B2B marketing organizations have been slower to adopt the same digital marketing tools that are helping B2C marketers expand their business. According to a new report from Forrester Consulting, a failure to adopt new tools is standing in the way of lead generation, yet 79 percent of the 251 B2B marketing organizations surveyed use some form of digital marketing. Fifty-nine percent of the respondents said the biggest challenge is the difficulty in connecting with first-time customers online.
The reality is that businesses are beginning their search for new products and services online, and digital represents a great place where lead-gen will continue to increase. The Forrester report says business buyers will increasingly use digital to research, purchase, and engage with products and services. The B2B marketers surveyed for Forrester’s report expect that 46 percent of sales will be generated through online channels in this year. This number will grow 7.7 percent a year over the next five years.
While digital’s growth is important, creating personalized experiences in the discovery phase is more challenging, particularly since elements like pricing and customer reviews are so widely available online. While this may benefit buyers, this new environment gives marketers less editorial control over their online message. According to Forrester, 72 percent of B2B marketers think that connecting with anonymous buyers is a major challenge.
Unfortunately, B2B marketers also face challenges once they are able to turn a lead into a customer. Most B2B marketers would agree that taking a customer-centric approach is a key to success, achieving this is easier said than done. According to Gallup’s “Guide to Customer Centricity,” only 29 percent of B2B customers report that they are fully engaged and 71 percent are “ready and willing to take their business elsewhere.”
Being customer-centric goes beyond marketing tactics, according to Ed Boyle, global practice leader at Gallup. He told Marketing Dive that customer-centricity should be an operating mode that runs through all marketing activities and the company’s messaging.
Gallup suggested five steps to improving engagement and customer relationships. These include: measuring objectively; measuring holistically; focusing on the most urgent accounts; activating the account team; and putting customers to work.
Boyle admits that this approach can be easier said than done within an organization if leadership is not committed. He stressed the importance of total buy-in across the organization from the top down in order for this to work.
Native advertising is another potential way for marketers to both attract leads and to appeal to loyal customers. Its expected increase by 156 percent in Europe and account for 52 percent of Europe’s digital display advertising by 2020, according to a new report from Yahoo and Enders Analysis, native offers an opportunity to connect with in-market buyers with compelling content. As smartphones and tablets continue to play a larger role in content discovery and consumption, B2B marketers have an opportunity to create high quality articles that appeal to business buyers by speaking to them about their pain points.
This up-and-coming format is measurable, scalable, and allows marketers to reach leads through context. Native advertising is also beneficial in its ability to overcome the impact of ad blocking. As a new format, the industry has an opportunity to set new standards and only deliver compelling content based on user preferences. Perhaps native is yet another way to achieve a customer-centric approach.
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