B2B engagement strategy has slowly and steadily become an essential part of B2B digital marketing. In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at this phenomenon.
As B2B marketers have known for the longest time, the industry doesn’t play by the rules that the B2C sector does. Usually, we’ve focused on marketing and traditional advertising in the niches that B2B customers flourished in. It was all about putting your money into a message that interrupted your customers and in this manner gained your attention. There was the risk of antagonizing them just as much as there was a chance of being rewarded by their attention.
Surely this approach was a hit for decades. After all, advertising was a favourite way of connecting to your B2B target group. However, the market, target groups and customer expectation have changed so much over the last few years. As things got technologically connected, the buyer journey has changed too.
Now, almost 5.4 stakeholders are involved in the average B2B sale. Today’s B2B customer is also far more educated than their predecessors. With information about every niche so easily accessible, they demand a different approach. Sure, customer acquisition is critical to any business’s survival, especially in the B2B scenario. However, in these changing times, the focus has shifted from acquisition to engagement.
What Is Engagement Marketing?
In today’s age, the average customer is inundated with thousands of messages every day. Needless to say, customers are getting used to these types of messages and are learning to tune them out. Gone are the days where bombarding your customer with an in-your-face kind of content would help you win their sale. Now, there is a need to take the time to engage with them to get to the point of selling.
B2B engagement strategy refers to a new marketing approach where the focus lies on creating an engaging relationship with the customer. Rather than bombarding them with advertisements, you aim at building a relationship with them by supplying them with value. This includes everything from campaigns and content to new projects and product launches. However, depending on the individual organization’s needs, engagement can hold different meaning to each.
At the end of the day, B2B engagement strategy revolves around the core value of building relationships with your customers. It mainly includes the customer to participate in the evolution of a brand, as opposed to merely being the recipients. Essentially, B2B engagement strategy realizes that from a profit standpoint, customers are the most critical factor. Accordingly, it involves customers in the co-creation of marketing material. It helps you show that you care about your customer at every step of the way.
Why Do You Need a B2B Engagement Strategy?
As we said before, today’s customer is smarter than ever before. The way they make purchase decisions has changed. Accordingly, if you want to remain profitable, you must change your attitude towards marketing to B2B customers.
According to Forrester, most prospects wait till they’re 65-90% of the way through their buying and information-gathering journey before they approach a vendor. Today’s B2B customers wait till they have a clear idea about what they’re seeking before they contact you. Needless to say, a hit-them-on-the-head way of communication is detrimental. Instead, such customers prefer engaging with you. Now, you need to focus on educating and nurturing trust before customers will buy from you.
Moreover, customers today have more options than they have ever had before. Looking for vendors or service providers is just a few clicks away. Add in the fact that content marketing has steadily gained popularity in the last decade and you’ll see why information has become the guiding force. You can’t expect to land quality customers if they don’t view you as a credible information source. Without credibility, there is a low likelihood of people seeking out your products or services.
Additionally, customer data is easily available these days. Everything from lead lists to data mining list companies exists to help you along the way. In this scenario, personalization has become a staple in the B2B industry. According to Forrester, 16% of buyers expressed that personalization was a key deciding factor. These participants were more likely to give their patronage to a business that offered a personalized experience to them across different platforms and channels.
In this scenario, a B2B engagement strategy is essential to the survival of your organization.
Four Changes for a Successful B2B Engagement Strategy
An engagement strategy may be a new concept to you, especially since it focuses on changing customer communication approach. What was working in the past doesn’t cut it anymore and this is why you need to truly understand the basics of engagement. Let’s take a look at the core rules to achieving a successful B2B engagement strategy.
Focus on People, Not Just Personas
When it comes to B2B sales, many marketers see improved results after employing buyer personas. After all, things do get easier when you have a blueprint of the kind of people that you want to sell to. Many companies have become so used to functioning with buyer personas, that they have trouble adapting to engagement.
However, successful B2B engagement strategy demands that you put the individual customer above all else. This means that you must shift focus to data-centric targeted customer segments. Most importantly, it is essential that these customers receive very specific messaging, for well-defined purposes.
We’ll now look at how this translates in the real-life B2B scenario. Let’s assume that your company’s core offering is software systems. In this scenario, let’s assume that you want to up-sell an upgrade or add-on to every customer availing the basic package. Here, you would benefit from targeting people, not personas. To get started, you should niche down the segment to be as detailed as possible. Once this is done, you can focus on getting out hyper-specific messages out to these contacts.
However, unless you have the appropriate, accurate client data that you need, this hyper-personalized messaging becomes a challenge. Rather than having your in-house team hustle all over the place trying to unearth the right data, it is best to trust a professional data solutions company.
