2020 has beena year full of challenges for everyone, a pandemic has caused problems that need not be mentioned at this time. For companies in particular, the need to digitise and enter the virtual environment effectively, securely and consistently has become compelling. According to the B2B Marketing Monitor study conducted by B2B International, a market research agency specialising in the business-to-business sector, putting digitisation at the forefront tests the customer experience and B2B companies are placing two main priorities:
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.
Weaknesses of B2B marketing
The year 2020, hand in hand with the pandemic and the resulting economic uncertainty, has given a boost to digitisation. However, despite this new digital ecosystem, many B2B companies have not yet taken digitalisation seriously. Investment in digital marketing and communication is still low and few have already invested in communication and digitisation practices such as e-commerce or automation marketing.
What challenges do we face in this digital world?
Fifty-five per cent of the corporate marketers interviewed in the B2B Marketing Monitor study claim to find it a challenge to build a strong and stable relationship with the customer in the digital age, and 54 per cent of them say they struggle to connect emotionally with the buyer to generate personal involvement with the brand.
This desire and need to get closer to the customer clashes with the very nature of the virtual world: while on the one hand companies need to get in touch with the customer, on the other hand digital technology physically distances the customer from the company, which now mainly uses digital tools to stay informed, look for new suppliers, order products and more.
Top priority faced by B2B brands
Furthermore, when asked "What are the top 3 challenges facing B2B marketing?" 53% of respondents included in their answer: providing the customer with an optimal experience throughout the customer-business relationship. Customer-centric B2B companies are those that understand not only how to attract the customer in the first place, but also how to create a relationship of trust that turns a simple customer into a brand ambassador, able to spread a positive image of the company and directly influence the demand for the product.
Although it is clear that the customer must be put on a golden pedestal for optimal results, only 22% of B2B companies claim to excel in custumer experience (CX). Again, this 22% were significantly more likely to analyse customer habits. The customer's experience with the company should therefore be tailored to the customer's needs and behaviour.
B2B Marketing Practice Areas
The study found that in only 9 out of 10 marketing practice areas did B2B companies rate themselves positively, with overall B2B marketing performance considered mediocre. Let's say self-esteem is not exactly through the roof.
As previously mentioned the pandemic has increased the pressure on marketing resources considerably, and yet, it seems there has been no real change.
So, back to the priorities that should be focused on, CX is important, but the spotlight should be on demand generation and brand positioning which are the main marketing strategies of interest this year, especially in Europe. In particular:
Demand generation moved up from sixth place in 2019 to first this year in importance for B2B companies;
Brand positioning moved from seventh place in 2019 to second in 2020. It is therefore clear how necessary it is to build content that creates clear brand awareness, capable of attracting the buyer who moves digitally, distancing him from his competitors;
On the other hand, the importance of customer experience and loyalty drops from place 1 to 4. This is probably due to the pandemic and the focus not so much on customer-centric strategies, but on the brand.
B2B business marketing opportunities
In this digital landscape, there are many opportunities for B2B marketers:
Empathy, empathy and more empathy…
The study shows that the best B2B brands are those that can empathise with the customer by creating a personalised experience tailored to the buyer. In a hyper-digitalized universe, this can happen with authentic messaging that arrives in the right place at the right time.
Go beyond leads…
In fact, it turns out that the true CX leaders are those who manage to divide up their customers according to their needs and how profitable they can be, thus giving greater value to a given group. This translates in practice into a higher return on marketing spend.
Put the customer at the centre of your thinking
The tendency to focus on the brand rather than the customer has been emphasised over the last year; with the pandemic companies needed quick results and this has led them to focus on the internal rather than the external factors. The B2B Marketing Monitor study suggests when we need to reverse this trend and return the focus to the needs of buyers.
The final result?
The most successful B2B brands are those that build their business around the customer, based on their needs, their profile and their way
team of experts (link here).