New business models, processes and strategies are firmly in the spotlight as B2B organisations wake up and smell the digital transformation opportunities
Customer centricity, online content, social media, emails, e-commerce, paid search, SEO, data analytics – all familiar concepts in B2C world by now and a part of the DNA of digitally mature organisations. Business leaders the world over are changing and adapting to the new world reality of customers being in charge of the buying journey and are stepping up their efforts to deliver customer value at every opportunity.
But that won’t work in B2B world will it? The buyer’s journey is different, the sales team’s job of nurturing a prospect from first contact to signed contract is inviolable. The decision-making process is long and complicated, involving numerous personnel on both sides and needing careful handling at every step.
And anyway, it’s all about the product. The B2B world is no place for fluffy digital marketing tactics, right?
Every purchase decision starts online, regardless of industry, product, or buying cycle
After all, when was the last time you made a major purchase without looking on the web first? It’s no different for B2B. A report by DemandGen shows that B2B buyers now get 70% of the waythrough their decision-making process before ever contacting a vendor directly. With traditional B2B sales models focused on the other 30%, you can see where the opportunities are being missed.
So how do buyers make their decisions? Nearly 90% of buyers use the internet for initial research and conduct an average of 12 searches before making direct contact with a vendor. 51% say they are reading more online content now than before, and when asked why they chose one vendor over another 75% said it was the vendor’s online content that swayed the decision in their favour. 82% of buyers rely on white papers, 73% read case studies, 67% e-books, 66% infographics and 66% blog posts. This isn’t so surprising when you also learn that 93% of buyers look for supplier content that educates and informs, rather than a sales pitch.
Fluffy digital marketing tactics? Hardly.
Inefficient operations, poor customer relationship management, lack of the right data and insights, and a general reluctance to adopt new technology impacts on a B2B organisation’s ability to compete. B2B vendors need to show up much, much earlier in the buying process than ever before if they’re to stand a chance of being on a buyer’s shortlist. This means moving from being product-centric to customer-centric, and it means a change to the way the whole organisation works.
The B2B Digital Transformation Imperative
Competitive advantage in B2B means providing consistent, high quality customer and prospect interactions and building value at every touchpoint. Even with multi-stakeholder decision making, buyers still need to engage at an emotional or functional level with a potential vendor, so the marketing and sales process needs to adapt with the support of every other function within the organisation.
It’s a significant overhaul to legacy systems and mindsets but worth it: digitally mature B2B business leaders see a five-fold increase in revenues compared to those not focused on digital transformation.
B2B organisations need to put themselves in their customers’ shoes. They need to trace the buyer’s journey from cradle to grave, immerse themselves in it, and design the communications, content and technology that makes the purchase decision easier.
How does digital transformation work in B2B?
Digitally mature B2B businesses use AI and smart analytics, cloud computing, automated communications and a robust and scalable IT infrastructure. They focus on customised, real-time customer experiences based on a deep understanding of target customer personas and the type of content they consume. They invest in targeted, personalised messaging that’s relevant to where their customers are in the buying cycle. And they are ready to adapt and flex their strategies and systems where customer behaviour demands it.
A B2B digital transformation strategy should therefore include:
- Data analyticsthat inform your decision-making at every stage
- Insights that tell you which channels your prospects use, when and from where they accessed your website, and how they engage with direct communications
- Tailored marketing messages based on the data and insights
- A scorecard to tell you which prospects are worth pursuing
- Content that educates, informs, and creates a relationship with your brand
- Technologythat aligns activities, automates marketing processes (such as messaging) and drives efficiencies
According to a recent Walker Information report the buyer experience will overtake product as a key differentiator by 2020. We think it’s already happening. At the end of the day B2B buyers are shoppers like the rest of us and are most likely to engage with suppliers who make it easy for them to do business with. The digital techniques that work in B2C world are just as effective here.
If you’re interested in discovering how digital transformation can help you compete, get in touch today.