The covid-19 pandemic caused significant disruption to B2B companies around the world. For companies, the need to digitise and enter the virtual environment effectively, securely, and consistently has become apparent.
Yet, digital transformation challenges do not come without hurdles. This article describes what B2B companies need to change to fully profit from this ongoing boost to digital.
Digital transformation is
"The integration of digital technology into all business areas."
It fundamentally changes how a business operates and adds value to its b2b customers. Moreover, it is a cultural change that requires businesses to experiment and fail often to challenge the status quo.
What drives digital transformation?
Digital transformation is driven by two key elements: technology and innovation.
Technology. For B2B companies it is important to eliminate outdated processes and technology.
Innovation. Many businesses start to realize the potential of cloud computing for both cost reduction and strategic business advantages.
According to market agency B2B International, putting digital at the forefront tests their customer experience of current and potential customers. It also shows that B2B companies are placing two main priorities:
Customer experience i.e. customers become more demanding of businesses. These transformational journeys put marketing teams of B2B business companies under increasing pressure.
Demand generation i.e. the acquisition of new customers and their transition from potential to actual customers.
Brand positioning i.e. the position the brand has in the public's imagination compared to competitors.
The Challenges for B2B companies
Despite this new digital ecosystem, many B2B companies have not yet taken digital seriously. Investment in digital marketing and communication is still low and few have already invested in communication and digital practices.
B2B companies face various challenges in coping with digital transformation:
Digitalization makes it harder to influence target audiences in their purchase decisions.
Many B2B corporate marketers find it challenging to build stable and long-term relationships with customers digitally. Moreover, marketers struggle to connect emotionally with the buyer to general personal brand engagement.
Companies need to have human contact with customers to improve their customer experience. At the same time, digital technology distances the customer from the company.
Customers now mainly use digital tools to stay informed, look for new suppliers and order products and services. This makes it particularly hard to influence target audiences in their purchase decisions.
2 Customer-first strategies do not work optimally
Customer-first B2B companies understand how to attract customers. And how to create a trusted relationship that turns a customer into a brand ambassador.
Such companies provide their customers with optimal experiences throughout their virtual relationships. Their marketing teams are driven to promote a brand's products and services from a customer-first perspective.
Unfortunately, although customers expect to be treated optimally, many B2B companies do not yet excel in customer experiences.
Align customer needs and behaviour with the customer's experience of a company brand. Focus on analysing customer habits with digitized data.
In this way, B2B marketers can optimize customer experiences to the fullest. This will help turn customers into brand ambassadors that directly influence the demand for their products and services.
Key trends in digital transformation strategy
These eight key trends will help B2B businesses to improve their customer experience:
Focus on sustainable and responsible business practices.
Use cloud services to enable innovation.
Put the security of enterprise operating systems first and forward.
Manage data analytics for the entire B2B consumer lifecycle.
Prioritize artificial intelligence (AI) automation of business processes (e.g. chatbot).
Accept remote work and hybrid options for B2B employees.
Increase the use of machine learning technologies
Prioritize AI ethics
B2B marketing strategies
These trends can be summarized in four post-covid B2B marketing business strategy changes. Businesses should:
Get insight and understanding of customers via data.
Act more responsibly.
Develop direct communication channels with their customers.
Automate marketing processes.
The pandemic has increased the pressure on marketing resources without a real change. This is because, digital transformation requires a significant, continuous, and coordinated effort across teams.
A B2B company becomes customer-first when putting digital transformation at the core of its business model.
This will create a more aligned business with current customer demands and keeps acting responsibly in a fast-moving digital future.
B2B business priorities in practice
Although important, marketing teams of B2B businesses do not focus so much on customer-first strategies yet. So, back to the priorities that should be focused on first. Brand positioning and demand generation are the main marketing strategies, especially in Europe:
Building content that creates clear brand awareness is important to attract digital customers. It can attract buyers that move digital and distance the company from its competitors.
Demand generation is particularly important for B2B companies. The process of creating awareness and demand for its products and services, helps business sell to B2B customers.
Businesses should continue optimizing their strategies to put the customer first. In fact, there are many marketing opportunities a B2B business can take advantage of in the digital age.
B2B business marketing opportunities
In this digital landscape, there are many opportunities for B2B marketers:
Show empathy to customers will make a significant difference in how customers experience the product and services of a specific brand.
In a digital environment, this can be done with authentic messaging, in the right place at the right time. It will help B2B marketers to create a customer experience that is optimized for the buyers.
Businesses that are focussed on customers divide their customers according to their needs. This translates in practice into a higher return on marketing spend.
During the covid-19 pandemic, B2B marketing teams focused less on customers. Companies needed quick results. This led to a tendency to focus first on external factors, such as brand positioning and demand generation.
Post-covid marketing strategies show it is time to move the focus back to internal factors. To truly succeed in a digital transformation, the focus needs to return to customer needs.
B2B brands are most successful if they build their business around customers' needs. Curious about how you can make your B2B business more aligned with customer needs? Contact our team.