The Pardot State of Demand Generation Report surveyed more than 400 B2B users and learned that 76 percent “prefer to receive content unique to their stage in the buying process.” Couple that with the news that most “B2B purchase decision makers and influencers use their smartphones to gather information when purchasing products and services,” and you begin to get an accurate view of today’s market. We live in a world where 59 percent of B2B purchase decision makers are “comfortable making a business purchase from a mobile device.” It’s time to meet our B2B audience where they are.
The Challenge of B2B Mobile Engagement
Sometimes I’ll open a B2B marketing email on my smartphone, and if the content is relevant and interesting, I’ll want to continue engaging. Chances are I won’t, however, because the experience—whether in the email or on the linked site—isn’t mobile. I may open the email, but I’ll never look at it a second time. If we expect more business users to engage our brands in mobile, we need to improve B2B mobile experiences. According to Litmus, “51 percent of email is now opened on a mobile device”—and that number is growing fast.
The traditional take on the stages of the B2B sales process looks similar to the B2C process, as this table shows.
Comparison of the B2C and B2B sales processes.
In reality, the B2B cycle is lengthier than a typical B2C sales funnel, and it requires deeper comparisons, heavier demos, and more one-on-one nurturing from the sales team. B2B marketing demands more intensive engagement than B2C. And now, B2B mobile marketing is demanding further innovation in the cycle.
Mobile B2B marketing is not just about getting people to decide to buy. It’s primarily about helping them effectively learn about offerings, get hooked on industry-targeted content, and connect with product representatives in a meaningful way. The goal is to make all of this not only possible, but better in a mobile world.
How do we deliver B2B-level engagement and nurturing in a mobile interface? First, we must be willing to reevaluate all the old marketing tactics that were developed for browsers, and approach mobile from a B2B user’s perspective.
Re-visioning the B2B Mobile Cycle
Thanks to mobile, the sales funnel is becoming increasingly cyclical. As author Chuck Martin, CEO of the Mobile Future Institute, puts it:
“Now, because of smartphones and tablets, marketers need to fundamentally rethink things. Shopping is becoming an iterative rather than a serial process…. The steps of the mobile buying process are all happening all the time.”
Martin is talking about the B2C world, but his insights apply to B2B mobile users as well.
The steps of the B2B mobile cycle are also “happening all the time.” However, B2B customers don’t go “shopping.” They research, evaluate, question, and carry the pressure of making a worthwhile investment for a profit-driven company. They move up and down the funnel, continually comparing alternatives, asking questions, and requesting demos as they go. As I already noted, they are willing to do all this on mobile devices—if we’re ready for them.
B2B sales and marketing company Sirius Decisions has taken the lead on re-visioning for mobile. CMO Marilyn Reap notes that future B2B marketing requires “persona and solution-based portfolio marketing,” more powerful enablement, and increased “automation … to deliver marketing to multiple channels.” Each of these core strategies must be integrated throughout the entire B2B mobile marketing cycle.
Borrowing from Reap’s ideas, I’ve come up with a fresh take on the mobile cycle to fit the needs and habits of the B2B visitor. I’m not reinventing the wheel; just giving it a new spin. To differentiate from cycles that overemphasize the purchase phase, I call mine the B2B mobile engagement cycle.
Stages of the B2B Mobile Engagement Cycle
- Content and influence: Personalized content marketing and thought leadership.
- Communications and nurturing: Flexible sales conversations and relevant email offerings.
- Interactive research and comparison: Searchable information, detailed case studies, and feature-by-feature product comparisons.
- Productivity and preference: Personalized demonstrations and heavily supported evaluation process.
- Loyalty and investment: Valuable and targeted ongoing content delivery and relationship management.
Remember, these stages are cyclical and overlapping. Engagement is a present and ever-evolving process.
First Steps for B2B Mobile Engagement
Many B2B companies already have great content to offer individual visitors, but they don’t have the tools or resources to deliver. At Adobe, we’ve been consistently enhancing mobile personalization across our B2B channels and helping others do the same. The market for mobile targeting tools and services like ours is growing by 40 percent a year.
To get started and select the right tools, you need to understand the unique needs and patterns of your B2B mobile users. Your visitors’ behavior will guide your first steps. For example, if prospects are landing on your mobile site but abandoning it as soon as they reach the registration form, the communications and content phase needs some attention.
You may find its best to emphasize one particular stage until your audience is ready to fully engage. Your first task might be to optimize your mobile navigation bar with targeted headings to help visitors discover the most relevant information. Once you have a foundation of visitor data to grow from, you can launch personalized email campaigns, deliver demos and incentives, publish valuable thought leadership, integrate with social channels, and much more. A focused approach can yield greater results than spreading your efforts too thin.
Personalize Every Stage of the Cycle
Among B2B marketers, there’s little argument that personalization is king. A whopping 94 percent of digital marketers said that personalization is “critical to current and future success.” But just because marketers recognize the importance of personalization doesn’t mean they know how to implement it—especially in mobile.
As we all know, targeting and optimization is an ongoing, ever-evolving process. Taking the time to build smart and powerful automated personalization into each phase of the mobile B2B cycle is well worth the effort in the long run.
Over the next several weeks, I’ll be delving into each phase of my B2B mobile engagement cycle with revealing statistics, case studies, and insights from our experiences at Adobe. Follow along for tips on personalizing your mobile B2B user experience, with an emphasis on enduring engagement and loyalty.