e., their objections, fears)?
  5. How does my offering satisfy these problems better than the alternatives?



Remember, most of your potential customers will not be ready to buy your service right away. They’ll need time to build trust and develop a relationship with your brand first.



This is why understanding where your potential customers are in your marketing funnel is vital to an effective strategy.



Build a Customer-Centric Demand Generation System


Modern B2B demand generation is designed to meet the expectations of today’s savvy B2B buyers who are more empowered than ever before.



It is built upon irresistible offers and conversion-tuned web and app experiences that generate awareness and demand across a mix of channels. Demand generation systems provide tools to better understand and engage with your ideal customers over time to cultivate relationships on their terms.



They enable data-driven decision making and task automation to manage the entire marketing and sales process more easily. Analytics provide the real-time insights needed to track and fine-tune performance along the way.



A customer-centric demand generation system is:


Well informed.

A combination of digital analytics and customer journey research provides fresh insights to drive new strategies and tactical decisions. Formulating the right strategies starts with generating intelligence from asking the right questions about your, business, customers and competitive environment.



Digitally powered.

Modern businesses take advantage of digital capabilities and technology to accelerate growth, drive efficiencies, and deliver better customer experiences. Technology can also enable more fundamental changes to business models, such as new services or entry into new markets.




An adaptive demand generation approach is flexible and embraces experimentation in order to remain relevant and effective. Systems and your people are attuned to listen to new signals from dozens of experience and product touchpoints and interactions — digital and physical.



The Importance of Having a Conversion Tuned Website


Here’s a question: is your website generating real value for your business? In other words, it is actually generating qualified leads and new business?



For B2B service businesses, a website is no longer just a brochure or billboard. It is the front door to your business and your sales team.



To do this job well, your website has to be designed and tuned for converting new business. This means has to do the following things effectively:



Generate high intent traffic.

This means having content that is highly visible and well matched to the questions buyers are asking in search queries along their purchase journey.



Establish you as the best choice.

Upon first visit, your website must immediately build trust and credibility in your brand. The design has to be modern and easy to use, and present a clear story about who you are, what you do, and why you do it. It has to present a strong value proposition that speaks directly to the buyer’s self-interest.



Engage visitors.

The website draws visitors in via a conversational conversion path of helpful content and compelling offers that promise something of value in return for a contact. Ideally, you are personalizing content and offer experiences to deliver exactly what they want, at the right time, and at a price point most likely to convert.



Nurture and convert buyers along their journey.

A well-designed B2B website nurtures a lead through the sales funnel, often over an extended period of time. Your website should present information and micro-conversion offers that help prospective clients make better decisions and move them along the path to a service engagement.



First Impressions: The Homepage

For your website to do its job well, it has to start with a strong homepage.



Your website homepage is all about making a great first impression, and inspiring visitors to want to learn more.



The first goal of the homepage is to introduce your company at a high-level and answer “what does this company do?” in less than a minute.



The next goal is to articulate a clear, simple and compelling value proposition that provides compelling reasons and proof that you’re the right solution to consider at this moment in time, and then present highly visual entry points into your conversion path.



A great homepage:

  1. Expresses the value or benefit the visitor will receive, very succinctly.
  2. Captures attention and uses language that the visitor understands.
  3. Mimics a brief conversation to explain your product/service and why the listener should care.
  4. Includes a call-to-action to enter a conversion path.



Read more:
Is Your B2B Website Doing Its Job?



Guide Buyers to Their Desired Outcomes


The typical sales process for B2B services takes an average of at least 5-6 steps and 5-10 touchpoints, and deliberations across a buying committee of an average of 4-6 people to close a deal. So, a big part of being customer-centric is simply recognizing how hard it is for them to make a B2B buying decision.



The key is to create the right touchpoints at the right time using the right offers and content to help prospective clients make the best decisions they can, with the highest confidence and the least amount of regret.



Build a guided experience on your website to move buyers through their journey while building trust and familiarity. As prospects exchange contact and profile information, you can then shift the conversation into one-to-one email and retargeting channels and serve continually personalized offers to move them from discovery to decision. Boost qualified client (MQL) traffic to your conversion funnel using targeted ads, networking, events and social media outreach.



Automate and Personalize the Buying Journey


The best way to automate the path through which you convert new business is through CRM and marketing automation.



Most people think of CRM, which stands for “Customer Relationship Management,” as a software product, such as Salesforce or other leading tools. While CRM is software, it isn’t just a term that describes a technology or a tool: it is also a business strategy.



CRM is a strategic commitment to having an automated process for maximizing the efficiency and profitability of your client relationships across their entire journey and sales process, from discovering your offering, all the way to engaging with you and advocating your brand.



Investing in CRM makes sense for businesses of all sizes and types, especially those that are built upon customer relationships, because CRM makes managing and growing those relationships easier. In fact, we would argue that CRM and marketing automation makes even more sense for small businesses for two additional reasons:



  1. Small businesses rely on developing strong and lasting customer relationships to grow.
  2. Small businesses have less complexity making CRM implementation easier and faster, offering an advantage over larger, slower competitors.



Making an investment in CRM offers a wide range of benefits to small businesses including reduced cost of acquisition (CAC), increased sales velocity, the ability to boost reach, awareness and better convert leads to customers, and improved employee productivity.



CRM and marketing automation enables the delivery of better experiences and generates real-time signals to optimize interactions. And CRM makes your sales team more efficient, which allows more time to dedicate to experience improvements.


By automatically keeping track of customer statuses and interactions, your sales and support teams can jump in and answer questions or even nudge upsells.



As you build your relationship with your potential customers, they’ll be more likely to convert into paying customers. By collecting and organizing information about your prospects in a CRM, you’ll have an easier time tracking where your clients are in your sales funnel.



CRM makes it a lot easier to nurture your prospective clients and build a strong relationship with them using micro-conversions, or the actions buyers take that indicate an elevation of interest and a progression through their journey.


After your clients have built a strong connection to your brand, they’ll be ready for the macro-conversion, which is when a prospective client becomes a paying customer.



Read more:
Our Guide to CRM and Marketing Automation for B2B Small Business



Focus on Long-Term Relationships


Traditional approaches to services marketing and sales can certainly generate leads. But are those leads turning into long-lasting relationships that grow your business over the long-term?



Focusing on building long-term relationships isn’t just good for your business, it also matches what your clients want as well. Your clients value relationships, not transactions. They expect outstanding experiences from their service providers, just as they do from consumer brands.



Getting people to convert into paying customers is often thought to be the final stage of your sales funnel. However, there is still another stage after someone makes a purchase: loyalty and advocacy.



If you want to create sustainability for a B2B service, it’s vital to make sure your customers love your brand enough to buy your service again.



These are customers who love your brand enough to share it with others, leave positive reviews, and do whatever they can to support your business. Both loyalty and advocacy require you to form a deep connection with your customers.



By providing them with the value they are seeking, you’re able to form that connection and encourage loyalty and advocacy.



The more you know about your customers, the better you can deliver awesome experiences and build lasting, profitable relationships. No competitor can truly replicate your unique brand experience. And if the experience is outstanding, customers will reward you with more business.



A customer-centric approach to business requires a clear understanding of who your ideal customer is, what is important to them, and how that matches to business goals. Then, build differentiated value and convey it through a clear, compelling brand story and experience matched to their expectations.



Ready For A Customer-Centric Approach? We Can Help


At Bevelroom Consulting, we believe the core purpose of a B2B services business is to make clients successful, plain and simple — and that a customer-centric approach is the way to do it.


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.



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!



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