B2B customer experience (CX) ratings tend to fall short of expectations versus similar assessments in the B2C markets. A McKinsey report indicates that B2C companies show customer satisfaction ratings 15-35% higher than B2B entities. It’s not surprising, considering that structuring a compelling B2B CX is vastly more complicated. We believe it boils down to four differentiators that define the uniqueness of the B2B marketing landscape. Marketers in this arena who ignore these dynamics do so at their peril.
Critical Dynamics in B2B Marketing
Committees are in the frontline of making B2B buying decisions as a general trend.
The designated buyer’s power has radically diminished over the last few years — even more so during the coronavirus pandemic. CEOs have shifted the emphasis to include numerous departmental players whose opinions can radically impact the final decision. It may be far-fetched to call them decision-makers, but the term “influencers” is undoubtedly in the conversation.
Decision influencers don’t enter the B2B process all at once.
B2B customer journey mapping from end-to-end is a critical marketing fixture. It forces one to recognize that input from various specialists like IT, marketing, HR, engineering, legal, and finance occurs at various junctures, not all of the time. It’s a question of understanding the relevant skills to include to construct a comprehensive overview when all the pieces come together. Timeous participation is a vital component. It allows B2B customers to efficiently plot their path to a buying decision with rewarding touchpoints that keep the process moving forward.
Channel partnerships are integral considerations.
B2B marketers don’t operate in a vacuum. There are third-party warehouses, delivery facilities, packagers, and even CMT factories instrumental in moving products and services from them to business customers. Unless one secures their cooperation to sell more on a B2B basis, plans will probably collapse before they get off the ground.
Profitability is a core driver.
Everything mentioned above contains multiple touchpoints and touchpoint networks dependent on in-and-out human interactions and different skill inputs. Closing a B2B deal is a problematic route demanding marketing professionalism and customer awareness at the highest level. There is a unifying consideration for all these activities — namely, profitability. Unless the B2B marketer’s proposition can demonstrate definitive ROI-centric benefits, its success potential is “iffy” at best.
B2B marketers should focus on how their solutions save customers money by reducing costs. Or generate more dollars by energizing sales.
If this is front and center of your proposals, the odds of converting a prospect to a new customer escalate substantially. Customers will rate each touchpoint in terms of profitability metrics as a minimum standard. It’s not to say that personal connection and emotions don’t enter the equation. They do because the team is human to its core, and it’s why B2B marketing is so challenging. Balancing bottom-line logic with human inconsistency is not an easy task.
Critical Touchpoints to Close the Deal
Here are some critical touchpoint priorities that cannot escape the attention of B2B marketers for whom closing deals is the ultimate goal.
There’s no getting away from the testimonial as a principal swayer of B2B customer inclinations (as it prevails in B2C situations as well). When it comes to selling to organizations, research has shown over and over that people trust peer opinion more than they rely on brand promises. Touchpoints will shift positively if you can secure backing for your proposal with the customer’s key influencers in the company and outside of it.
One should minimize negativity in the conversation that inevitably follows presentations, reinforcing the ROI benefits with follow-up and informally connecting to individuals pivotal to the buying decision. Also, if you can credibly create attention toward similar customer experiences, the buyer team sentiment will likely swing your way.
Favor established customer journeys versus prospects for the best touchpoint responses. Holding onto a customer that’s already in the fold is a much easier proposition when compared to convincing an interested or attentive party to step across the finish line. Don’t take B2B customer loyalty for granted. Engage with them to enrich their touchpoints with your brand at every opportunity. It may range from product upgrades to supporting their B2C distribution and promotions. Customer churn cost in the B2B arena can devastate your ROI, making it almost impossible to replace with even multiple customer recruits.
A touchpoint that invariably transforms into a severe CX disruptor is when your customer gets your statement or invoice. Visualize that the CFO is already stressing about the pending payment, notwithstanding that you delivered fair value. Indeed, it may have nothing to do with you directly, just general cash flow pressure on the company’s resources. Coupled with the possibility that your services and product are not a high-priority item, you could see brand abandonment in the near-term. The way you present your invoice could make a world of difference.
Frequently, SKU itemization is anything but clear — a frustration escalator if ever there was one. Then, payment options are non-existent.
When this happens, even a simple note at the bottom saying something like, “Contact us directly if there are any queries relating to this statement or issues you would like to discuss,” can help negate customer churn. In the COVID-19 period, demonstrated flexibility can bolster your brand value significantly. You can also include recommendations for working with you in a more meaningful way.
KISS – Keep it simple, stupid. Touchpoints in the B2B markets, especially when website navigation is at the fore, confuse and deflect attention when things get complicated. Marketers fail to see the bigger picture by throwing too many choices at their customers all at once. Here are some tips to keep it simple and clear:
- Don’t allow indecision to take over as the predominant force.
- Begin with your highest value offer to engage interest.
- Once that’s in the bag, add additional benefits gradually at a comfortable pace for the audience without overwhelming your original product premise.
- In other words, build on understanding one brick at a time instead of assuming that understanding exists when unloading everything you have on offer.
- When website navigation is a factor in the CX enrichment, test its navigation and content for simplicity at every turn.
Never assume your B2B customers know their way around because they’re in the business. B2B customers have two significant challenges in everything that they do:
- They need to be confident that buying decisions flow through to the bottom line.
- While you are focused on B2B considerations, they are probably more on a B2C wavelength. For example, as a manufacturer, you sell to retailers (i.e., B2B), whereas the latter relies on consumers for a livelihood.
We touched on this above, but it’s worth repeating — anything you can do to smooth the path for them by subsidizing promotions, helping with displays, and delivering goods when needed most should resonate in a big way. It has the double-whammy effect of boosting customer ROI and enhancing their reputation in the mass marketplace.
We have highlighted only a few of hundreds of B2B touchpoints that occur every day. The few mentioned often involve micro-movements (still touchpoints) from one web page to another, calls for tech support, interacting with promos, brochures, pitch decks, and navigating online options. In between, there are Zoom conference calls and virtual one-on-one meetings. All this converges on the highlighted touchpoint areas expressed without going into detail. If the latter is defective, the five pivot B2B drivers above will undoubtedly suffer.
Sogolytics provides CX solutions, expertise, and consultation to B2B organizations, as well as in-depth resources to cover every gap in your marketing strategies. Sales enablement in B2B markets covers so many complexities that a skilled coach like Sogolytics is worth more than its weight in gold. They will give you perspectives on brand image, customer feedback, and marketing segmentation that will open your eyes to the real opportunities that competitive B2B companies can take advantage of with the right guidance.