Crowdsourcing of brands is the future for the B2B market
The customer is always right has been the mantra of many a business, but the reality is that many B2B marketing strategies have struggled to incorporate customer feedback and if they do capture it, really integrate it into their brand development strategy.
The world of B2C has always been at the forefront of customer engagement and has often used this collective voice to help drive their business. Large corporates are using this customer insight to effectively crowdsource new initiatives such as My Starbucks Idea (http://mystarbucksidea.force.com/) that takes inspiration from customer commentary while rewarding customers for that feedback.
However, how do you do this in a B2B environment when customer insights are often anecdotal from sales teams, customer service teams, or remote teams dealing with customers in different regions?
As managing director at brand consultancy Platform, which works with amongst others British Gas, Vodafone and BT, here's our advice on how crowdsourcing and seamless supplier-provider-customer provision will be the way forward for many B2B industries.
Phase 1: Forget corporate hospitality, it’s all about corporate co-creation
Wining and dining clients has always been a tool within the sales and marketing arsenal. Not only do you get to hear the issues and opportunities that the client is experiencing with your product or service, but it also generates a feel good factor and hopefully cements the future sales pipeline.
However, savvy brand managers are now working with clients to effectively evolve their brand with vehicles like Customer Experience Centres which started out life as a showcase and physical space to entertain clients and have now quickly transformed into a place to dismantle, co-create and rejuvenate brands with clients. Creating buy-in at the development stage through this co-creation has the knock on effect of those clients becoming ambassadors and advocates for your brand as well as leading to more long loyal client relationships - the holy grail of every B2B marketer.
Technology is also facilitating this client inclusion into brands with large enterprises already using closed client forums to share ideas and joint documents and iCloud storage providing transparency of projects’ processes and schedules.
Companies are also developing new business technology, such as Platform’s P. suite of apps, which allow marketers to structure client discussions, aggregate the data from customer and sales meetings and reconfiguring into customer insight.
Phase 2: Team Work Means More Than Ever Before
As the customer continues to become progressively more important in the marketing planning process, crowdsourcing of knowledge and expertise from another source will also become a vital part of the marketing jigsaw for the B2B professional - that of the employee.
Where it used to be that information about of an organization (and therefore the power) sat with a small amount of people - senior management- the new communication channels opened by the internet has now changed this power shift to sit with a large amount of people - the employee - (through social media, rate my employer sites etc.) Once again, canny B2B marketers are seeing this as an opportunity, rather than a threat, and are taking the insight generated from such sources to help the brand evolve and rewarding this employee crowdsourcing of ideas with brand ambassador roles and rewards.
Phase 3: The Supply Chain Needs to Be Strong
The final part of the process for B2B marketers is to go back to the beginning of the brand’s journey- with their supply chain. Inviting suppliers as well as clients into your workplace is a trend that will become the norm and co-existing alongside other suppliers to provide an overall service is now more acceptable, and in some places a requirement to sell a contract or a service.
Suppliers will continue to provide the knowledge and expertise beyond the core business. However, with technology changing the way we do business and advancing at such a rapid rate that communicating a strong supply chain will become part of the marketing strategy with affiliate working and partnerships a key point of difference over competitors.
Crowdsourcing the future of our brands whether internally through teams or externally through clients and suppliers will bring a seamless provision of service. The byproduct to the B2B marketer, if they get the crowdsourcing of their brand right, will be the additional advocates and ambassadors that will embrace your brand and help sell your product and service.
Jo Upward is Managing Director at Platform that is launching its P. (pronounced P dot) suite of digital applications to help structure enterprise client discussions from understanding business drivers to showing new solutions in a new highly interactive and innovative way.