June 21, 2024


Built General Tough

The Future Of Business-To-Business Marketing

Fractional CMO to B2B companies, Owner/Chief Strategist at SolomonBell, Follow me on LinkedIn.

It’s been almost a year since the first cases of Covid-19 appeared in China, and the global economy has taken a big hit. The changes we’re witnessing are not just financial; we’re experiencing a much larger shift that impacts how we interact with one another. This extends far beyond familial and friendly interactions. The way consumers interact with brands has transformed into something that many of us were not prepared for but had to adjust to pretty quickly. 

In a recent report from McKinsey, they outline how what started out as a crisis response has now become the new normal for business-to-business (B2B) buyers and sellers.

“More than three-quarters of buyers and sellers say they now prefer digital self-serve and remote human engagement over face-to-face interactions,” they found, citing ease of scheduling, savings on travel expenses and safety as the top reasons why.

Additionally, e-commerce, once siloed for smaller purchases and almost exclusive to the business-to-consumer (B2C) sectors, is now experiencing massive adoption in the B2B world. In fact, “70% of B2B decision-makers say they are open to making new, fully self-serve or remote purchases in excess of $50,000, and 27% would spend more than $500,000.”

This means that B2B companies that have an aversion to a digital sales model will quickly find themselves in a passé world while their competitors embrace this ever-growing digital self-serve model.

Rethink Your Products

As Clayton M. Christensen, Scott Cook and Taddy Hall note, “The marketer’s task is to understand the job the customer wants to get done, and design products and brands that fill that need.”

Businesses in 2021 will have different needs along with new problems compared to previous years. With few exceptions, every product completes a job that people need or want, and they are attached to a social, functional, and/or emotional element. As Christensen et al. explain, “If marketers understand each of these dimensions, then they can design a product that’s precisely targeted to the job.”

Your products should be tailored to fit their needs, not just fulfill another product segment of the market. It should be based on the actual needs of the customers, not the assumption made by the business. It should be dynamic, allowing your customers to scale up or down, based on their needs. This level of customization shows that you have built a model specifically with them in mind, and that is the breeding ground for a long-term relationship.

Think Beyond Lead Generation

When the budget is tight, marketers must find creative ways to show return on investment, and one of the most overlooked areas is sales enablement.

I don’t mean just producing a sleek brochure or graphic that sales can leverage in their conversations; I’m talking about customized one-to-one strategies that land the prospects in your current pipeline and expand current accounts.

Here are a few tips that can help:

• Create power teams that focus on different segments of your pipeline that are inclusive of marketing, sales and technical team members.

• Draft documented personas of your accounts that include detailed information on the decision-makers and supporting personnel and their online activities.

• Craft customized journeys that address the problem areas your prospect is facing and how your product can solve them.

• Have the sales team craft customized follow-ups based on the interests and/or needs of the prospect.

The key is to reduce barriers as fast as possible. Long sales cycles, typical for B2B sales, can be shortened in many cases with a highly customized and targeted approach. 

Embrace Digital Transformation

Simply put, digital transformation is the adoption of technology that replaces manual processes or out-of-date technology. While this may seem like a no-brainer for many companies, there are those that are concerned that embracing certain technologies will make them obsolete.

Contrary to popular belief, digital transformation is more about people than technology. Harvard Business Review outlines that “our ability to adapt to an even more digital future depends on developing the next generation of skills, closing the gap between talent supply and demand, and future-proofing your own and others’ potential.”

This means, if done correctly, digital transformations will help us be more intentional, more innovative and more people-focused as we continue to evolve.

The focus for B2B marketers is to take a close look at their processes and see how they can make them more efficient across the board.

Offer Support And Community

Right now, many people are in a survival mindset. Their number-one goal is self-reliance in all aspects of their life. Perry Belcher of DigitalMarketer goes into detail about how to understand this mindset and help customers move closer to their personal goal of self-reliance in this podcast.

Forrester writes more specifically that “B2B buyers will expect their suppliers to treat them as partners, not targets.” This puts empathy at the forefront of a world that once shunned the existence of it.

In a practical sense, treating prospects as partners means offering them support, not just in business but as human beings. This might be as simple as offering a “coffee chat” where you are checking in to see how they are doing mentally, emotionally and career-wise.

Providing value to your customers without an initial ask is probably the quickest way to build up a community. This not only showcases you as a subject matter expert but positions you as a value-based influencer who they can learn from. This keeps you top-of-mind with the customer and can also help shorten the sales cycle as they have learned to trust you through your content. 

Neil Patel has put it in the simplest terms: Educate your prospects. Create webinars, any kind of training material, even if you don’t expect to convert them immediately.

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