Tag Archives: B2B

How to create immersive B2B customer – brand experiences

B2B purchasing decision making processes are far from being completely rational or purely fact driven. In fact, various studies confirm that even the most critical B2B decision making processes rely on personal value attribution or emotional value components. Some studies find that up to 70% of B2B decision making processes are emotionally influenced, even in commodity type pricing situations.  
With up to 50% or more of the decision making process being completed before the average B2B buyer engages with you sales representative (= wake up call to revise your content marketing strategy), it seems invaluable for B2B brands to create highly personal and or emotionally powered customer experiences.
Apart from many great examples of emotional branding, such as GE’s Ecomagination or even Maersk’s entire social media presence humanizing the brand, one widely under-deployed method is to excite your customers. That’s right, don’t put them to sleep with endless whitepapers or an automated triggered email for every click they do on your website but excite your customer base with either highly engaging content or even experiences that leave a mark and position you clearly in the mind of your customer base.

Some of the later are Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) applications. With the earlier I have been playing around since 2010 / 2011 augmenting various products or otherwise hidden processes for customers. With both enhancement on the hardware and also software (creative) side of things, it is now possible to create stunning and life-like augmented reality applications that allow the visualization of your product in completely new ways. There are by now almost infinite examples from the B2C, lead by the IKEA augmented reality catalogue or Lego’s augmented toy boxes. In the B2B world, you will however also find examples of industry giants like Bosch employing AR to their automotive product palette. For ingredient branding type products, AR concepts can help to showcase product on a system and functional level, thus greatly enhancing your sales argumentation by visualizing complex product features. This does not only allow your sales team and customer to engage on a completely different level, it also engages your customers’ inner curiosity to explore more.

The heart of engaging technology today is however, in my opinion, Virtual Reality. VR concepts allow a new level of customer immersion that has seldom been the case for B2B companies with somewhat limited budgets compared to their B2C colleagues. VR enables to transport distance (e.g. our latest example: a factory tour), experiences (e.g. product demonstrations or walk throughs) or size (well, how would you want to exhibit your newest excavation digger in expo hall 2?) with relative ease. More importantly however, it can almost be guaranteed that your customers will experience your products or services in a completely new and innovative light, often combined with a big smile on their face (yes, your initial success measure and great customer generated content if you ask for a few testimonials right after the VR experience).

The experience I have made with both technologies has been outstanding and very positive. Production costs for both are steadily decreasing with more knowhow on the agency side and an increasing number of providers for both technologies. Thus your MROI will also not be penalized (if you are among the 25% of B2B’s measuring your MROI at all). Both applications can be greatly developed within your live event budget but instead of being one off stunts, costs can be activated for continuous use over multiple quarters, thus creating a sustainable, up-dateable and very exciting customer facing application.

If you have any good, exciting B2B examples of this sort, please share below.

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From #classification over #segmentation to #extrapolation

Many B2B organisation have grown a very loyal customer base over time. Usually, this is a good thing. Achieving customer loyalty is amongst the top goals for marketers in almost every organisation. Particularly in B2B industrial settings or niche industries with an oligopolistic structure, market players often grown and nurture these relationship over years. It is seldom that organisations in these industries apply Customer Relationship Management (CRM) methodologies or some form of customer analysis, mostly due to the lack of knowledge, the growth path of the organisation, the missing intrinsic driver for adoption and in many cases, missing external influence through cross-industrial employee fluctuation. Over the course of my career, I have experienced various of these organisations already with often stunning rationals as to why customer analysis has not been applied; yet buzz words like CRM or Key Account Management (KAM) often surface in presentations. One could of course start a philosophical argument whether a rigid CRM application depends upon formalised methods or tool or if uncodified knowledge is good enough to run a business which has obviously grown successfully over the years. Despite the weight of the growth argument, many businesses will find unprofitable customers once digging into a customer base analysis. A change in the external environment, e.g. through a change in competitive forces, directives or product innovation often confront these businesses with sales and cost pressures demanding changes in the way they conduct business.

