Most B2B sales are now happening in the digital world. Call it the millennial effect as many decision-makers and influencers are now more comfortable using digital devices. As the number say, almost 60% of B2B buyers prefer online research in the consideration stage rather than meeting a sales rep. (https://go.forrester.com/blogs/the-ways-and-means-of-b2b-buyer-journey-maps-were-going-deep-at-forresters-b2b-forum/)
This is a clear indication that the B2B buyer is changing and so is the proverbial marketing funnel. To understand the expectation of the new client it is important to craft a new selling strategy. A few pointers that can help you to keep your customer’s need in focus are mentioned below:
Step 1 – Understand your buyer
B2C buyer occupies a special place. Companies are always concerned about their problems and always come out with new solutions. Companies even pamper their customers with discounts and gifts.
But the B2B customer is often not so lucky. They sit quietly sit in a corner grappling with the same old problems and waiting for someone to take notice. But only a handful of companies can identify and respond to the genuine problems of B2B customers.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a great example of how a company paid heed to its B2B clients. Back in the day, CEOs of Amazon’s clients constantly complained of the heavy cost involved in maintaining and upgrading servers. Amazon responded by introducing a Cloud computing platform and helping companies to pay only as per their usage.
To have a deeper understanding of your customer pain points it is important to understand their buyer journey clearly.
Step 2 – Detail out his or her buying journey
The B2B buyer journey was as it is complicated and digital has twisted it even more. The new buyer journey is no longer linear. Instead, buyers enter the funnel at different stages and then move around in a zigzag manner.
57% of B2B buyers delaying human interaction in the initial phase of their journey. Instead, they want to research your products across digital channels, watch demos and read customer reviews.
For you, this means creating white papers, product videos and sourcing testimonials from your existing customers.
But B2B customers also want to interact with Sales Reps in the later part of their journey. This means that your sales reps should be well prepared to handle their questions and have powerful tools to drive conversions. An Account-Based Marketing (ABM) plan can help you to create personalized buyer journeys.
Step 3 – Have an account marketing plan to build relationships
ABM helps you to focus sharply on high potential customers. Some experts say it is like fishing with a spear rather than a fishing net. With ABM, you can conceive a detailed buyer journey for your customers and create focused campaigns and messages for them.
But how effective is ABM in B2B sales? Given the fact that there are many stakeholders involved in a typical B2B sales cycle, an ABM strategy makes sense. You can have tailored approach for every stakeholder and progress smoothly through the buying process.
ABM also ensures more coordination between the sales and marketing teams. Traditionally, sales and marketing teams have always argued about generating leads and driving them to closure. But with ABM, leads take a backstage as there are just a few customers to focus on. This reduces friction and drives more collaboration between the two functions.
Step 4 – Get Sales and Marketing teams to collaborate
According to Forrester Research, organizations with aligned sales and marketing teams see an average 32% annual revenue growth, while less aligned companies see a 7% decline in growth.
Getting the sales and marketing team on the same page can be a tough task. ABM is one way. Apart from that, a shared goal coming from the top leadership can help the two teams to join forces.
Rather than focusing on just leads, marketing and sales should focus more on metrics like Customer Lifetime Value (CLTV). It is the expected revenue that customers can generate over their lifetime. This will help them to identify high potential customers early and create relevant digital assets for them.
A sales and marketing automation tool can also streamline functions. It will help you to manage your sales funnel better and get an accurate measure of important figures like cost of acquiring a lead and revenue generated from campaigns. You can look at Hub Spot and Hootsuite tools for your marketing automation.
A marketing automation tool can also help you to track conversion rates on your website and mobile sites.
Step 5 – Have a mobile-friendly website or an ecommerce store
Mobile is the best place to catch your B2B customers now. With the limited amount of time available to B2B executives and decision-makers you must offer quick information to drive higher conversion rates.
Keep in mind that executives will generally interact with your site in an elevator or the car. Make it extremely easy for them to interact with simple Call-to-Action. Engage them at the right time and you might even improve your chances of conversion.
Even your ecommerce store should have an upfront product descriptions that fits easily in a mobile device. A good way to achieve this is to use eCatalogs that offer details about your product at a glance. The ewiz platform can help you to generate personalized catalogues for your customers with the help of AI.
Step 6 – Have a content marketing strategy
There is an interesting story about the origin of content marketing. It is said that John Deere (the founder of John Deere manufacturing company) started content marketing. He was a blacksmith who forged Iron tools for farmers in America. In the evening, he would chat with the farmers, hear their problems and then modify his tools accordingly. After he became a successful manufacturer of farming tools, he published a magazine called “Furrows” to keep communicating with farmers. “Furrows” sowed the seeds of content marketing.
Today, content marketing is the cornerstone of the B2B business. Joe Pulizzi of Content Marketing Institute (CMI) says that Content Marketing is a strategic marketing approach to drive customer action.
You have to identify the problems of your customers and offer solutions with white papers, blogs, and industry reports. Tell them about your new products with emailers, catalogues, and brochures. The ultimate goal is to encourage them to subscribe to your content and then nurture a long term relationship.
Social media is also an important element of B2B marketing mix but it demands a slightly different approach.
Step 7 – Leverage social media
LinkedIn is perhaps tailor-made for B2B business. It offers a no-frill, no-nonsense medium to network with decision makers in the industry. According to a report, LinkedIn makes up more than 50% of all social traffic to websites and blogs. (https://foundationinc.co/lab/b2b-marketing-linkedin-stats/)
Business leaders and executives look for thought leadership content on LinkedIn. They want to read about the solutions for problems plaguing their industry or a technology breakthrough in their industry. For LinkedIn, you can allocate a bigger budget to commission market surveys and industry reports. It is also a good idea to hire Subject Matter Experts (SME) to create a blog series for you.
You can even target customers with LinkedIn InMail that land directly in the inbox of your customers. These messages can also become a primer for your email campaigns.
Step 8 – Create email marketing campaigns
Email is perhaps the most cost-effective way to reach b2b customers. But it requires thoughtful execution. The trick is to segment your customers intelligently. This will help you to send the right messages to your customers. For instance, you can segment customers who like to watch demos and share relevant videos with them.
Segmentation will help you drive higher conversion rates by sending the right message to the right customers. It will also shield you from wasting money on digital assets in which your customer segment is not interested.
Step 9 – Digitize sales and marketing processes
Sales reps spend only one-third of their time selling. Most of their time is spent on administrative tasks like filling forms. This robs them of reaching out to more clients and eventually impacts the bottom line. It is a sorry sight to see your sales rep absorbed in mundane tasks when they can use the same time to acquire new customers.
Successful sales reps now employ AI to focus more on prospecting and closing deals. As this Salesforce blog points out, 80% of sales teams using AI report a positive impact on customer retention.
Step 10 – Set up support for your customer
Customer support can make or break brands. Bad customer experiences go viral even in B2B industries. The old fashioned way of having customer support executives is still necessary but with digital in the equation, you can create more interactive customer support options.
For instance, you can have a dedicated corner in your website with video instructions about your products. You can even upload manuals and product literature that customers can access easily. Chatbots are also getting popular with customers. Gartner predicts that by 2020, 25% of customer service operations will use chatbots, up from 2% in 2017.
But, social listening is perhaps the most insightful tool today as it helps you to respond quickly to your customers’ concerns. Companies are also looking at crowd sourcing options to encourage customers to help each other. UK based company Giffgaff has harnessed crowd sourcing to successfully create a user community.