4 CX Challenges Facing B2B Marketers
B2B marketers have long been focused on what they’re trying to sell—often at the expense of their customers’ actual needs. However, that approach is anything but sustainable with customers in control of the purchasing journey and competitive offerings just a quick click away.
That was even before COVID-19 entered the picture, changing the way business is conducted for so many.
So how can B2B marketers recalibrate? Recent research from B2B International, conducted before the pandemic and based on a survey of 302 global B2B marketing and research professionals from organizations with an average $1 billion in revenue, sheds light on areas they’re looking to improve.
Delivering Excellent Customer Experience
B2B marketers’ overarching objective is to elevate customer experience (CX) at every touch point along the purchase cycle. Yet more than half of those surveyed (52%) cited delivering excellent CX as the top business challenge they currently face. This is no surprise given additional survey results illustrating how just 15% of firms rated themselves “leaders” in CX, while twice as many (30%) self-reported as “laggards.”
The path to expertise in CX begins with data, so it makes sense that 88% of survey respondents said their top priority is to obtain “deep insights into our customers/stakeholders.” Figuring out where their organizations are currently underperforming on CX from the customers’ point of view is not only a rational but also a necessary first step toward developing a strategy for how and where the organization should focus to drive improvements.
Providing Personalized & Relevant Communications
Marketing communications is often the first CX touch point that requires improvement. Decision-makers are bombarded with more daily emails, phone calls, and social media pings than they can possibly pay attention to, so the key to cutting through the clutter is ramping up the personalization and relevance of such communications. In the B2B marketing survey, 42% of respondents rated delivering “personalized and relevant communications” a top business challenge.
One approach to improvement is employing a people-based marketing strategy, which encourages marketers to view and interact with customers not as faceless corporations or business accounts, but as the flesh-and-blood human beings they are. In fact, nearly two-thirds (65%) of survey respondents said they expect people-based marketing to significantly impact their marketing and insights strategies over the next three years, as well as “influencer marketing,” cited by 62%.
These statistics shed light on one of the key differentiators that distinguish CX “leaders” from “laggards”: Leaders are significantly more likely to use buyer and user personas to enhance their marketing strategies and communications. Applied smartly, personas not only help marketers improve the targeting and timing of their customer communications, but they also inform the development of more relevant and resonant messaging within each media channel.
Connecting With Customers Emotionally
One way to improve the personalization and relevance of marketing communications is to understand and address the emotional aspects of the customer experience. There is no question that emotions play a role in every stage of a B2B path to purchase, from the initial need starting in the consideration and selection phase to the final purchase decision and beyond, where customer satisfaction and perceptions of supplier performance start to influence the next relevant business decision.
In a separate survey designed to illuminate the impacts of emotions on B2B decision-making, B2B International researchers found that emotional factors typically increase in importance as the customer gets further along in the decision journey. For instance, at the beginning of the decision journey, 34% of decision-makers in small to midsize companies reported considering a supplier because they had previously used that supplier as a consumer. In the comparison stage, 40% tend to seek assurance that the supplier they are considering can provide the best offer or solution to meet their needs. This often comes from exposure to thought leadership content that demonstrates the supplier’s expertise and ability to meet the needs or solve problems similar to those facing the customer.
When the time comes to make the final purchase decision, our research found that emotions often tip the scales more than rational factors: Having a strong emotional connection with a supplier accounted for 56% of the customer’s final purchase decision. These results signal that B2B marketers who can successfully engage and address the emotional needs of their customers will be able to exert significant sway over their purchase decisions, perhaps even outcompeting bigger competitors that provide more compelling “rational” offers.
Leveraging Data To Inform Marketing Programs
Gaining deep customer insights and using them to craft more personalized and emotionally resonant marketing communications require B2B marketers to distill actionable insights from large continuous streams of data and then use them to inform or enhance future marketing programs—an obstacle nearly half (49%) of survey respondents cited as a top business concern.
Part of the solution to this industrywide challenge may be found in innovative technology solutions that promise to enhance the capability and efficiency of B2B researchers and marketers. For instance, data analysis platforms are now incorporating advanced automation and machine-learning algorithms to aid research professionals in quickly identifying and analyzing key insights within large sets of “big data” and “raw” results. Similarly, B2B marketers cite increasing interest in automated campaign management solutions that enhance their abilities to engage existing customers and target new prospects with both greater precision and more personalized messaging.
No wonder, then, that a whopping 78% of survey respondents said they expect marketing automation to impact future marketing strategies, in addition to 64% who see big data exerting a similar impact on their future endeavors. As insights and marketing technologies continue to advance, so, too, will the collective capabilities of B2B marketers.
All together, these recent survey results signal a clear consensus among B2B marketers that elevating customer-centricity is the industry’s overriding imperative. That means striving to capture and distill deeper, more incisive insights on B2B customers, translating those insights into more resonant and personalized marketing messages, and then targeting and delivering those messages with ever-greater precision and accuracy.