The shift from “business as usual” to some sort of analysis driven customer management is often initiated by way of customer classification, which often finds the wrongfully attributed label of segmentation. These classification are usually done on an aggregated level to resemble ABC analysis. With a growing customer base and or increasing environmental complexity, these classifications are however not enough to streamline customer efficiency programs and or to help businesses increase their bottom line contributions. A shift from classification to traditional segmentation is the logical next step. Approaching segmentation efforts challenges organisation on 2 levels. First, the segmentation model has to be created and can hardly be copied from an existing blue print. This means that various stakeholders in the organisation need to come together to identify value defining parameters for an initial segmentation model. Furthermore, these models need to be tested, deployed and run for some time to validate underlying assumptions and assure high cause effect correlations of the model to the organisational value creation process. To achieve the later, organisations need to face a second challenge which is as much about system change as well as cultural change. To support a segmentation model, it is very likely that the aforementioned organisations, do not have supporting CRM systems to allow a data based segmentation effort. Defining system requirements and locating third party IT resources is the easiest of tasks, yet assuring the buy in of key stakeholders is a completely different challenge. The cultural change most organisations need to go through is hardly quantifiable; yet it will determine the success or failure of such an endeavour and should thus not be neglected. External project stakeholders, e.g. consultants, are however usually less likely to touch this subject due to its very intangible nature and thus difficulty to capture its essence in form of project budget requirements. A savvy marketing manager should nevertheless be aware of this challenge and factor in adequate time to engage all necessary stakeholders in the organisational change process.

Once this is achieved, an extrapolation of existing customer data to market potentials is the next step to extrapolate lessons learnt, existing segment strategies to other likely market targets to further streamline efforts and optimise the use of resources. This requires further customisation of CRM systems to shift from static to dynamic models. As with the segmentation implementation effort mentioned above, it also requires various internal stakeholders to be ready for further change processes to amend both service levels, product offerings, sales and marketing efforts to identified potential and existing customer segments. Codifying such a change into organisational processes demands further internal process review cycles and disciplinary structures to enforce the change in process setups.

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B2B’s miss the mark in their brand communication

It is not long ago, that the B2B content marketing institute released its annual content marketing prediction (in this case for 2014 – more here). Throughout the report,  two things became apparent, content marketing has grown widely (with 93% of B2B engaging in some form of content marketing) and thus gained more attention in yearly budget rounds.

Content Marketing Engagement

However, at the very same time, only 42% of B2B content marketers judge their own efforts as effective. Although this is an uplift from 2013 of 6%, we can see still a large number of marketers engage in a practice doomed non-effective by themselves.

Content Marketing Effectiveness

Even more interesting is the fact, that over 73% of marketers state to produce more content than the year before; with a large percentage even having a dedicated person to content marketing and a documented content marketing strategy.

YET, if we contrast the latest McKinsey study (more here) on B2B communication (although brand focused), it becomes apparent that the effectiveness rating giving by content marketers (most likely on the skewed goal setting and remaining issues to measure the success of their programs) are in contradicting to the perceived brand strengths (post communication) in the market. Brand Awareness was stated as the number one content marketing goal by B2B’s for 2014 (82%); but as it seems, the focus remains on internally centred and not customer centric.

McKinsey study on B2B brand communication

I am thus wondering if the stated success metrics and effectiveness rating of B2B content marketing programs are in line with customer perceptions or if B2B’s are still largely trapped in using gut feeling or sales as an overall measure of success. Contrasting both studies on that aspect, I have my ongoing doubts.

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B2B customers are ready to be socialised

According to a new Forrester Research study, the majority ( I question the “all” in their report) can be reached via social media. As they claim, 98% of business decision makers can be reached on social channels these days.

Forrester B2B Report

Forrester B2B Report

 

 

It is even more staggering to then contrast the social media habits of B2B organisations who often fail to move beyond the publication stage (from print to electronic to social). Interactive marketing (meaningful, time and location sensitive and most importantly behaviourally induced) should be used to bridge the gap from publication to interaction. The start might be to build listening capabilities in online channels to not only learn about customers but to also develop a feel for all available channels. A further rollout should be well prepared and accompanied by enough resources to be able to react on potential pitfalls and market responses. After all, every journey is accompanied by great learnings and new insights – the jump into social media engagements is nothing else.

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2012 Marketing take aways

2012 has undoubtedly been the year of Social Media with tv ads in the decrease, mobile and smartphone spikes, gangnam style hitting 1 BILLION hits on youtube, pinterest becoming popular, instagram being sold, Facebook going from high to low, Apple issuing its first apology, social election revival in the US, mobile advertising hitting new records and, and, and… The attached infographic from SEO Company and Nowsourcing does a pretty good job in summing up the 2012 year in social media.

However, 2012 has also been the year to question unthoughtful media spendings in new channels with GM exiting its Facebook engagement and companies shifting budgets from campaigns to owned & earned content marketing.

