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3 ways B2B businesses can become customer-centric

3 Ways B2B Business Can Become Customer-Centric

The google trends graph for the search term “customer-centric” (below)  gives an interesting look into how business’ focus has been evolving over the past decade.

Early on, B2B businesses were mainly product focused, and with good reason. Since B2B buyers generally had fewer vendor choices than B2C customers, the decision mainly came down to the quality of the product over the experience of the consumer. But things are changing. As the B2C world travels further and further down the rabbit hole of the “Age of the Empowered Customer,” heightened consumer expectations are ebbing into the B2B world. After all, your B2B buyers are still people and they’re affected by the user experience just as much as a B2C buyer.

Although most B2B businesses realize this, studies show a clear lack of disconnect between awareness and action.  Research done by B2B Marketing  found that although 60% of respondents state that customer centricity is ‘vital’ to marketing, when it came to inquiring to what extent they were implementing customer centric practices, 40% stated that listening to customers was a ‘background activity’ instead of a primary focus. In order to keep up in a competitive marketplace, B2B businesses need to get up to speed in making their customers the center of their universe, and here are three ways to get started.

1. Ensure a smooth transition between channels

The same B2B study by B2B Marketing found some more worrisome responses. In their findings less than 40% of respondents felt their customers received a consistent brand experience across all channels (breakdown below) and only 46% felt that customers would rate their customer experience as ‘impressive.’

Facts like this are giant red flags of missed opportunities. Accenture research found that B2B companies that “master” customer experience achieve nearly twice the revenue growth compared to those that don’t.

In order to ensure a seamless and positive consumer experience companies can start by integrating customer information across channels to create a 360 degree customer view.  Customer interactions don’t happen in a bubble, they include every touch point that a prospect or current customer has with your brand. This means when someone enters their information in one section of your website that information should be disseminated into every other area of the business. Online interactions are becoming just as frequent, if not more frequent, than in-person interactions, and need to be treated as a valued part of the purchase journey.  Integrating disparate data sources will empower your sales and marketing team to make informed, consistent decisions about how to reach out to your most valued customers and prospects.

2. Ensure a quick response to leads

Research by InsideSales  found that when B2B companies wait more than an hour to contact and qualify inbound sales leads their chances of success are decreased radically. When considering the state of our “I want it now” consumer expectation, this is no surprise. The same researchers conducted a more recent study and found that still, 

  • The average first response time of B2B companies to their leads was 42 hours
  • Only 37% of companies responded to their leads within an hour
  • 16% of companies responded within one to 24 hours
  • 24% of companies took more than 24 hours
  • 23% of the companies never responded at all

While this was unacceptable when the original research was published in 2007, as we bolster forward further and further into the digital age this becomes ludicrous. As consumers are conducting more and more research prior to requesting information from a company, by the time they reach this step they are already prepared for instant response to move forward with the process.  Resarch by Google and CEB  found that regardless of the price point, B2B customers are 57% through the sales process before engaging a sales rep” (image from study below). This translates to 57% of the sales process already being gone by the time you get your first outreach. Setting up proper strategies and channels for automated and personal response boosts your chances for customer loyalty, as long as your responses and offers are relevant and accurate.

There is another way to take your lead response time to the next level. Real time data mining solutions can find these in-market prospects before they make contact with your sales team. Consider this- during that 57% time that the consumer is doing their own research the majority of that research is being done online. This means that your best prospects are leaving clues, in real time, that indicate their propensity to buy. With this information you can tailor highly targeted messaging to reach decision makers before they contact a competitor.

3. Consider the modern customer decision journey

Could it be true, the journey to purchase no longer is a funnel? That’s what researchers at McKinsey are saying. According to them, and to the agreeance of many others, the decision making process is no longer a clear, linear path, but instead a circular journey with four phases: “initial consideration; active evaluation, or the process of researching potential purchases; closure, when consumers buy brands; and postpurchase, when consumers experience them.”

This new, cyclical vision of the purchase process considers the ongoing experience with consumers, no longer ending at the crux of the triangle. This makes sense as researchers are continuously chanting the importance and value of customer retention instead of placing sole focus on acquisition. 

The second major change that the modern customer journey diagram considers it the equal addition and subtraction of brands considered as the process progresses. Unlike the funnel, which shows a narrowing during the consideration phase, McKinsey findings show that the number of brands considered expand rather than only diminish during the latter stage of the decision making process. This is attributed to the increased availability of information provided by big data solutions and digital channels, which give opposing brands a better opportunity to “interrupt” the process with the ability to send highly relevant and targeted messaging (consider the company who uses real time data as mentioned earlier). McKinsey found that although the number of brands added differs by industry, the opportunity for interruption is unanimous.                

It may seem like B2C gets all the attention in the new marketing landscape, but B2B companies are starting to make their way into the future. With the right strategies and focus, B2B companies are leveraging data solutions to become more customer-centric and see bigger gains than ever before. 

To learn how to create a positive customer experience driven by data and analytics, download this free guide.