Marketing Strategy

Great B2B Customer Experiences Require Customer-Centric Marketing

By May 16, 2016 2 Comments

Only 12% of B2B marketers rate themselves as “very effective” at delivering a great customer experience.

No, that’s not a typo. It’s a finding from the 2016 B2B Customer Experience Benchmark Report from Kapost.

The report defines customer experience as:

Customer experience encompasses each interaction between a customer and brand across channels (social media, website, email, sales, etc.) and technologies (marketing automation, CMS, CRM, etc.).

It’s important to understand that customer experience is the sum of all of the interactions, not just based on one-off instances of engagement.

Experiences cannot be an afterthought.

Experiences, therefore, cannot be an afterthought. But that’s what happens when content is created reactively, rather than strategically. Without a documented buyer’s journey—only 39% say they have one—marketers don’t have the clarity they need to create compelling, connected experiences. Random acts of content do not make the grade for customer-centric marketing.

Why not?

Because fragmentation and confusion result from inconsistent experiences, leaving your buyers in a “WTF?” state of mind, casting doubt about your expertise as the mentor they’re looking for to help them solve their problems. And that’s certainly not where you want them to be.

3 Tips for Customer-Centric Marketing that Creates Great B2B Customer Experiences:

Consistency

In the report, 85% of B2B marketers agree that consistency across content, teams, and channels is the backbone of an effective customer experience. Twenty-six percent cite a lack of consistency across channels as a barrier to success.

Consistency doesn’t mean saying the same thing over and over again. What it does mean is that the message your content delivers stays true to the problem-to-solution journey your buyer is on as it relates to your brand value. It also means that every content asset will contribute to a step in the journey, as well as the other steps, to connect the dots and guide buyers forward in their decision process. And, consistency also leads to the recognition of your story, even if your logo is removed.

Customer-centric marketing is an approach that helps with consistency—always putting the buyer front and center.

Tip: Inventory your content and then arrange it as a storyboard across the buying journey for each target market or persona. Then answer these questions:

  • Does the “story” make sense from the buyer’s perspective, or is it asking for leaps of faith?
  • Is the story consistent with your overall brand value and positioning?
  • Is the way you’re presenting the “story” connected in a way that promotes engagement and anticipation? (calls to action, links to “see also” content)
  • How is each team contributing to the story your content is telling?
  • Are there variances in messaging that cause confusion?
  • Is there repetition or redundancy in the content created by different teams?
  • Is the content appropriately presented in the channels where it’s published? Or is it the same content splashed around without purpose?

Visibility

A lack of visibility into initiatives, timelines, and deliverables across teams is an issue for 56% of B2B marketers who responded to the survey. When one team doesn’t know what another is doing, inefficiency, redundancy, and mixed messages are the result. It’s important to remember that customer experience is the sum of all the interactions your buyers and customers have with your company. A lack of visibility leads to a lack of coordination of the experiences produced.

However, when marketing, sales, and service teams can see the initiatives in play and access content for complimentary uses—building the strength of the story, rather than developing new ones haphazardly—consistency in both messaging and experiences will see improvement.

A lack of visibility leads to a lack of coordination of the experiences produced.

Tip: Start by inventorying all the ways your buyers and customers are being “touched” by marketing, sales, and support and map that to the buyer’s journey. This includes email campaigns, newsletters, event invitations, product launches and updates, RSS feeds, nurturing programs, etc. Note the frequency for each. For one client I worked with, we discovered that buyers were being “touched” more than 15 times per month when we looked collectively at all the communications a target market was receiving from all the different teams.

I think you’d agree that fatiguing your buyers does not make for the best experience. By helping the client streamline those touches and improve consistency and relevance in messaging, engagement improved along with conversions from stage to stage.

Conversions from stage to stage and content scoring were the top metrics favored by 44% of marketers in the report.

Process

Inefficient processes are reported as the top barrier to success with customer experience by 49% of respondents to the survey. Part of this issue may be due to the fact that the marketers who rate themselves as less effective have neither a documented strategy nor clear business objectives. Without clear processes, hand offs across teams are missed; ad hoc, reactive content creation is the norm; and execution is delayed and inefficient.

Technology offers a solution to this problem. In fact, 83% of the most effective marketers use a content platform that serves as a hub for planning content initiatives that drive customer experiences, an orchestrator of workflows and processes to keep them on track, and a content hub allowing access and visibility across the functions and teams involved.

Tip: Given what you discovered with the visibility tip, list out all the steps that need to happen for the creation, development, and execution of each of those “touches.” Did you know all of this or did you need to go talk to others to find out? How long did that take? Can you confidently state where each initiative is in production? Just imagine what would be possible if you could.

As B2B marketers model their content marketing initiatives based on the outcomes they need to produce—such as great customer experiences—we gain more structure and strategic approaches. Paraphrasing what Robert Rose says in the report, this is what makes customer-centric marketing a real function of the business.

Ardath Albee

About Ardath Albee

Ardath Albee is a B2B Marketing Strategist and CEO of her firm, Marketing Interactions. She’s written two books, the latest is Digital Relevance: Developing Content and Strategies That Drive Results. Ardath helps B2B companies with complex sales use persona-driven content marketing strategies to turn prospects into buyers and convince customers to stay. Follow her on Twitter at @ardath421.

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