My 2012 take-aways:

  1. shift from campaign management to content marketing
  2. increase customer centricity by listening on all channels
  3. social media is not exclusive but inclusive – think multichannel marketing
  4. change customer engagements to incentive driven third party marketing (I expect this to grow in 2013ff)
  5. mobile and emerging technology cannot be longer ignored. The pace of technology diffusion has excelled in 2012 with changes in consumer adoption.
  6. B2B caught up (to some extent) with B2C but continues to struggle to find its role and rightful place in Digital Marketing.
  7. a savvy marketer does still have to think about target groups and how to best reach them – not every medium, despite its public sex appeal (e.g. Facebook) does lend itself to every marketing challenge.
  8. ROI, ROI, ROI – marketers still struggle to define the ROI of digital marketing – which comes as a surprised based on the big data advantage of digital compared to traditional.
  9. and so much more!

 

Happy new years to everybody and see you all in 2013! 

Social Media Review 2012

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B2B content marketing trends in 2013 & upcoming challenges

According to a recent study by Content Marketing Institute, a little more than half of all surveyed B2B marketers are planning to increase their content marketing spending in 2013. This result almost mirrors the B2C oriented study and shows a clear trend of the increasing importance of content marketing across organisations.

B2B content marketing expected spending

B2B content marketing expected spending

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another promising development is the ongoing trend of B2B marketers, likewise to their B2C colleagues, to acknowledge the importance of content creation by gradually increasing in-house content creation efforts over outsources efforts. A trend which in my eyes is an inevitable step to create ownership, necessary processes and content creation experience. Contradicting this notion is however a slight increase in content marketing challenges, particularly in the category “producing enough content”.

Content Marketing Challenges

Content Marketing Challenges

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

B2B organisations are rich of quality content, the crux for every marketer is however to unlock this content from Key Account Managers, R&D folks, manufacturing partners, field engineers and top management. It is not impossible, but for many organisations, the years relying on external partners for content creation meant these necessary internal relations haven’t been built up to now capitalise upon.

Take on the challenge for 2013 to make B2C content sexy and engaging:

> Acknowledge the richness of content in B2B! Content doesn’t just have to be consumer stories in the earned media category – it is unlikely that your heavy machinery customer will post a picture of him and his new crane to your Facebook channel, however asking him in person for an experience interview changes things dramatically! Most often you will find open customers who are as emotionally connected to their products or work like your B2C counterpart’s mobile user.

> Be a tactician! As with customers, the same applies to your own R&D and sales guys. It is very unlikely that they will knock on your door and ask you to write an article about their work or achievements; but there are surely some out there who are more outspoken or who like to glow in their own glory. Perfect – use them as forerunners. Creating a competitive environment by adding a section “success stories” to your publication will spark drive and challenge others to showcase their success in similar ways. It doesn’t happen over night but with patience this will lead to great success and a pipe full of publishing ready content.

> Measure everything! Use digital tools to measure the results of your content creation efforts. Show the time customers have spent reading or accessing various channels and show it in a dramatic fashion. 50% of your content creation efforts will be spent internally, as shown above, on your colleagues or even superiors to market the content marketing idea to them. See them as your audience which is easier won by strong use cases than shallow marketing jargon, especially in B2B.

> Be a risk taker! Content marketing has to be engaging otherwise it doesn’t show effects and or results as planned. Don’t just rely on content marketing tactics that you are familiar with such as blogs, websites, case studies or whitepapers. Think outside of the box and look for the sexy new thing such as mobile and gamification. Don’t let Kodak style content marketing efforts fool you – not everything B2C marketers do leads to a great ROI apart from its sexy look to outsiders. Try to think of other tactics as use cases, why no gamify content creation internally or run a best product in use picture with customer’s field engineers? Applying tactics to the B2B world is easier as it seem but the sale internally can be hard and daunting. Be prepared for that and create a lot of small use cases for new tactics – these will help to convince superiors and colleagues of new tactics and ease the approval process.

> Use your own organisation as testing ground! Over the years, my most critical yet most rewarding audience was internal. Every employee in your organisation is waiting to be engaged, more in B2B than ever imagined. They won’t take anything for granted nor jump on every campaign or effort coming from marketing but if you manage to convince this audience, everything else will be a piece of cake. Furthermore, this will provide you with a richness of feedback (mostly critical) which helps to learn and avoid mistakes in the outside world.

> Have fun! I have seen and meet many B2B colleagues who were nothing but worked up in what I would call sales support (that is updating brochures, organising exhibitions etc). Working in technically oriented organisations doesn’t come with the same audience and or work environment as in B2C but that doesn’t mean you and your team cannot have fun. Create a driving environment for ideas, host internal creative brainstorming sessions, have regular team retreats to come up with new tactics, go to conferences and speeches to learn from colleagues, competitors and even off the grid B2C marketers.

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