Today, marketing is hyperfocused on the individual. B2C brands increasingly vie for the attention of independent consumers through personalization, delivering tailor-made products and experiences driven by data and AI technologies.
B2B purchasing decisions are more collective, analytical, and structured — which often means marketers are prone to forgetting the individual impact of their work. But sales in B2B involves building consensus among decision makers, a negotiation of communications that is fundamentally human and intuitive, and comes down to independent impressions.
Brownstein Group takes a B2C approach to B2B brands. We know that it’s important to address cutting edge technologies to stay competitive, but making thoughtful and engaging connections with clients and prospects makes all the difference in closing a deal. We can use technology to personalize, collect data, and predict outcomes and needs — but how do we translate these insights into personal touchpoints that feel human?
Tell a Story
We are all wired to tell and pay attention to stories. Algorithms can make clever product suggestions and deliver powerful insights, but they can’t yet weave them into stories that make brands resonate with people.
Storytelling is naturally vicarious. Push content where a potential client can see themselves as an actual client to experience the resolution of problems, such as interactive case studies, mini-documentaries, and branded content.
Recently, Deloitte has successfully used this approach in multiple campaigns, such as in their Insights videos, which explore contemporary problems afflicting businesses of various scales. The narratives are short, but delivered with eye-catching motion graphics that keep audiences engaged. Similarly, the company has sponsored branded content platforms — such as Forbes BrandVoice — to capitalize on journalistic storytelling to address issues relevant to clients.
Leverage Salespeople and Support Teams as Thought Partners
It can be taxing for companies to work with multiple vendors and platforms, so don’t see your own B2B brand as either of the two. Companies want to see their collaborators as thought partners – people that will help them solve long-term problems while delivering dependable products and services.
Allow marketing and product leaders in the company to train sales and support teams so they can broadcast the expert voice that clients expect from a thought partner. Your new business team should be able to provide a taste of the experience of working with your company at all levels.
Sales falls under brand, so defining your brand experience is the first step to defining your approach across the lifecycles of a deal. With the ability to provide ongoing insight for a client, sellers can become brokers of knowledge, offering a partnership that can work through challenges now and in the future.
Over the past few years, Cisco has been recognized as one of the world’s most customer-centric companies. While adding new cloud-based services and subscription models, they have also grown a Customer Experience Group of more than 27,000 specialized employees to engage with clients and enable their projects. The result? An integrated team of 60 Cisco support specialists from 12 countries is now helping a Japanese company build a cloud-based 5G network across the country – all in under 8 months.
Recognize the B2B Limits of Technology
It can be wise to take a step back and learn from the successes and failures of trending technologies before deploying them in B2B marketing.
A great example can be found in voice technology marketing. Recently, Alexa Skills, a platform for Amazon’s Alexa home speakers, has successfully engaged the audiences of many consumer-facing companies. NPR’s Skill, for example, teaches the Alexa speaker to recognize commands to play radio stations, podcasts, and shows from their library. Banks and online payment companies, like US Bank and PayPal, offer Skills that enable personal transactions to happen through voice commands.
Despite these successes, developing Alexa Skills can deliver limited ROI for B2B companies, as B2B brands can seem out of place in peoples’ homes. Unless there is an express opportunity to offer a service to an individual at the call of a command, there isn’t a compelling need to develop a B2B Alexa Skill. Furthermore, as speaker technology faces public scrutiny for intrusive data collection, it might be better to keep B2B marketing technology within professional environments.
For B2B marketers to remain competitive, it’s important to identify key uses of technology to understand how they carry across to B2B applications. But marketers can’t let technology distract from the human thinking required to drive sales. They should continue to test new ways of leveraging technological insights with the uniquely human abilities of telling stories, cooperating on challenges, and delivering intimate customer experiences.