B-to-B Needs Customer-Centricity
Fragmentation is hitting B-to-B marketing hard, agree the “Fast-Paced: 10 Ideas for B2B Disruption” speakers during their session at Integrated Marketing Week 2015. Audiences, if B-to-B buyers can still be called that, have fragmented attention spans because of multiple channels, software delivery options, changing job responsibilities and so much more, the panelists said at the Direct Marketing Association-hosted conference held at the Millennium Broadway Hotel in New York. Really, though, B-to-B marketers are now the audience, listening to buyers’ needs.
“I think we’ve moving to a more B-to-C [model],” says Caitlin C. Halferty, with analyst relations in client insights at IBM. She adds in her Tuesday afternoon thoughts during the session that IBM once concentrated on enterprise sales, but now believes B-to-B buyers are individuals and “line of business” buyers are more relevant now than IT.
Buyers aren’t as interested in one-size-fits-all products. “We’ve all seen the move to the cloud,” says Bill Macaitis, the San Francisco-based CMO of “SF, Vancouver and Dublin”-based Slack, enterprise software that collects business communications — including messaging and filesharing — and makes them available in real-time messaging, archiving and search formats wherever customers want to access those communications. Now, it’s a bottom-up method of B-to-B buying aimed at making work life easier, says Macaitis, whose company slogan is “be less busy.”
Halferty, Macaitis and Jeff Winter — VP of field marketing and channel marketing at German-based enterprise application software provider SAP — left attendees with these thoughts:
• A brand is all the experiences customers have with it, says Macaitis. Customer-centric marketing means marketing has to “surprise and delight” customers all the time. It’s why Slack has five times more support personnel than it does salespeople, he says. For instance, Slack only bills customers for actually using its product. Customers returning from vacations find Slack’s given them credits and refunds, says Macaitis.
• B-to-B buyers are more interested in actionable data than, for instance, all of the data on Twitter, says Halferty. They want to use it to create business value, she says.
• Customer journeys aren’t linear and they’re doing the research before ever reaching out to marketers, says Winter. About 75 percent of buyers have already made up their minds about what to buy before contacting the company, he adds. They’re in peer user groups, attending conferences and finding information elsewhere, Winter says. So arm sales with data and teach them social selling, he says.
• Content marketing is what will help the 75 percent of buyers who aren’t contacting marketers make up their minds, says Winter. SAP sees lots of hits on short, well-produced, “raw” videos and homepages customized through third-party data that allows remarketing, he says. Halferty says IBM thinks of whitepapers as “old,” and is moving to shareable social bites, games and interactive databases that allow prospects to look at trends they want to see. “We’re trying to do more where it’s interactive,” she says. Macaitis finds “the great content is just customers.” For instance, 40 of them proposed to Slack on Twitter. “People believe you and trust you more,” he says.
• Salespeople don’t want marketers to give them leads at SAP now, but they do want marketing to help with the beginning of the purchase, the purchase and after the purchase to retain customers, Winter says.
• Chief data and chief analytics officers will probably ask for data on customers’ major life events in order to upsell and cross-sell them, says Halferty.
• SAP is paying more attention to its top 20 percent of customers, because marketing spent on top accounts is worth the investment, says Winter.
What else should B-to-B marketers consider?
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