Remember This: B2B Customers Are Consumers, Too

Deliver the Digital Experiences They Expect or Kiss’em Good-bye

Manufacturers in today’s global marketplace need to embrace digital solutions in order to optimize the online experiences they deliver to their customers. Maxim Integrated, a semiconductor manufacturer, realized that their website was failing to deliver to prospective B2B customers, who were logging onto, and quickly bouncing away from the company’s legacy website because they could not easily find what they needed. Chances are, the elusive B2B buyer — who orders lunch on Foodler, books a plane ticket on Expedia over lunch, and catches an Uber ride back to the office — will move on to a competitor who makes the online experience easier.

The analog days of cold calling and pre-sales schmoozing are long gone. Digital technology is facilitating a new matchmaking paradigm. Today, buyers will find you — if you’ve got the digital infrastructure in place to be discovered. Once prospects enter your online ecosystem, they begin to build a relationship with your brand. In the digital world, making that connection requires you to align your content with what a buyer needs, from the first moment they make contact with your company.

B2B customers are consumers too, with an added twist — they need to produce and deliver results for their companies as fast as possible. No one can afford to wait. Maxim Integrated learned that manufacturers can better serve their customers by creating a user-friendly digital experience that delivers spot-on information at exactly the right moment.

Why are digital experiences so important?

The future of manufacturing is digital. Some experts call this movement Industry 4.0, while others refer to it as the emergence of an experience business transition, in which a companies invest in technology capable of connecting content and data with behavioral, engagement, and predictive analytics.

Becoming an experience business is about more than increased efficiency. It’s about competitiveness in today’s marketplace. Success in marketing, sales, and support depends on how well you engage with your customers. Your message has to resonate in a business environment filled with an ever-changing choice of products and technologies. Customer experience is one of the most important ways in which companies can both differentiate themselves and close sales deals.

Customer experiences matter, and B2B customers are simply consumers playing a different role in a different context. In fact, according to a recent survey, 80 percent of B2B companies say that their customer’s expectations are higher because of what they experience as consumers. This means that manufacturers need to prioritize customer engagement during the B2B sales processes, across multiple distribution channels, and on whatever device the buyer prefers to use. The bottom line is that competing in the digital economy requires delivering information to prospects and customers when and where they want it.

How one company went digital

It used to be agonizing to scour Maxim Integrated’s website for information and specs on their products, which number more than 9,000. Search was slow, and instead of focusing on better content delivery solutions, Maxim Integrated’s IT department spent inordinate amounts of time fixing problems on an outdated system that could not scale or connect easily with other software systems. The process was time-consuming and ineffective.

The semiconductor manufacturer solved the problem by leveraging a digital foundation that combined digital asset management (DAM), customer relationship management (CRM), and enterprise resource planning (ERP) into one system. Says Robert Reneau, the company’s director of digital marketing, “Now we can transform the online experiences we offer our customers and partners, and deliver content faster.”

That’s the name of the game these days — respond at the speed of light, and deliver a consistently good user experience. “Our previous approach typically involved costly and difficult-to-maintain workflows,” says Reneau. “But now, we are integrating responsive design into our processes to publish content once and deliver it across any device. We have created a digital communications platform that makes our customer’s navigational experience simple and easy.”

The past is prologue

Evolution is not always easy. For some manufacturers, moving from legacy systems to a completely digital model requires letting go of processes that are deeply ingrained in the company’s operating ethos. However, companies like Maxim Integrated understand that legacy systems just don’t have the technological horsepower to drive content velocity, or to connect with prospects and customers in real time.

If your company is still relying on technology that represents the way you’ve “always done it,” it’s time to rethink your strategy. Legacy CRM solutions, for instance, lack the ability to process and deliver personalized digital assets on demand. To move forward, you need to understand your options. In order to build a digital foundation, it’s important to know what solutions are available, how to apply them, and how to integrate them with your existing IT infrastructure.

Moreover, you need a digital platform that can be customized. Something that works for one customer might not work for another. Delivering the right content at the right time requires an understanding of how your customers identify, research, select, and purchase products. You also need state-of-the-art analytics tools that will facilitate tracking user activity, modeling how purchasing decisions are made, and predicting what users are looking for at various crossroads on your website.

Implementing a digital solution

The first step a manufacturer needs to take in moving toward a fully digital content management platform is to develop an understanding of how technology can deliver better customer experiences, lower costs, and, ultimately, boost the bottom line. Maxim recognized the advantages of combining its DAM, CRM, and ERP systems to form one, well-oiled machine. So they implemented a fully extensible digital platform, and customized it to meet their specific needs. Here are five steps that any company can use as a starting point for developing and implementing a digital content platform:

1. Create a cross-functional team. Great results depend on multiple parts of the company — including marketing, sales, operations, IT, support, customer service, and legal — working together to develop a strategic plan.

2. Focus on understanding your customer’s journey and experience. Obtain a clear idea about what customers want from your company, and how to deliver the online experiences they expect. Mining website analytics and focus groups with customers can help sharpen your team’s focus.

3. Establish benchmarks for results. Don’t try to achieve everything at once. Develop a strategic plan for building and implementing a digital foundation that can be tested and tweaked as you move forward. This will require an accurate understanding of the capabilities of your DAM, CRM, and ERP systems. As the system is rolled-out, monitor user engagement and results closely in order to determine how best to optimize the platform to meet both company goals and customer expectations.

4. Leverage an existing framework. For most manufacturing companies, customizing a digital framework is a more cost-effective approach than trying to re-invent the wheel. Your platform should be unified, easy to use, and capable of integrating with other systems. It is essential that you start with a scalable platform that can integrate easily with your company’s core tools, workflows, and data sets. Finally, consider security, as well as a cloud-based infrastructure that provides complete redundancy to prevent any downtime.

5. Consider your ROI. Return on investment matters, so crunch the numbers and consider how the new system will reduce costs while increasing sales.

For manufacturing companies that are serious about a digital transformation, moving to a platform that facilitates faster content delivery on virtually any device is usually an easy decision. The combination of cost savings and improved customer engagement means higher conversions and a clear path toward increased sales.

Read more in our series on creating Digital Experiences for Manufacturing or learn about Adobe’s solutions here.