In the past decade, B2B marketers have struggled to reach the level of personalization that currently exists in B2C marketing, especially among innovative brands that deal directly with consumers.
At the same time, as customization becomes a key factor in effective communication with today’s B2B customers, the B2B customer journey is undergoing a rapid transformation, accelerated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
While B2B marketers plan their personalization cards, they must do so with a new reality in mind: the journey of the future B2B buyer will be even more autonomous.
Align, don’t cut
Current relationships with B2B customers are strongly built around a reality that quickly disappears in the face of COVID-19 and shows no signs of a return anytime soon.
This is because buyers followed an increasingly self-directed path long before the emergence of COVID-19. Future planning for B2B personalization must recognize – more than ever – that marketing and sales teams have even less control over the buyer’s journey.
Because physical experiences, such as trade shows and face-to-face meetings, are less common across industries, B2B marketing organizations must work to effectively adjust, rather than shorten, the buyer’s journey.
Before identifying with the companies they are evaluating, today’s B2B buyers explore the buying funnel more than ever:
- Familiarize yourself with critical data.
- They talk to groups of social professionals about the solutions they use.
- Have internal discussions about your needs and budgets.
If they really have a direct relationship with a potential supplier, they already have a good idea of what they want.
B2B organizations must therefore change their approach to engage this seasoned buyer and reposition the touchpoints along the prospect’s journey as data-based value exchanges rather than initial sales.
Customize with everything you have
Even if today’s B2B buyers do not raise their hands for coffee communications and meetings at the beginning of their research, it does not mean that they remain unknown to marketers.
Each B2B transaction starts with a survey and each survey can be recorded in a database and used to create a more personalized journey.
You can have research information indicating your specific interests, or you can also learn about the industry or even the company you work for. This knowledge should be used to personalize content and engage potential customers in a more value-based way so that they can quickly identify their needs in their messages and solutions.
The goal is to encourage that individual connection – an exchange of value in which they identify with your company (usually with an email address) in exchange for information that can help them make the best choice for a final solution.
Get ready for the buyer-oriented world
As B2B marketers adapt their strategies for buyers ‘self-guided travel, they also need to recognize buyers’ growing desire for direct involvement with businesses.
In the coming years, B2B e-commerce will skyrocket, as will the consumer market in the past decade. Many B2B organizations still rely on long-term channel relationships and third-party management, but for an increasing number
We are already seeing big companies like Cisco taking advantage of big consumer brands (think of Starbucks) and investing in unique and personalized website experiences, as evidenced by the integration of My Cisco with the company’s personal workspace.
Enter the world of tomorrow
As companies develop their vision of their customers, they will be better able to take the next step towards true customer focus: anticipating rather than responding to the needs of new customers.
As the Amazons of the world have already shown, a deep understanding of the customer not only improves existing customer relationships but can also understand it for companies that later need customers on a total and individual level.
Through constant alignment around the self-directed buyer, organizations will simultaneously begin to build the resources they need to truly expect and delight their customers in the future.