Taking the Best From B2C: A Recipe for B2B Cross-Channel Marketing Success

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by Timo Kohlberg

posted on 02-02-2018

The best marketers are like Michelin-star chefs, combining their talents and expertise to send their customers to a place of satisfaction and awe.

And while marketing teams from many sectors are excellent, I tend to believe that, in general, business to consumer (B2C) companies often market the best. Why? They already need to be more digitally mature because the expectations of today’s consumers are already higher. Companies like Uber, Tesla, and Airbnb set the tone for how companies interact with customers and how they use customer data in the most personal and relevant ways. They use all available data for a 1:1 communication across touchpoints.

B2C marketers also need to be precise because — more than ever before — their customers are becoming increasingly empowered to choose and are equipped to make decisions between brands. Consumers are also reshaping standards and expectations around experience and engagement for business to business (B2B) companies as well, like in high-tech, manufacturing, and other industries. Very soon, B2B companies across the board will need to deliver similarly improved experiences, as their customers will no longer accept non-personalized mass communication without context.

It’s up to B2B marketers to do better now, even though this may not be seen as a big priority at the moment. Regardless of how successful their business currently is (driven by events, sales and call center activities, and email marketing), that pressure to improve will increase rapidly.

So, what should you focus on as you get started on taking your marketing to the next level and cook up an improved customer experience? You learn from the best — the digital leaders in B2C.

Here are my recommendations on how to make that happen:

Sharpen your knives and utilize the food you already have in-house

Before you worry about learning new things and/or obtaining new resources, make use of what is already available. Start with data and build an integrated customer view. Focus on what you already know about your customers and contacts, but also give them opt-in opportunities to share data and preferences they want to share.

How? Start with one data point and grow, adding data from other systems, like compass marketing data. Most companies solely focus on CRM data, which is certainly an important data source, but just one among many others. When you incorporate additional data points that you already have about your customers (from email interactions, previous sales, newsletters, etc.), you’ll have a much more complete view of that company or buying center.

Shop for additional ingredients and tools

It’s time to make your cooking dynamic. For your marketing team, this means your goal should be to move from siloed single-channel interactions to omnichannel experiences. How? Easy.

As most B2B companies have optimized the most important single channels (email and website), you should try to connect them to unified campaigns and multistep journeys and combine them with web analytics, content management, data platforms, and more to ensure consistent offers. Don’t just focus on digital interactions only, but extend to offline as well (catalog, direct mailings, etc.). While your existing interactions may be working, there might be new channels through which your buyers may want to interact and inform themselves. Weave in more and better content — and use it for relevant communications that remain consistent across all channels (including web, email, mobile, and social).

Do you want to increase your conversions? At this point, it might be time to think about a broader scope, considering questions like, “How do we incorporate customer behavior into 1:1 communications?” and “How can we streamline the process of creating, managing, executing, and measuring content?”

To extend your reach, think about linking acquisition, conversion, and nurturing activities by connecting your campaign management to your data management platform (for example, by sharing account information for third-party retargeting). Use your customer data and pair it with the right second- and/or third-party data to help your digital advertising drive more acquisitions or enhance communication via paid channels. This is a great way to bring the journey of your customers and your internal marketing efforts into sync.

Spice up your cuisine

One of the keys to great cooking is knowing how to particularly accent the foods with the spices that make the meal truly unique. If you’ve ever eaten from a restaurant where you looked at the food and it looked “fine,” but then you started eating and it completely blew you away, you know what I’m talking about. We can do the same with our marketing — we just have to use the right tools together.

First, you must use real-time marketing in B2B so real-time behavior can inform your communications. For example, a download of a white paper can be a trigger for an email or a push notification. The more current the data, the better tailored to the individual context the message will be. Second, think about how AI and predictive analytics can assist your understanding of your clients by allowing you to do a better job, more efficiently. You’ll predict buyers’ behavior or propensity to become a large customer, find the right message or offer for a segment on-the-fly, and find the best subject line for your messages, based on vast amounts of response data. All of this will help you send the perfect offer to the right individual, removing much of the guesswork. Third, incorporate mobile moments into your B2B campaigns. This is the salt of your meal. It may seem like basic seasoning, but the correct application of the right type of salt can make the meal explode with flavor.

Add these seasonings to make your customer experience unforgettable.

Cook together

A great team makes incredible meals together. It may be one chef who is awarded with the Michelin star, but it’s the whole kitchen that does the work together. Do your absolute best to foster collaboration (particularly between marketing and sales, but also within individual teams and marketing roles). Break the silos in terms of departments, solutions, and data. A great complementary strategy to do this is to bring in B2C experts who can help your team to think outside the box with their cutting-edge strategies. As you’re seeking to connect with your audience, think about who can deliver the experience best and run with it.

Long-term, deep benefits

The first thing you’ll notice if you incorporate these strategies into your marketing kitchen is that you’ll have better transparency within your organization to understand what’s going on across the various parts of your business.

The second incredible positive is the obvious — you’ll increase the performance of your campaigns. This is due in large part to the fact that your clients will have much better, more relevant experiences. Downloads, usage numbers, and conversion rates should reflect this new reality for your customers.

You may be worried about how long it takes to implement. But don’t worry. This strategy — at first glance — may seem like an albatross, but it can actually be quite agile. Start by connecting a few data sources and channels over a couple of weeks and see what your numbers tell you.

Monster projects that take years to implement are typically not the best approach in a world of cloud and SaaS solutions. So, develop an agile approach to implement, test, and optimize campaigns with specific KPIs, making small changes along the way as you learn and adapt.

Transformation projects can easily take two to three years to switch over entirely. If you plan with agility and ask your team good questions to learn about how to best move forward, you’ll be in great shape. Here’s a couple good ones to start with:

○ Which part of the customer journey do we need to invest in the most?

○ Which touchpoints and/or channels drive revenue and conversion right now?

○ How will B2B customer behavior change in our business?

○ What kind of silos do we need to break up?

○ Where can we bring in experts to help?

○ Do we have the right tools, right people, right data, and right strategy too?

Whether you’re an all-star chef, an early-career apprentice, or kitchen porter, with these encouragements you’ll be increasingly successful. These apply whether you’re marketing directly to individual customers or transforming a broader B2B buying journey. Best of luck.

Topics: Digital Transformation, Campaign Management

Products: Campaign