The next wave of B2B growth will come from better experiences
Like every industry, companies that sell their products to other businesses are facing a radical shift in business models. The new economy is more digital, more data-driven, and more innovative. There is an incredible amount of pressure to constantly reinvent how you build products, how you sell products, and how you serve customers. Most of us know this story for consumer brands like Nike, Walmart, or Apple. But the lesser-known story is how B2B brands like Grainger, Honeywell, IBM, or Ernst & Young are reinventing themselves with tech hardware and software.
B2B will never look the same again
This concept of reinvention is not new for B2B. In fact, B2B companies are the original innovators. These are the brands that invented the internet, put computers in our homes and on our desktops, and built massive network infrastructures to power our companies. If you work in an office, your desk was probably part of a procurement process for office equipment. The manufacturer had to purchase the wood from a lumber mill and the steel from a metal supplier. B2B companies continue to innovate and reinvent themselves, but the new battleground is how they create a better experience for their customers, channel partners, and distributors.
In B2B, as in B2C, there is almost nothing more important than delivering an incredible customer experience. These interactions are the new X factor in B2B business models. Customers, partners, and distributors all expect things like more transparent pricing, online purchasing, and recommendations to help complete a task and more seamless transactions. The traditional B2B approach to these relationships is rooted in human interactions, with dense contracts and purchase orders that run on legacy DOS systems (if digital at all).
But the next era in B2B growth won’t come from more face time with the customer — it will actually come from less. A recent study by McKinsey found that two-thirds of buyers opted for remote human interactions or digital self-service, while 27% were willing to spend more than $500,000 without speaking directly with a salesperson or expert. Business customers want to move faster and transact easier. We can’t forget that the B2B ecosystem is still made up of people who are also consumers. They expect the same experience at work that they get shopping for clothes or a new watch. This innovation will define the next era of B2B.
Honeywell marketplace simplifies purchasing while connecting manufacturers, customers, and distributors
A few years ago, Honeywell wanted to reinvent how customers purchased parts from its aerospace division. Trading in used aerospace and aircraft parts is a $4 billion business, but despite the high-tech nature of the products, under 2% of these sales are currently done online. As you can imagine, aerospace is a highly complex industry that typically requires a high degree of service to navigate millions of part SKUs and hundreds of different aircraft. The industry operates in an analog way, with a heavy reliance on phone calls and pre-existing personal relationships.
But Honeywell knew this approach created a lot of friction in the purchase process, limiting its ability to maximize the yield on its inventories. The answer was an online marketplace called GoDirect Trade. It disrupted the industry by reducing the time to purchase an airplane part from days or weeks to just minutes. Honeywell’s new marketplace was launched in just 12 weeks and by allowing qualified third-party sellers on the platform, the number of SKUs expanded without the need for Honeywell to invest in new inventory. Honeywell created a net new source of revenue from existing assets and a strong competitive advantage by focusing on experience for their customers. This is experience-led growth.
EY unifies its view of accounts and individuals to deepen relationships and scale new digital businesses
Ernst & Young, more commonly known as EY, is transforming one of the world’s largest physical businesses into a digital business that drives incredible customer experiences. EY offers a host of consulting, tax, IT, and other services for everything from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies. COVID-19 significantly impacted EY, just as it did for all businesses that traditionally require face-to-face meetings, as many customers and providers were not structured to collaborate remotely. But today, EY is breaking the mold by moving from primarily people-based services to application-based services. This move goes beyond just Zoom calls — it entails a host of mobile and web apps to streamline and augment their services.
These efforts have created a more frictionless customer experience in addition to new, valuable data on client relationships. It has also strengthened the marketing team’s value for sales. These digital channels are using automation to nurture demand in new service lines, which helped them deliver 9,000 leads per month to their regional sales teams. EY is bringing together data from across company platforms to drive faster, clearer insights for the business. Like Honeywell, this digital evolution is a better formula for growth by tapping into deep investments in its core assets and extending their value with better experiences. This is experience-led growth.
Adobe is solving the experience-led growth equation
As B2B companies build their businesses around this next wave of digital experiences, they can partner with Adobe. As a B2B business, we understand the complexity and needs of operating this business model, and solutions for driving growth through experiences are grounded in three concepts:
- Know your customer.
- Activate the insights.
- Tap into the power of digital.
Knowing your customer is all about having a complete picture of each account so the entire revenue team is aligned on how to service and sell in each part of the business. Adobe Experience Cloud centralizes data across the enterprise — such as multiple CRM systems or behavioral and purchase data — providing a single view of profiles and accounts, which is needed to develop accurate predictive models around churn or the next best opportunity.
Next, activating the insights means automating experiences that acquire new audiences, nurture demand, and trigger alerts to sales, so field teams stay focused on high-value opportunities and customers who are ready and willing to engage. You can push data from Experience Platform into other Adobe products or third-party tools for nurturing campaigns or sales planning. This drives efficiency throughout the business as data is transformed and turned into action.
These efforts are examples of tapping into the power of digital. One Deloitte study discovered that digitally mature companies are three times more likely than lower maturity rivals to report margin and revenue growth significantly above their industry average. The fact is, B2B buying journeys are increasingly online and self-service. Prospects want to learn about products and ask questions using both digital (e-chat and FAQ) and human engagement. Providing flexibility allows B2B businesses to interact with their account however they choose and with less reliance on account representatives. Plus, Adobe’s content management and digital commerce support the needs of today’s buyer — making it easier for companies to provide their customers flexibility and convenience.
Across industries, and in both B2B and B2C, customer experiences are at the center of growth. Those that are acquiring deep insights about their customers and aligning teams, tech, and process around business priorities will have a material advantage in their industry. This is the concept of experience-led growth — and we can show you the way.
For more information on how we’re helping our customers fuel growth through experiences, check out our customer success stories.