B2B marketing stands are a crossroads. As 2021 looms, trying to determine what will happen feels like a futile exercise. In such uncertainty, it can feel best to fall back on tried and trusted approaches.
But when everything has changed, including the needs and expectations of customers, will marketing departments plan for the old world, or the new?
There is definitely an appetite amongst buyers for new tools that will help them adapt to the disruption we all face on a daily basis. However, as the Momentum Customer Buying Index notes, 42% of large enterprise buyers say they’re finding it harder than before to make buying decisions.
Why? Aside from the obvious concerns regarding revenue and cash flow, and question marks over government support and how future lockdowns could affect businesses, part of the issue could be down to how vendors sell to their customers. The Index found that just 13% of buyers believed their vendors fully understood their current business challenges and just 14% said they were proactively kept up to date with the latest developments
This paints a damning picture of the state of enterprise sales and marketing efforts – at a time when businesses need to be securing revenue, a failure to meet customer expectations will severely hamper company performance. How, then, do marketers ensure that their campaigns aid sales teams in delivering what enterprise buyers are looking for?
Relevance, relevance, relevance
It is not all bad news – the Index highlighted that nearly three quarters of customers are open to more communication from vendors, highlighting the opportunity on offer for those that get it right.
But what does that ‘right’ look like? According to Pete Markey, CMO at TSB Bank, “the best vendors that I’ve worked with are the ones that don’t just arrive and give you an off-the-shelf presentation, but actually really take the time. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but you need to have some basic understanding of the business you’re presenting to, and come in with some knowledge to make recommendations based on facts”.
In other words, approaches need to be relevant and tailored to the business in question. In that sense, marketing to enterprise buyers is really no different than when the audience is more consumer-focused – an Accenture study found that 91% of consumers say they are more likely to shop with brands that provide offers and recommendations that are relevant to them.
However, with sales cycles for major enterprise accounts dwarfing the time it takes a member of the public to make even a major purchasing decision, B2B marketing cannot simply replicate tactics like personalised ad targeting or better use of data to improve email relevancy.
Gartner states that “the typical buying group for a complex B2B solution involves six to 10 decision makers‚ each armed with four or five pieces of information they’ve gathered independently and must deconflict with the group.”
So, not only do B2B marketers need to ensure that the support they provide is relevant to the target business, but that it resonates with potential decision-makers too. This is why it is so critical to have a variety of channels in action across a campaign, bringing together multiple tactics. These include earned, owned and paid, as well as strategies that
incorporate account-based marketing, whereby content, collateral and distribution are targeted at specific contacts and decision-maker roles across one business.
In fact, 60% of respondents to the Customer Buying Index said ABM content is valuable when it comes to selecting suppliers. This aligns with the Gartner comment above and highlights how critical ABM can be in making sure B2B marketers are influencing which pieces of information are being used in the decision-making process.
It is clear from the research that many vendors are struggling to align with changing customer needs. For marketers, this presents an opportunity to try new approaches when developing campaigns and content. Enterprise buyers want relevant information, and they want partners willing to communicate. It seems like the perfect opening for vendors – how often have B2B sellers complained of being seen as a supplier, rather than a trusted advisor?
As we approach the end of the year, businesses in all sectors have a decision to make. Do they accept that they are operating in a world of constant disruption, and therefore look at how they can deploy new approaches to secure sales, or do they try the tactics that might have sometimes worked pre-2020? The choice marketing functions make will go a long way to determining how well companies perform in the coming 12 months.
- Founder of the world’s first account-based marketing agency, Alisha Lyndon has a decade of experience in helping high-profile clients in technology such as Microsoft, Adobe and Amazon, and financial services such as HSBC, Investec and State Street. She also hosts the Account Based Marketing podcast and is a member of the Forbes.com agency council contributing on the topic.