Why is there a deluge of headlines urging B2B marketers to think more like B2C brands? The B2B sales process is inherently different from B2C, and marketing that fails to reflect this will not succeed.
Think of it this way: a sneaker company convinces one person at a time to buy a pair. The average shopper does a light Google search; compares reviews, prices and colors, and then pulls the trigger. A B2B enterprise needs to convince a coalition of discerning decision-makers, many of whom have different priorities, to agree on what is probably a big-ticket item. It’s as if that sneaker company needed to convince five-to-seven sneaker aficionados to buy the same pair at the same time, all at a five-figure+ price tag.
Obviously, there are human beings behind company buying decisions, and enterprise marketers can draw on some B2C best practices. For example, delivering more personalized marketing experiences influences purchasing decisions, and all marketers can learn from the brands that do it well. B2B marketers should also humanize their brand and strive to elicit emotion in their advertising. But they have to remember these strategies are more nuanced in the B2B space.
What is B2B Customer Experience Marketing?
Business-to-business customer experience (CX) marketing is the process by which enterprises identify and understand the various personas involved in decision-making and create content to move these groups along their individualized path to purchase. Then, they need ways to unite these decision-makers so they can come to a consensus and move forward with a purchase of far more consequence than a pair of sneakers.
The number of people involved in a B2B purchasing decision grew from 5.4 in 2015 to 6.8 to 2017, according to Harvard Business Review. That figure may be even higher today. These decision-makers have unique behaviors, preferences and priorities. The CTO cares about different things than the CFO or the sales director, for example. Marketers need to understand those needs and devise a plan for getting the right content to the right buyer. In fact, 90% of the top-performing B2B content marketers put their audience’s information needs ahead of their company’s promotional messaging, according to the Content Marketing Institute.
As B2B buyers do their homework, they have probably researched competitors. Marketers need to understand what differentiates their offering. They need content of substance and a plan for multiple touchpoints, as it will take a logical progression of interactions to move prospects down the funnel.
B2B buyers often have higher, more measurable expectations than B2C buyers. For example, when a company licenses a new customer relationship management (CRM) platform, it has a clear understanding of the benefits that decision should drive, and it will hold the platform accountable to key performance indicators (KPIs). Companies should reflect an in-depth understanding of those expectations in their advertising, and of course, work with the client after the purchase to ensure customer success.
Harder—but worth it
Creating a thorough B2B CX marketing strategy takes time, but when done right, it will maximize the speed and volume of the buying cycle. Companies will be able to feed their pipeline faster and more adeptly convert leads to sales. A recent report from CSO Insights found that 74.6% of B2B sales to new customers take at least four months to close, with almost half (46.4%) taking seven months or more. Shaving time off this process drives significant marketing savings.
Because B2B CX marketing is complicated, enterprises need to choose their partners carefully. They should look for teams who have a genuine interest in the subject matter. They should ask themselves:
- Does the team supporting you want to learn everything there is to know about my niche?
- Do they have the knowledge and skill to understand and capture complicated subject matter?
- Do they understand the complexity of the B2B buying cycle?
Many agencies are oversimplifying the B2B buying process, which makes it challenging to persuade a diverse, educated audience to reach a group decision. On the contrary, they should be working harder to create compelling points and to tell rich, authentic stories that resonate with prospects.