It’s time for B2B organisations to catch up on personalisation

Personalisation is nothing new in B2B. The industry has been doing it for decades - but it has traditionally taken a hit and miss approach. 

Building personalised relationships with a customer is one of the core functions of a sales or account team. Knowing your buyers, and influencers within an organisation, suggesting products and services that may be relevant to them, helping them to be more successful in their jobs and for their company are some of the things that any good salesperson will do. And it’s a proven recipe for success – it’s why businesses pay salespeople good salaries and commissions to recognise their value; personalising experiences result in increased sales, increased retention and improved customer satisfaction.

With this human powered personalisation capability well ingrained in our businesses, it’s surprising, if not counterproductive, that B2B organisations have tended to rest on their laurels when it comes to more automated personalisation. Often, B2B lags far behind our B2C equivalents.  And don’t think that customers haven’t noticed – it’s why 92% of B2B buyers say they expect a B2C experience when making a business purchase

B2C organisations have mastered the art of personalised approaches that can deliver greater customer loyalty, share of wallet and lifetime value. There’s absolutely no reason why it can’t do that and more for B2B businesses. While the challenge of delivering a personalised experience for consumers is often a question of delivering it at scale, for B2B it’s about focusing on quality.

Personalisation by design: How B2B businesses must change their mindset

There are a multitude of reasons why a B2B business may want to build more personalisation into experiences that happen outside of sales, and even to use it to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of sales. 

For a start, although customers often enjoy personalised service from their account manager, this often doesn’t translate into other business touchpoints. A call to customer services, placing an order, or querying an invoice for example, often isn’t met with the same degree of familiarity as the sales relationship. B2B buyers want to feel valued just like consumers do, often more so because they spend so much more; 22% of B2B buyers switched suppliers because they weren’t recognised as a customer. It’s easy to feel ordinary when you get treated like a number by customer services. So, B2B organisations should be thinking about how personalisation can be applied consistently across all touchpoints.

At the core of a B2B experience, buyers want the same thing that B2C consumers want – an experience that’s rich, relevant and frictionless. It’s exactly why 64% of buyers say B2B websites are too slow, and 67% cite lack of functionality as frustrating. But there’s an additional layer of complexity that comes from a more complex B2B buying process. 
Here’s how personalisation differs from B2C: 

1. Think about buyers and their business

The B2B experience typically exists at two levels – at the company and buyer level. Personalisation warrants a tailored experience to make it relevant for both the buyer, as well as the organisation they work for. 

2. Cover multiple stakeholders

B2B experiences span multiple stakeholders, and personalisation needs to account for this. It means you need to have an experience that’s customised around key personas and experiences. You’ll need to have content, functionality and journeys that are relevant to buyers, decision makers and influencers. In many cases you need to equip them with the right information that not only supports your positioning, but also helps them to work better with each other - it’s classic account-based marketing, just more scalable.

3. Create consistency throughout the journey

If you can get these two considerations right, there is significant scope for B2B organisations to not only effectively target different stakeholders with the right relevant and personal content, but also to maintain that personalisation throughout the entire customer journey and across touchpoints. This requires a commitment to design experiences from the ground up with personalisation in mind and for the application of personalisation to be consistent throughout the journey.

4. The data advantage

Personalisation lives or dies on the quality of the data that fuels it. Where B2C companies may be limited by segment level data or insights driven through browser cookies, B2B counterparts often have access to detailed and high quality first and third-party data. By leveraging business data, provided by third-party experts as well as the high-quality data from face-to-face customer service and sales interactions, B2B marketers have an excellent basis for effective multichannel experience personalisation.

5. Personalisation should improve what you already do

Personalisation shouldn’t be viewed as a way of replacing sales or customer service teams. It should be viewed as a means of making them more effective. For example, next best action recommendations based on analysis of customer behaviour can be made available to sales or customer service channels so a salesperson or telephone account manager can make quick decisions in face-to-face conversations with customers. 

Also, by enabling personalised self-service, lower value interactions, less profitable customers can be shifted away from sales and customer service without losing the ‘personal’ touch. 

There are plenty of reasons why B2B businesses should consider investing in personalisation. It’s not just a luxury and it’s not limited to B2C. In fact, there are plenty of reasons why B2B organisations can be even better at it than B2C businesses, it just requires commitment to make it a reality.

Want to learn more about making personalisation a reality?

Why not check out Propolis, our exclusive community for B2B marketers to share insights, learn from industry leading marketers, and access our best content. Propolis includes eight Hives (group) to tackle your challenges, including one dedicated to CX.

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