Like everything else in this world, digital convergence and new technologies have transformed the B2B landscape, in a big way. According to a Forrester report, the US B2B ecommerce industry is expected to hit $1.8 trillion by 2023. Buyers are making more purchases online, companies are moving away from print catalogs, and the cold call is now the automated email. With all of these changes, companies need to make the shift to digital, or risk being left behind. What’s behind this shift and what can we learn from industry heavy hitters that are thriving in this new environment? It all comes down to a little thing called Customer Experience.
Business-to-consumer companies have developed methods to really engage customers on every level. Companies like Uber and Netflix surround nearly every part of our lives. Amazon has built its business on maintaining a customer-centric mentality. While B2B brands come with their own unique challenges, there are many processes that brands can emulate to capture today’s buyer.
1. Focus on Customers
For years, B2B brands have placed the product ahead of their buyers. They create a product, find a market segment, and then present that product to their intended customer. The problem here is without truly understanding the needs of your buyers and the companies they represent, your message can get ignored. Personalization is key and B2C has found a way to do this extraordinarily well. Some major players like Amazon even describe themselves as ‘customer obsessed.’
To match this customer-centric mentality, build out deeper buyer personas and expand upon what you may already have. Investigate what causes a sale and map the entire journey out so you don’t miss a single step. Leverage the wealth of data available within your CRM system to gain insights that can help you better target your buyers.
According to BigCommerce, one challenge of B2B marketing is the fact that buying journeys are a lot more complex. B2C purchases are often made by just one or two people but the level of consensus needed for B2B is much higher. There is never one true stakeholder so it’s important for brands to segment messages across all decision-makers. In the same way B2C companies target customers based on demographics, B2B can segment based on company size, revenue, industry, or location. You can even go one step deeper by creating campaigns aligned to your prospects’ budget and goals. Above all, your messaging should be of value to your customers and make them feel truly understood.
2. Find Buyers Wherever They Are
With the wealth of information available today, buyers are more informed than ever before. 89% of B2B researchers use the internet during their research process and those involved in the B2B buying process are often 57% of the way down the path to a decision before they’ll actually perform an action on your site. Your buyers are out there searching and they are looking to purchase, but they may not be finding you.
Digital marketing techniques have been employed for years on the B2C side but many B2B brands are just now catching up. To strengthen your online presence and customer acquisition methods, start with a great website that’s informative and engaging. Optimize your site by conducting keyword research and inject those keywords into your website’s headers, image alt-text, and meta descriptions. Structured data and site speed also play a major role in being findable through search engines. To further your discoverability, create a company blog and create influential and informative content. Not only will this support your SEO efforts, but you can also build loyalty as a trusted source of information. Email marketing is another proven technique that has exploded on the B2B side. Create an automated drip campaign to nurture your leads through the entire buying process. Start slow with a few thought-provoking pieces of content and expand later on with case studies, webinars, and one on one demos. Remember that the buying process takes time. Some buyers won’t purchase for over a year after discovering you. The important thing is to keep them engaged throughout the whole process.
3. Reduce Friction
When collecting information from buyers, try to pare down the number of fields for them to fill in. Consider what information you can get later on in the buying process and keep forms simple and less intimidating. If you are a distributor or wholesaler that uses ecommerce, make it even easier for buyers to checkout by accepting multiple payment methods like purchase order numbers or by allowing negotiated pricing (our partner BigCommerce can show you how). Save customer information in custom user profiles to allow buyers to see their credit limits, account balances, and order histories.
By modernizing product merchandising, ordering, inventory management, purchasing and shipping, you can quickly get buyers through the purchase cycle.
It’s clear to see that B2C and B2B brands don’t live in different worlds. At the end of the day every company needs to embrace an enhanced customer experience. By placing the customer at the forefront of all of your efforts and exceeding expectations, you build loyalty and trust which creates a strong, long lasting relationship. Changing business practices can seem daunting but it is necessary to stay ahead. Take the tips above and start small to see if there are opportunities for your business to grow. To learn more about Americaneagle.com’s B2B success, contact us here.