CEO of Anteriad, a leading provider of B2B marketing solutions. Data-Driven. Tech-Enabled. Growth-Obsessed.
B2B marketers are well aware that their buyers have shifted their behavior online. The pandemic only accelerated a trend that was already in motion.
There is a second important trend that fewer B2B marketers are aware of. B2B buyers have not only moved online, they’ve started to behave more like B2C buyers. More people are comfortable with digital channels, and Millennials are ascending into senior roles and influencing the purchase process. These digital natives are bringing preferences from the way they purchase in their own lives to the workplace.
A recent report by Winterberry Group breaks down the patterns of B2B buyer consumerization into a few important pieces.
First, the new buyer is comfortable using online channels for every stage of the purchase process. That journey could be exclusively online or include elements of online and offline touchpoints. Second, new buyers are more comfortable with a “self-service” journey, where they dictate the steps and make purchases on a website or app unassisted by a salesperson. And third, this new behavior is giving rise to new types of buying activities like the use of social media and longer decision-making cycles that include more content and research.
Taken together, today’s B2B buyers want more flexibility, more access to information and more choice across channels. B2B marketers must give buyers what they are looking for and optimize to close sales quickly and profitably.
Here are four strategies B2B marketers need in order to succeed with the new “consumerized” B2B buyers.
1. Embrace new forms of data.
Our research shows that the best-performing B2B marketers are “data heroes” (download required). The B2B marketers with the best results use data to inform every part of their marketing strategy, from surfacing and prioritizing new leads to creating better segments and campaigns.
For example, data heroes are nearly 50% more likely to be using intent data than other marketers. Intent data is growing in popularity for a good reason; B2B marketers get a much better picture of their buyers’ current likelihood to buy. With so much activity online, intent is more measurable than ever before, providing a way to be more accurate and more timely with campaigns and sales outreach.
Similarly, data heroes also combine insights across individuals to market to specific buying groups. Gartner notes that a typical B2B decision includes six to 10 people who buy in a group. So even though research and purchase activity resembled consumer behavior, B2B marketers gain a competitive edge by aggregating those insights into a buying group lens.
2. Streamline tools and use them better.
One of the difficult realities of B2B consumerization is that B2B buyers bring new expectations of what their experience should be. A typical retail experience, for example, relies on a highly integrated marketing tech stack that uses a centralized customer database to create a streamlined, personalized experience across channels.
Whether B2B marketers like it or not, this is the expectation that buyers have. Integrated technology and centralizing customer data are foundational requirements for delivering that seamless, personalized experience. Most marketers don’t need more tools. Rather, they need to do more with what they have.
Not only should customer data be centralized, but it should also be integrated with the marketing technology for each channel, including email, social media and their website. Then insights can be fed back to the centralized database in real time so that campaigns can be updated. These insights can be used to inform triggered advertising campaigns on the right channels based on that behavior.
3. Use modeling to reach more prospects more effectively.
One benefit of B2C marketing is the sheer scale of the customer base. With so many people to measure, B2C marketers can start to understand behavior patterns quickly and create campaigns based on those patterns. Many B2C marketers have started to use customer behavior data to model and predict behavior for new visitors and prospects that they haven’t interacted with before, delivering more relevant messaging on the right channels at the right time.
B2B marketers can do the same. Modeling can help B2B marketers at several stages. A good model can help with lead acquisition, knowing what activities indicate a higher quality lead, for example. Modeling can also be used to assemble buying groups based on the buying group behavior of known customers. Models can also predict future behavior through the purchase funnel, so B2B marketers get better at that all-important “right channel, right message, right time” strategy.
4. Embrace new channels.
B2C marketers have experimented with a huge variety of channels in order to reach B2C buyers in ways that cut through the noise and drive intended outcomes. B2B marketers typically lag behind, citing a lack of scale or difficulty in targeting as a reason to stick to familiar channels. While there is value in looking at the reach and targeting, there are a lot of channels that are underutilized.
One example is social media. While 80% of marketers use LinkedIn, only 63% use YouTube, and even fewer go to Instagram and Facebook. These outlets are highly trafficked and highly trusted by Millennials in particular and can give B2B marketers a relatively uncrowded platform for reaching this generation.
Another channel is CTV. While linear is hard to target, CTV allows for precision targeting not unlike other digital channels. B2B marketers can reach their buyers at times and on screens that are actually part of their “consumer” life, effectively breaking the barrier between B2B and B2C.
Get ready for the future of marketing.
Creating a more consumerized marketing strategy isn’t a trend, and it’s not about paying lip service. Today, Millennials are the largest generation represented in the labor force and are quickly taking leadership roles. Gen-Z is starting to enter the workforce and is even more likely to have their consumer experience and their digital savvy influence their B2B buying behavior.
Creating a B2C-driven marketing strategy not only helps B2B marketers reach Millennials, it sets the stage for growth in the future. Getting data and technology aligned today will pay dividends.
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