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Rod Tonna-Barthet – Kyocera

How do you think B2B buyer attitudes have changed since the pandemic, and what should organisations be doing to improve customer acquisition?

The pandemic has driven a need to engage with customers on a more human level. The fact that 73% of purchases are now made online has impacted how we conduct B2B business. We can be much more efficient and targeted in our marketing. But if you don’t balance that technology with human interaction, then you lose sight of where the real margins are.

I found it disappointing to see commentary describing the pandemic as having made organisations realise that they had to put the customer first. If that’s the argument we’re making, then it suggests that organisations have lost sight of the fact that the sole reason they exist is to sell products and services that add value to their customers. If the pandemic has brought that back, then that is very positive.

What does a digital mindset mean to you?

The digital mindset is all the pre-work, recognising what behaviour the customer is exhibiting, and how my digital and technology strategy interacts with those behaviours when they visit my website.

A common complaint in B2B marketing is that digital information isn’t captured in a way that makes it possible for us to recognise customers. People wonder why we’re talking to the finance director, not them – and why should they be interested in what we’re trying to sell, when we don’t understand the customer’s role?

Successful marketing today uses big data and AI to sift through information and customer behaviour to understand what the customer is interested in, and how we might help them. Google does this brilliantly. If I search for something, two or three things I’ve looked at previously now come up as ads. Perhaps it catches my eye, and I click on it.

This critical part of the customer journey is where you need a digital mindset. You have to have tools in place that grab the customer’s attention, capture relevant information, and show the customer that you can help them. You need to make this process quick, and you need to make it easy for them to get the right information and then connect with a human when they want to talk to someone. The moment my relationship with an organisation is entirely digital, then I’ve commoditised that relationship. You have to inject the human element into the process to avoid that happening.

The digital mindset is all the pre-work, recognising what behaviour the customer is exhibiting, and how my digital and technology strategy interacts with those behaviours when they visit my website.

I think if you’re being smart with technology then you’re looking at how you can continue to add value to customer engagement, and then overlay that with human engagement. That’s the key priority for today’s CMOs and marketers.

Do you think it’s important to track a buyer’s digital activity before trying to market or sell to them over the phone?

Tracking buyer behaviour is about intelligence and relevance. Your potential customer does not want to be pitched products or services that they aren’t interested in, because your marketing and sales teams don’t have the right insight.

For example, a customer might be browsing the internet looking for resources because they are interested in digital transformation and transforming their workflows. If you have been tracking that customer’s behaviour, you’ll know that’s the point to reach out to the customer and let them know what you can do to help with this. It’s important to capture the customer’s interest at the right time.

There is a lot to be learned by looking at how B2C companies such as insurance providers do this. They know that I just bought a car and might need insurance, or while I’m buying car insurance, they’ll ask when my home insurance is due, and then a month before that date, they might send an offer. They’re capturing the information at the right time and then using that intelligently.

Where B2B companies struggle often is the moment of connection. It’s often challenging to get that human injection right, at the moment when someone has had enough self-serve investigation and needs to speak to someone.

We use products such as Salesforce for digital marketing and Pardot to filter what information customers are using and sharing. We know that if someone has looked at something three times and shared that email, we will market to them.

Technology is adapting all the time, and I think if you’re being smart with technology, then you’re looking at how you can continue to add value to customer engagement, and then overlay that with human engagement. That’s the key priority for today’s CMOs and marketers.

As a world-leading manufacturer of high-tech ceramics, electronic components, solar cells and office equipment, Kyocera Corporation has been recognised as one of the top 100 global innovators for four consecutive years. The group employs more than 75,000 people across 231 companies around the world.

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