The Importance of Customer Experience in B2B Marketing
The Three Elements of a CX State of Mind
Marketers know that we are living in the experience economy. It’s a shift that has been happening for more than 20 years – since Starbucks gave us comfy seats in which to drink our coffee and Apple changed the way we think and feel about electronics. Today, customers demand more than simply good value. They want a memorable experience surrounding them before and after they make their purchase. They expect more.
A report by PwC found that 65% of customers are more influenced by a positive experience with a brand than they are with a slick and savvy marketing campaign. Forty-two percent say they are willing to pay more for a great experience. Certainly, this is true about customer experience in the context of B2C. A great experience builds loyalty, inspires word of mouth, and generates social media buzz. Only lately have companies begun to realize that customer experience (CX) is equally vital to B2B.
Think of it this way
If a customer has a negative experience with a consumer brand and ultimately leaves, that company may lose one or a handful of customers. It’s not good for business, but the impact is relatively small. In contrast, losing a B2B customer is a big deal. Acquisition costs are higher, sales cycles are longer, and the lifetime value of each customer is much larger. Losing one B2B customer to a negative experience could have huge consequences across the entire organization.
What does CX mean for B2B?
Always ready to jump on a trend, B2B marketers have begun to think more about CX. With the combination of technology and customer data at their fingertips, they can more effectively target prospective customers, providing timely and relevant offers at the right time. But does that qualify as CX? Maybe, but it’s only the beginning.
According to SAP, 80% of CEOs think their organizations provide excellent CX. Unfortunately, only 8% of customers agree. The disconnect indicates that companies don’t really understand what CX means in a B2B world. Personalized content marketing is just scratching the surface. CX is about solving problems, satisfying a need for information, and ultimately being helpful in every interaction with your company. Within the buyer’s journey, that means building mental availability [LINK to Long Game Demand Gen Blog] at the awareness stage, delivering a steady diet of informative content tailored to every role on the buying committee, and leveraging intent to provide timely outreach.
Three elements make CX possible
B2B marketing teams can adopt a CX state of mind and excel at creating CX. Creating the environment to do so requires three elements that you may already have in your organization today – the right marketing technology, team-based processes, and the deep knowledge of your people.
Martech makes it all work
According to the now famous Marketing Technology Landscape supergraphic, more than 8,000 marketing technology tools were available in 2020. A new study puts that number at over 9,500 in 2022. Marketers are collecting more data on all aspects of the buyers’ journey than ever before. Yet, most marketers aren’t satisfied with their data, and wonder if they are leveraging it fully. That’s because there are too many questions about data quality and too many sources of data to manage.
Employing a customer data platform (CDP) ensures that customer data lives in one place and is accessible to other systems. CDPs pull data from other platforms, combining it to create a single customer profile and use predictive technologies to spot buyer intent and anticipate customer needs that mere humans may not detect. As CDPs mature, they are leveraging AI and machine learning to clean data as it is pulled in, addressing that other martech data problem – quality. Without it, making decisions based on CDP insights is a tough sell. However, with unified customer data and a well-designed martech stack, marketing teams can use the insights to design positive customer experiences.
Processes allow ideas to flow
Now you have the data and the insights. How do you use them to build a better experience for your prospects and customers? Many companies and marketing teams are still working in siloes and rigid roles (think social media manager, demand gen marketer, customer marketer.) Everyone has their specialty, and everyone has their own objectives. That kind of structure makes it very difficult for marketing teams to keep up with the fast pace and rapid change of modern business.
The CX state of mind requires rapid innovation and feedback from sources, sometimes beyond the marketing team. Sales, marketing, customer success, and product all need to work together to make CX a reality. Think about it like a basketball team. Each player has individual strengths that you can leverage to beat your opponent. As you play the game, players may be substituted on and off the court as they are needed to lend their particular expertise to the game. The basketball model is much like the non-linear workflow modern companies use to improve their speed and agility. In other words, the siloes need to be removed to allow for more cross-functional collaboration. People across your organization have unique perspectives and ideas about CX. Removing the barriers to working together encourages them to be innovative.
People make the real difference
While martech helps identify opportunities for improving CX and the right processes set teams up with the agility and speed they need, one more critical piece is sometimes overlooked. People are the richest source of customer data available to your organization. Therefore, in an organization’s quest to be CX-focused, people need to be encouraged and empowered to think the same way.
Help them do what they do best by ensuring that marketing teams have the tools and processes they need. Give them the power to be creative and encourage the development of new skills that ultimately evolve into new roles and organizational capabilities. Most importantly, give people a voice in designing the customer experience – because they know your customers best.
CX drives growth
Customer experience was once regarded as the territory of consumer products and services. That’s no longer the case, and B2B companies are waking up to the idea that making customers feel special can also extend to B2B relationships. The good news is that the three elements necessary for executing on a CX mindset may already be present in your organization. A well-designed tech stack, a capabilities-based model for structuring teams, and employees empowered to use their knowledge can come together to build something special. The experiences they create will consistently delight your customers at every turn – building loyalty, advocacy, and driving growth.