Digital Marketing
6 min

2021 B2B Marketing Trends: Closing the Expectation Gap with Today’s Digital Consumers

Elisha Hahm Senior Content Strategist

As massive digital acceleration continues to shape buyer behavior, many traditional, sales-focused B2B marketing tactics are quickly becoming obsolete.

If there’s one insight that jumps off the page in our latest 2021 trends report, it’s this: an engaging, personalized, digital-first customer experience is fast becoming a non-negotiable component of B2B marketing success.

In fact, half of surveyed B2B marketers said they plan to increase their customer experience investment. But if you don’t know where or how to focus your efforts, you’re likely to miss the mark—and lose out on opportunities to differentiate yourself from the competition.

So how can B2B marketers get more intentional about developing deeper, long-lasting customer relationships that drive meaningful growth?

Let’s dig into key ways your business can successfully bridge the gap between shifting customer expectations and seamless, compelling CX to become a true leader of customer-centric marketing.

 

Digital customer experience is a decisive differentiator

With in-person events off the table, marketers turned to virtual events, videos, and digital marketing channels to connect with customers. More than ever, online content has reigned supreme: emails, blogs, webinars, and more.

In fact, 85% of marketers noted an openness among customers to new digital offerings during the pandemic, according to The CMO Survey, and 84% placed an increased value on digital customer experiences.

While digital tactics might have been just a part of your overall strategy in the past, now B2B marketers must embrace more of a digital-first focus to stay relevant.

Below are a few key stats that further highlight the need for B2B brands to start investing in their digital capabilities now:

  • B2B customers buy 75% of products online and 47% conduct web searches to look for information during the B2B buying process.
  • 56% of B2B customers would pay more for a better experience, and would not buy from the same business again if the experience had been poor.
  • Millennials—the first generation to grow up with the internet and mobile phones—account for 73% of all B2B purchasing decisions.

Providing the top-notch experience and convenience that today’s B2B buyers are looking for requires your brand to flip its traditional way of thinking and doing business.

Now you must consider every step of the buying journey—from how customers research their products and evaluate options, to what tailored content they will need along the way, to purchase, and finally to support post-purchase.

By focusing your marketing efforts on improving the digital customer experience, you can reach buyers who increasingly prefer to shop digitally, offer relevant product recommendations in real time, and ultimately provide tools for both customers and sales teams that make the buying process a lot easier.

Key questions to guide your modern B2B customer experience (CX) strategy

Today’s customers want to feel connected to brands, and they want the companies they buy from to know and respect them. Businesses must make sure that their CX is a true competitive differentiator by delivering personalized, pleasing interactions at every touchpoint across the full funnel.

Here are some factors and questions you should consider to determine if your business’s CX is up to par:

  • Do your marketing campaigns speak to customers’ wants and needs?
  • Is your site easy to navigate? Does it guide and assist visitors along the way?
  • How strong is your strategy for serving your B2B customers during both the pre- and post-sales processes?
  • Is all your customer information readily accessible to the people and systems that need it? Do customers have to update every person on who they are, what they need, or explain every conversation they’ve had?
  • Does your CX strategy consider any and all competitive insight, consumer and marketplace data, and internal strategic goals/initiatives?
  • Are you readily tracking and measuring key performance indicators (KPIs) to determine customer experience success? These may include:
    • Revenue growth
    • Customer retention/customer churn
    • Cross-sell and upsell amounts
    • Customer service costs
    • Net promoter score (NPS) change
    • A variety of digital metrics—including pages visited, time spent on-site, conversion rate—that help show the satisfaction level of those who visited your online properties

Actionable steps to deliver a seamless B2B customer experience

It’s no longer enough to offer customers multiple disparate touchpoints to get them to purchase or rely on manual processes dominated by sales teams.

To capture and retain loyal customers, your B2B business must provide a more fully connected experience across the customer lifecycle.

Start building truly integrated, customer-centric marketing with these actionable steps:

  1. Overcome functional silos: Open up the lines of communication across departments to gain a full understanding of the customer lifecycle—from awareness to acquisition to retention so you’re taking full advantage of your organization’s acquired wisdom about your customers.
  2. Bring disparate data sets together: If you’re only looking at data points from the specific part of the customer journey you’re responsible for, you’re likely missing out on a lot of customer intelligence. Look beyond your specific KPIs and pull together quantitative and qualitative data points about your customers from across your org, from marketing to sales to customer support, so you can understand the big picture of the customer experience.
  3. Dig deeper into opportunities for personalization: Leverage advanced segmentation strategies to improve the performance of sales pitches, emails, marketing channels, and ABM campaigns—and form deeper personal connections with buyers at every touchpoint.
  4. Create a streamlined online buying experience: B2B brands should take a page out of the B2C playbook to create more streamlined, transparent buying processes. While one-click purchases may be aspirational for enterprises, ensuring your website is free of bugs and easy to navigate is especially critical. Remember that your website is fully under your control: there’s no excuse not to optimize it.
  5. Enable real-time decision making: 67% of B2B executives expect to increase spend on marketing technology, highlighting the need to consider critical investments in AI and machine learning capabilities to provide the insights necessary to understand your customer, keep track of what’s trending, and have the real-time delivery capability to craft relevant customer messaging.

Download the full 2021 State of B2B Digital Marketing trend report to explore all of the most important updates and changes facing B2B marketers this year.

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