As a business leader or marketer in the B2B / IT space, one of your most commonly used phrases is most likely, ‘customer experience’. Or perhaps it is ‘user’ or ‘end user’ experience that is at the heart of your own sales conversations, before you even start talking about the technology. And all with good reason, customers are increasingly bringing their consumer-led expectations into their workplace - B2B interactions, and B2B organisations, need to keep up.
In fact, we’ve found that the most successful IT companies have really embraced this change and transformed their marketing approach – digging deeper into the notion of customer experience and learning key lessons from their B2C counterparts. If you are looking for ways to refresh and improve your B2B marketing, these tips might shed new light.
Why B2B and B2C can feel like the tortoise and the hare
In B2B marketing, general wisdom is that slow and steady wins the race. Purchases are often more costly than in B2C, have a lot more decision makers behind them, and the stakes for success are high. Implementing an expensive new IT system and having it fail is a much more serious situation than the new shoes you bought not fitting. Many larger purchases in B2B are calculated risks on which a lot might be at stake. Conversely, B2C marketing can be seen as being about ‘the quick, easy win’ and often might have more of an impulsive element to it.
Most B2B marketers have outstanding skills at reverse engineering problems. You have to. You will strive to anticipate all the needs and demands of the client, along with anything that could go wrong. You are aware that purchasing decisions are likely made by committee so your messaging needs to be thorough, logical, rock solid and able to withstand a long sales cycle with intense levels of scrutiny.
These are precious skills to have in a marketer, but there are other skills that can be developed or utilised that can make an enormous difference to your marketing impact. Sometimes the fleet-of-foot hare can show the tortoise a few valuable techniques.
- Leverage your own consumer expertise!
Marketers sometime forget they are also consumers. You are already an expert in the thing you are trying to achieve (i.e. making a connection about a product or service). You know what marketing messages cut through and which ones leave you cold. You know what makes you trust a brand and what turns you off. You know if you are a researching purchaser or an impulse buyer and that sometimes you are both, depending on the product and the circumstance. You know that sometimes you are ready to buy and other times you are scouting the market place for what’s around, what’s hot, what’s on offer.
To a different degree, all of these experiences are also true for your B2B clients, even when they are making business purchase decisions, not personal consumer decisions.
It might feel strange, but in fact, to do an exercise in which you brainstorm responses to all of the above situations, putting yourself in the shoes of your clients, can reveal some sharp insights and new ways forward for your marketing.
For example, ask yourself about a recent campaign, ad or piece of content your organisation created: who would this have cut through to and who might it have left cold? Did it only speak to people at a very narrow point in the buyer cycle (i.e. ready to buy)? Or would it have added value to any person researching and scouting for information? Would it make you trust your brand or be wary of it?
- Create content for all stages of the buyer RACER
You already know about the different stages of the buyer journey – or Mogrify’s own version called the buyer RACER. It is helpful to check in with these, refresh how you look at them and focus on one or two stages you visit less often.
Keep in mind, roughly 3% of your market is ready to buy. That is a very small figure. The rest are building up a picture of you, both consciously and unconsciously, that they will use down the track when they are ready to buy. Or when they are ready to recommend. Remember, this is the era of consumer influence. A person or company doesn’t even have to own your product in order to recommend or endorse it. They simply have to trust your brand. This is all it takes for them to forward an article or send a colleague a website link or even just mention you in conversation.
It is a common mistake to focus on the later stages of the buyer RACER and to disregard those buyers who may not even be aware that they have a problem or who may still be searching for generic solutions. How could changing the focus add value to your customers; to their customers; to your relationship with them?
- Remember, (even with technology) people like buying from people they know and trust
Yes, businesses buy products and services that will help their business function better, be more efficient, generate more income, make more profit. But ‘the business’ itself doesn’t make the decisions. And products don’t always sell themselves, especially where complex and bespoke IT solutions are concerned.
We would all rather buy from people who we like and trust. Every one of us has a story about a tradie who let us down or a store attendant who was rude or a call centre interaction that was frustrating.
Even in B2B marketing, simple human values matter. Be helpful. Be genuine. Be straightforward. Stand behind your words. Don’t exaggerate. Listen. Respond with honesty.
For every marketing activity you create, run that list of qualities over them and see if they stack up?
In fact, we would say that at a certain level of product sales, the human values of your messaging are all that matter. For high end IT products, the expectation is there that the product is good, it does what it says it will, that the technology is sophisticated – this is all a given. Or it should be. Decision-makers don’t want all the tech detail shoved at them. They want an easy interaction; someone who understands their pressures and pains; a process that fills them with confidence.
As a B2B marketer, as with B2C, you should be looking at other areas of your business and making sure that what your messaging is promising is actually being delivered! Are you really an easy company to do business with? Are you really great with post-sale support? If you’re not, then the trust that you’ve worked so hard to build up through great people and great marketing, can be damaged.
- You can be a story teller, an educator and an advocate
The world can be divided into two camps: those who love technology and those who fear it. And as a B2B marketer in the IT space, you need to be able to speak to both camps.
This is where one of the key differences between B2B and B2C marketing comes into play: tapping into emotion in an honest and productive way
B2C marketers are obsessed with emotions. What will make consumers excited about this product? Or terrified if they miss out on it? How does it assuage their deepest insecurities? Or build a path to their most fervent goals?
You can use similar kinds of questions at two levels in B2B marketing: targeting the individuals you are directly dealing with and speaking more broadly to the business and its goals, personality and standing in the market place.
For example, say you are marketing a software product to the finance officer at an aged care facility. Their primary goal is to get an easy-to-use platform that will give greater visibility and potentially lead to identifying areas of cost reduction. The bigger picture of their organisation is about providing outstanding levels of care to individuals and families who are often at a difficult time in their lives.
The story you tell about your product can encompass both of these levels of need in different ways and at different stages. You can educate the finance officer about how a particular product will make their job easier and help them achieve their business goals. You can also advocate for how seamless technology is a crucial part of client service because it eases stress for families grappling with complicated funding packages.
What are people worried about? What are they hopeful for? Some are primed for how IT can help them. Others want nothing to do with technology and just want it to integrate, almost invisibly, into their jobs and lives.
The more you know about where your customers and prospects are on this spectrum, the more you can tailor messaging that taps into their emotional relationship with technology. And remember, the health sector doesn’t have a monopoly on doing meaningful work – most businesses do something meaningful, but sometimes they need a little reminding!
What does your marketing success look like?
At Mogrify we have the pleasure of working with a range of technology organisations who all take different approaches and have amazing levels of marketing success by digging into:
- Customer experience
- Buyer journey
- Human values
- Story telling
If you want to know more about making any of the above work for your marketing, then click below to organise a 30 minute complimentary consultation with one of Directors. We’ll chat through some key areas of your marketing that we’ve identified as the most common places that businesses can veer off course, and give you some actionable suggestions in each area that you can go away and work on.