Reach Out Based on Actions, Not on Assumptions
Netflix and other popular streaming apps really understand this in a way that many B2B marketers don’t. These apps take a look at the actions (movie or TV show preferences) and then cater their offering based on those suggestions. Sure, they do ask the viewer a few questions when they sign-up, but they don’t keep their content glued to this persona’s preferences. Even in the B2B situation, things aren’t all that different.
According to Marketo, over 80% of consumers worldwide will engage with a given brand’s marketing offers if they are similar to how the previous interactions with the brand went. This means that customers today want to be given solutions or answers based on their past actions, likes, dislikes, and needs. Anything irrelevant is immediately ignored or discarded. In such a scenario B2B engagement strategy must focus on bringing in data-centricity into marketing operations.
Rather than assuming that a particular prospect or customer wants something, reliable intel can help you predict what they are most likely to respond to. Accordingly, such a strategy will also help you engage more effectively with your most profitable clients.
Long Term Vision, Not Short Term Gain
Today, mountains and mountains of information on almost any subject are accessible within seconds. This has tremendously impacted the B2B scenario since more customers are now prone to looking up information before even considering buying.
Millennials now make more B2B purchase decisions and that these type of customers have a penchant for doing their due diligence. Rather than worrying about the changes that this brings, focus on the opportunity this presents. With a B2B engagement strategy, it is necessary that you think in the long-term. Already, the B2B buying process relies on being seen as a credible source. So, when the average customer has become better-informed, this couples up to bring about the need to establish your organization as an authority.
Rather than playing salesperson, focus on becoming a valued resource. Surely, in the B2B scenario, this takes a long period. Publishing valuable content, hosting webinars, starting a podcast, or even signing up for industry events are a sure fire way to boost your visibility, credibility and reputation in the industry.
Operate via Omnichannel, Don’t just Stick to Multi-channel
Today, B2B businesses are feeling the need to offer omnichannel access to their customers. After all, when the speed of your interactions counts, there is a lot of risk in leaving any stone unturned. Google reports that almost 90% of people who use multiple devices switch between an average of three such devices per day, in order to complete a task.
This means that your prospect might check your free e-book on their daily commute to work. Maybe, later in the week, they’ll check out a white paper from their work computer. Probably at the end of the week, they’ll want to sign up for a mobile demo. In such a scenario, it is important that all these channels are aligned in a way that doesn’t require the customer to put in their information more than once. By not doing so, the illusion of a well-connected, free-flowing operation system will shatter.
In the same fashion, serving up the same freebies to them on different channels because your system isn’t efficient enough is a recipe for disaster. Moreover, such small factors might cause frustration to your prospect or even worse, make them feel like you’re not prepared enough to handle their business.
All in all, your B2B engagement strategy won’t work unless you factor the changing browsing habits of your customers and employ an omnichannel approach.
How to Build B2B Engagement Strategy Into Your Marketing Activities
As you’ve understood by now, B2B engagement strategy has a very different approach to capturing audience attention. Now that you know what engagement marketing’s principles are let’s look at how you can incorporate engagement into the very core of your marketing strategy.
Target and Segment The Message
For a B2B engagement strategy that works, it is incredibly necessary, to start with segmentation. However, as we’ve said before, you should focus on people, not personas. This means that rather than segmenting your prospects and audiences based on filmographic data or demographics, you must have a more in-depth analysis for segregating them.
Leverage data about things that have value. Look into creating messages that refer to their problem specifically. Additionally, think about how you can craft messages so that they have a tremendous impact on the receiver. Won’t this take a lot of time and effort on your team’s part? Well, it surely will. However, that’s a small investment compared to the returns you’re likely going to receive.
The prerequisite for successfully personalizing your messaging is an automated CRM tool that collects, maintains and sorts data. The data crunching done by such a system helps you with insights and other valuable information to guide you in the right direction. Most importantly, you must have regular CRM cleaning services to maintain the health of this vital customer relationship management software.
Create Podcasts, Webinars and Interactive Videos
Remember when we said that long-term thinking gets results in the case of B2B engagement strategy? Well, that essentially translates to investing in the creation of content that can add value to your brand.
The power that interactive content formats have is unparalleled. Podcasts are especially useful when it comes to ease of access. After all, you can listen to a podcast while commuting, cleaning, cooking, exercising and any time that you have some time to spare. Moreover, reports show that there are over 73 million podcast listeners in the US alone! By investing in creating engaging podcasts, you have a new offering for your audiences. Moreover, everything from scripted audios, book readings, interviews, and even scripted work for podcasts. Just imagine the potential!
