“It’s the Age of the Customer,” said Laura Ramos at INmarket15. “The next great stage of business innovation,” she said, “is not coming from back-end business optimization, but from an empowered B2B consumer,” who demands a new level of service and a fundamentally different type of business relationship.
This paradigm shift is driven by customers, who now make decisions not based on brand and features, but on peer opinions, competitive analysis, reputation and customer reviews. They’re highly informed buyers who educate themselves through a substantial part of the buying journey and expect a new level of partnership and collaboration from their vendors.
To be successful in acquiring this new brand of customer, Laura suggests businesses must shift their focus across 4 major marketing disciplines: customer service, sales, content marketing, and marketing technology. The emphasis must go from gaining efficiency to creating a deep customer engagement.
Start with customer experience
In the B2B space, customers expect to be educated and supported by a trusted advisor who helps them solve tough business problems and enables them to build their careers. Laura contends that to do this, companies need to shift their budgets from service goals like lowering call volume and providing conventional data sheets and FAQs. Winning businesses must become good industry citizens who participate, support and nurture B2B communities and enable their workforce to be active participants in those communities through events and social.
Forward looking marketing and sales teams will put less investment on cold calling and outbound teleprospecting. Instead, they will shift their budget to providing useful commercial insights and customer success to help current clients reach their goals and prospective clients see the value of working together.
Reimagine your messaging and distribution
On the marketing side, the traditional approach has companies focusing on white papers and product/feature overviews that are meant to enable sales and reach prospects at the last possible stage of the buying cycle. This content is often distributed through broad based media blitzes, PR-campaigns and untargeted outbound promotion.
Laura believes that to appeal to the modern B2B consumer, companies need to invest in richer thought leadership and inbound content that connects their brand and vision to exclusive movements and events outside their typical marketing venues. To do this, companies need to think critically about how their work impacts the world at large and tie those stories to their mission.
Finally, to get these stories to the right customers at the right time, large email blasts and blind ad buys are not going to cut it. Laura suggests that marketing needs to enable sales with data that allows them to find their customers no matter where they are in the sales cycle. Customer intelligence and predictive modeling, like the technology provided by 6sense, is the best way to ensure that you’re reaching your target audience with a targeted message at the moment they need it most.
Building data-driven sales and marketing functions
For modern businesses, keeping sales, customer success and marketing in silos is no longer an option. The three teams must be closely aligned and invest their resources in real-time data that connects inputs from existing, prospective, and out-of-funnel clients. This data will allow businesses to provide contextualized customer and marketing experiences that focus on the needs of the customer wherever they are in the customer or buying cycle.
So say goodbye to shot-in-the-dark email blasts, generic content and short-term sales pushes and look forward to the long game of deep customer engagement.