With digital B2B sales growing at a rapid clip, B2B marketers need to be thinking about how to align their company’s brand, customer and digital experiences to engage buyers throughout the purchasing journey, and the customer lifecycle, as opposed to simply engaging potential customers early in their digital purchasing journey, then handing them off to the sales team, says a report from research and advisory firm Forrester titled Align B2B Digital Experience To Brand Experience And Customer Experience To Foster Growth.
“B2B organizations that take a siloed approach to their digital experience will disappoint their customers and limit their growth…B2B marketers can enhance customer and business value by building stronger connections between digital experience, brand experience, and customer experience strategies,” the report says. Aligning the digital customer and brand experience ecosystems is critical, according to Forrester. Even though 53% of B2B buyers responding to the survey have used a digital channel to complete a purchase, many respondents said they were dissatisfied with the ease of doing business when purchasing digitally. While many B2B sellers recognize the need to address buyer dissatisfaction, addressing that problem is impeded by three key organizational roadblocks: misalignment or
ack of prioritization of digital initiatives; fuzziness around internal responsibilities and accountability when it comes to managing the digital experience; and constraints when it comes to people, technology, and budget.
The starting point for overcoming these obstacles is for B2B marketers to ensure key elements of their brand strategy are incorporated throughout the digital experience. In other words, B2B marketers need to describe what their company stands for, what it does, and what it is striving to achieve. “Where the digital channel adds value is bringing the brand to life and that starts with what the brand stands for and what is the company’s brand vision,” says Renee Irion, principal analyst at Forrest and the lead author of the report.
Four key elements of a B2B marketers brand strategy are the brand vision, which emotionally connects the audience to the business; the brand identity, which sets the voice, tone, and feeling for all of a company’s go-to-market activities; brand positioning, which connects the targeting audience’s pain points to the brand to build a strong emotional connection and brand image in the minds of the target audience; and brand differentiators, which highlight a core set of attributes that distinguish the businesses’ offerings, such as culture and vision. Brand differentiators inform how aspects of the digital experience, such as content and services can demonstrate these attributes, the report says.
Another top priority identified by B2B decision makers is improving the customer experience, which can boost customer satisfaction and loyalty and increase the likelihood of positively influencing customer perceptions. “Improving the customer experience correlates with customer loyalty and can lead to cross-selling and upselling opportunities,” Irion says. “The customer experience is an extension of the brand experience.”
Customer experience best practices include identifying the customer and her needs so that the marketing, customer experience, design, and customer research teams can understand customer needs, expectations and pain points, all of which are key to optimizing digital experiences. “A business can’t approach [marketing, customer experience, design, and customer research] independently, there has to be as strong a connection as possible between them to improve the customer experience,” says Irion. Developing a customer roadmap that defines long-term initiatives is also recommended because it can help marketers focus on the customer journeys. A roadmap can also help B2B marketers where digital engagement channels can play a central role in delivering experiences that better meet customer needs, and help customers quickly achieve their goals.
Marketers should also prioritize customer experience projects based on their value to digitally engaged customers to help create the customer experience roadmap, according to the report. Finally, the digital B2B experience strategy must align with a company’s brand and customer experience strategies because a customer journey may not always start and end in the digital channel. For example, a B2B buyer may start the purchasing process by visiting a seller’s website, engage with a chatbot, and transition to a salesperson.
B2B marketers can positively influence a buyer’s perceptions by ensuring the digital experience strategy builds on four key principles: insights into a buyer’s decision making process based on her actions within the digital channel so marketers know who to engage with and when; delivery of content that influences the purchasing decision based on what is known about the buyer in the purchasing process; providing buyers what they need, when they need it, and where they need it to make the purchasing decision, rather than forcing them down a path preferred by the seller; and providing technology options that allows buyers to engage digitally, as well as through personal interaction.
“Reducing complexity and friction in the purchasing process and increasing the emotional connection with the buyer helps marketers speak to buyers,” Irion says. “Regardless of the channel the buyer ultimately purchases through, the digital channel is playing a more important role with B2B buyers and will continue to do so in the future, which is why B2B marketers need to align their brand, customer experience and digital ecosystems.”