How do you think B2B buyer attitudes have changed in the post-pandemic, recovery period, and what should organisations be doing differently to improve customer acquisition?
We are seeing large organisations adopt more digital behaviours in the lead-up to buying, and in the buying process itself. These individuals are coming to the digital channel in search of help, information, or guidance. As an organisation, we are focused on those personas, their wider business objectives, the different influences and stakeholders, and what is important to them.
Where possible, this means shaping our digital development to respond to and help those people, with end-to-end digital journeys, where appropriate. This was part of our strategic thinking before the pandemic, but that period has accelerated the development of our digital channels and support for B2B buyers. It forced us to think differently about how B2B buyers engage with organisations and how they like to interact.
A lot of research shows that businesses would prefer to engage digitally because they want convenience. They have a job to do and they just want their supplier to work with them as efficiently and seamlessly as possible. B2B suppliers want to engage on a more personal level, because they want a relationship that grows the value of each customer. Buyers on the other hand increasingly want to engage more digitally. There is a potential for neither party to be satisfied.
During the pandemic what I observed was that everyone – ourselves and our customers – were going through a difficult time, and perhaps the people you’d normally speak to weren’t available because they were on furlough. You couldn’t even be sure an email would be received because people weren’t visiting premises, and what if you contact someone on a business landline? Outbound communication became very difficult.
What role do you think human beings will play an increasingly digital buyer journey?
The journey may be digital, but we must remember that decision makers are still human, and so organisations must find ways to evidence empathy in digital journeys. This means designing journeys that understand the buyer’s needs, and that help them achieve their goals. There is still a role for human intervention, but it’s important to understand where and when that will be most useful and appropriate.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be a face-to-face meeting. It could be a human interaction through a digital channel. We have so many technologies now that allow us to connect through digital channels.
During the pandemic we created a strategy to help us contact and engage with customers, to talk to them about the issues they were facing. This is where the human element comes in. We could say to people that we’re here to help, we understand what’s going on, please get in touch. We received more calls than you would expect at any other time. We trained our people and created a response mechanism to help customer service agents deal with different situations, and help them to support customers through the different options and proposals. We might reach out to those customers through emails or self-serve channels, but there was a person there to remind people that we’re in this together and we can help with their situation. The human element was critical, but we couldn’t have done it without having the digital capability.
“The human element was critical, but we couldn’t have done it without having the digital capability”.
“Ideally, we’d have a seamless omni-channel view of the customer where we can see all their interactions, transactions and account history. That would make it easier to be proactive with customers through digital communications, and build relationships through Account Based Marketing tools and platforms”.
How confident are you that you know the size of your addressable market?
I am 95% confident in the size of our addressable market, because it is a very specific space. Even so, I think there is demand for better technology that allows us to take a more sophisticated approach to B2B targeting, because in this market, data is highly fragmented.
We need to remember that the B2B buyer isn’t a single person in the business that you need to work with and influence. There are actually a wide range of people involved in the buying journey, and we need to communicate with those decision makers and influencers on a regular basis. However, those people change roles very frequently, certainly more often than you’d see in a B2C relationship. If you’re working with a householder, that person doesn’t change from year to year. But in a B2B setting, you might deal with two or more people in a single year.
You may feel confident targeting the business, but the business isn’t the decision maker. When you target a business you’re targeting a name, not the customers making decisions and running that business. The addressable market is a rapidly changing thing, that we need to be better at tracking.
Ideally, we’d have a seamless omni-channel view of the customer where we can see all their interactions, transactions and account history. That would make it easier to be proactive with customers through digital communications, and build relationships through Account Based Marketing tools and platforms. It’s helpful to know someone has consumed this piece of content or shared a piece of social content. The account manager can then get in touch to start to build a relationship, by offering more information or answering any questions the customer might have.
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