For too long, the industry has differentiated between ‘Business to Business’ (B2B) and ‘Business to Consumer’ (B2C) marketing. While I completely agree that choosing and purchasing a new pair of trainers is very different from selecting a vendor to deliver a six-figure digital transformation project, at the end of the day, the person we are trying to reach is essentially one and the same. And that person wants an epic end-to-end customer experience.
Earlier this year, we surveyed 1,215 B2B marketers and B2C buyers from across a variety of industries in Europe to get a better understanding of what’s now driving the B2B ‘consumer.’ What we found was that the traditional distinctions between these two previously differentiated subsets of marketing are converging, with purchasing behaviours usually more prevalent amongst consumers now being mirrored by enterprise buyers.
The findings in the Creating Epic Customer Experiences report from Marketo, an Adobe company, show that the top three purchasing drivers for business buyers now include brand transparency (78%), brand-purpose (68%), and personalised customer experiences (49%).
Given that 70% of the people we surveyed said that they are struggling to differentiate their offerings in a crowded market, B2B marketers must simply change their approach to how they engage with their target audiences. The approach must be based on individual requirements and behaviours, rather than relying on the traditional techniques and methods of B2B marketing.
Our report identified three key areas of convergence, and as such, opportunities for marketers in the B2E world:
Just as privacy, transparency, and trust have become a priority for consumers, they are also priorities for business buyers. This is not surprising given the huge changes in data regulation, compliance, and security requirements over the last few years. 85% said being treated fairly was a priority, followed closely by assurances of data protection and security (83%), and finally, transparency and honesty about how the company works (78%).
Brand purpose, and ethical, sustainable values haven’t only taken a stronghold in the consumer world – they’re now a big priority for buying teams as well. Two-thirds of B2B buyers (68%) say that brand purpose is important during the buying decision process, two-thirds (67%) say they want to work with brands with strong environmental credentials, and 64% are more likely to consider organisations that demonstrate fair, ethical practices throughout the entire supply chain.
We also found that nearly half of B2B marketers felt they had lost sales because their brand’s core values and purpose weren’t clear. Further to that, a third of business buyers (30%) said they would walk away if a brand’s values seem at odds with theirs. This undoubtedly represents a big opportunity for improvement.
Customers for life
Major consumer brands are successfully using technology to deliver seamless, personalised experiences across the ever-increasing number of channels, delivering the right messages at the right time to drive customer acquisition and retention. This is where personalisation is crucial – nearly half of B2B buyers (49%) state that tailored offers and communications encourage them to stick with a provider.
Personalisation is an obvious opportunity here. It’s about looking at a target account holistically by determining who the influencers and decision-makers are, what channels they are using and what motivates them. Then, a company can take that information and deliver consistent excellent experiences throughout the entire lifecycle of that customer.
Fundamentally, what drives a purchase is no different whether it’s consumer or enterprise. The experience is what wins out in the end. What stands out for me in this report is the opportunity for B2B marketers to rip up the old B2B marketing rulebook and get creative and innovative around how they create and deliver epic customer experiences.
For more about how the B2B buying and marketing environment is changing and how you can take advantage of a B2E approach, the Creating Epic Customer Experiences report is available here.
About the Marketo Creating Epic Customer Experiences 2019 report
The Creating Epic Customer Experiences report is from Marketo, an Adobe company. 910 online interviews with B2B buyers took place to understand what they want, need and expect from brands at different stages of the buying funnel. A further 305 online interviews with marketing decision makers took place to understand the challenges they face in getting the right engagement at each stage of the sales funnel.
Surveyed 910 B2B buyers across the UK, Germany and France. Survey respondents were drawn from a range of company sizes and job functions, including IT, Finance, HR and Operations. 305 marketing professionals with varying levels of seniority from across the same three territories were interviewed. Respondents from both groups ranged from 18–65+ years of age.