Even videos are a powerful marketing tool. In fact, in 2017 video accounted for 74% of all online traffic. Over 59% of B2B customers involved in decision-making chose video format content over text. The main reason for this is the element of engagement that can be brought in with video content. To make your videos even more engaging, add clickable elements and interactive infographic or clickable links.
Webinars are a great way to bring credibility and trust for your B2B organization. Not only do they help you build your digital marketing engagement, but they also help in overall customer engagement. By employing influencer marketing tactics, you can bring in an element of credibility to the content you produce.
Be Adaptable in One-On-One Communication
We all know that B2B purchases take a longer time to seal and involve more people than the B2C counterpart. Consequently, this has made it essential to be more alert and engaged with your purchase decision-makers throughout the buying journey. While we spoke about engagement in your marketing and content materials, that is not the end of the story.
When it comes to successful B2B engagement strategy, staying in touch with the same level of engagement and enthusiasm is essential. You have to make sure that you maintain equanimity in all your communication with a prospect, even one-on-one communication. After all, you will rarely land business if your personal sales conversations are not in line with your brand’s communication.
When it comes to personally connect with prospects or clients, make sure to pay attention to their preferred means or channels. It is necessary that they are in their comfort-zone while communicating with you. Rather than asking them to converse via platforms that you prefer, observe what they are doing. Does your client prefer to have Skype calls as opposed to telephonic conversations? Call them on Skype then! Customers may not immediately see you going the extra mile for them, but this extra attention to details pays off in the form of a loyal customer base.
Humanize Your Communication
B2B engagement strategy relies on a variety of things to be deemed successful. One of those factors is how appealing you are to a customer’s subconscious. Surely, you can’t focus all your attention on subtly building an appeal among audiences without focusing on profits. However, in this new era of digital communication, it is very necessary that you humanize your brand’s communication. People today don’t want to do business with a brand whose only focus is profit. Customers now expect more from you regarding social responsibility, ethical behaviour and holistic values.
In a competitive B2B landscape, the focus remains on adding value to client organizations with a partnership. Rather than treating them as accounts focus on building mutually-beneficial partnerships. However, unless you find ways to humanize your brand communication, it is difficult not to appear like you’re selling. For example, rather than harping on about the financial benefits of picking your organization, talk about how you will be a long-term growth partner. Additionally, talk about values like security, dependability, commitment, and stability that go way beyond talking about budgets and discounts.
Encourage and Actively Seek Customer Feedback
As a B2B marketer, your goal is to land a sale and keep your customers happy. While everything you do leads to this, sometimes you may still end up with negative results. In spite of putting in your blood and sweat into your marketing efforts, in some cases, it isn’t enough. Rather than feeling sad for yourself in this scenario, it is best to learn from your mistakes. In fact, it is best to always gain feedback from your customers – even the ones that are happy with your brand and service.
Clients usually want to get as close to perfection as possible with what they buy. This is even more evident in the B2B industry where the price points and stakes are usually higher. In the case of unhappy or dissatisfies clients, feedback is even more important. Basically, feedback helps you understand what parts of your selling attempts aren’t up to the mark.
Perhaps, your client is dissatisfied because the product or service they bought is not as effective in solving their problem as they were told. Maybe they wanted something else entirely. Did they face any problems while communicating with your organization? Whatever questions you ask, it will only help you gain a new perspective from the customer’s point of view.
Such feedback holds value because it shows you where you lack. On the other hand, in cases of satisfied customers, it tells you exactly what you must continue doing. By encouraging your customers to be honest about your service and products, you can craft your B2B engagement strategy to be better over time.
The Bottom Line: The First Step to A Successful B2B Engagement Strategy
As customers get more information and awareness before making purchases, B2B engagement strategy is even more critical for effective marketing communication. However, nothing fruitful can start without the support of a robust and well-maintained database. In this scenario, a manual data mining solution can be a great help.
Additionally, opting for B2B lead generation and skip tracing services can bring you a wealth of bankable leads. After all, wouldn’t you instead base your B2B engagement strategy on customers who fit your target group perfectly? Moreover, when you invest time and resources in engaging with customers so intimately having a robust customer management system is a must. In the face of a rapid rate of data decay, CRM database cleaning services are extremely important to your efforts.
The first step towards your B2B engagement strategy begins with an experienced, reliable and most importantly – manual – data solutions partner. While you focus on crafting everything right for your customers, such a service can help your CRM, database quality and lead generation operations run smooth.
At BizProspex, we’ve got over six years of experience catering to the unique needs of B2B companies and their data troubles. Backed by our stellar and skilled team, we help your organization get to the point that it so desires. If you haven’t contacted us, drop us a line now to see how we can help your organization grow like never before!