The 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup is in full swing with people around the globe watching to see who will take home the cup. In soccer, each team chooses a formation and employs one goalkeeper and ten field players who fill various defensive, midfield, and attacking positions. At the beginning of the game, it is pretty clear who is in what position—the forwards and strikers are up front; midfielders in the middle of the lineup and defenders holding down the back line. But when the match begins, those positions become less obvious as teams fluidly take possession and move up and down the field. There is a unique balance on the field between that fluidity and the fulfillment of their distinct roles. All the while, they communicate with each other, adapting, and learning as the match goes on.
In some fascinating ways, B2B and B2C marketing teams are similar to positions on a soccer field. Their marketing teams have different roles and responsibilities, but often intertwine their efforts, all while using similar skills and technologies.
With soccer, the goal is to play well, score, and ultimately win the game. For B2B and B2C marketers, the goal is to track, manage, and provide engaging experiences throughout the customer journey. If done well, that can lead to winning—also known as accelerated buy cycles, reduced marketing costs, increased customer loyalty, and increased revenue.
In a recent study with Forrester, we examined the convergence of B2C and B2B strategies to explore similarities between business and consumer purchase journeys and to identify cross-collaborative learning opportunities for B2B and B2C marketers and evaluate how marketing technologies can help both strategies.
The survey revealed that business buyers and consumers have similar behaviors and needs. 52% of companies agree that they’ve seen similarities in the way their business buyers and consumers behave. Both types of customers have changing needs and expectations. B2B and B2C marketers can benefit from cross-collaboration to navigate this new normal.
B2B and B2C marketers can take a few plays out of each other’s playbook and incorporate new ideas, tactics, and strategies, which can lead to efficiency gains and seamless customer experiences.
Why it matters
Today’s B2C and B2B journeys are becoming more alike. Both are cross-channel, data-driven, and factor in emotional and contextual engagement every step of the way.
In B2B, buyers are acting more like consumers. The reason is that buyers now have similar expectations, as they do when they engage with a brand as a consumer. They expect instant access to information, personalized experiences across all channels, and to feel known and appreciated. In a recent Forrester report, B2B consumers expect that the brand experiences they encounter in their professional lives will have the same sophistication and consistency as those they experience in their personal lives. This highlights that B2B and B2C marketers can learn from each other, whether it be adopting or evolving new strategies and tactics, as well as using similar enabling technologies.
For marketers, managing and tracking customer journeys is a critical priority. The recently commissioned research surface the following priorities:
- Increase revenues (Top priority for both B2B and B2C), through increased purchase, average order size, purchase frequency, and customer loyalty. B2B and B2C marketers believe that cross-channel marketing capabilities will drive an increase in sales and an increase in the quality of customer data received.
- Customers expect personalized experiences in the touch points where they engage. Consider: Average number of touchpoints before a lead becomes a sale (with B2B, 7.9, and B2C, 8.3).
- Decrease sales cycles and average length of time between first interaction and purchase (amount of consideration given to the purchase (%med-high to high with B2B, 82%, and B2C, 77%; information needed before a purchase (%med-high to high, with B2B, 76%, and B2C, 76%).
Where we are today
To address these evolving dynamics, B2B marketers need to rethink how they track and manage the customer journey and consider how B2C marketers incorporate personalization and digital into their marketing tactics and strategies. In B2B, historically sales drove the buyer journey. Now, it is more about marketing helping an empowered customer buy and ensuring relevant content is available at the right time in the journey.
From the Forrester research, we now know that two of the top challenges, when tracking customer journeys, is connecting traditional marketing efforts with digital marketing efforts (with B2B, 66%, and B2C, 62%) and connecting the insights/data from all members of the buying process (with B2B, 60%, and B2C, 64%).
This is due, in part, to having too many tools to manage the business of marketing—which results in data silos that inhibit access to a single view of the customer. According to Forrester research, this is why companies struggle to create holistic marketing experiences and track customers throughout the entire journey. B2B and B2C companies face challenges with siloed data and deploying cross-channel marketing. Shockingly, only 7% of B2C and 6% of B2B companies create custom marketing journeys based on customer interactions consistently across all channels, brands, and lines of business.
Interestingly, the research also showed that companies have more effective ways to track and measure customer engagements when buyer journeys are less complex. Companies that have highly complex buyer journeys have a harder time tracking the entire customer journey across devices and through online and offline touchpoints, as well as creating customizable interactions.
What’s the ideal state? How do we get there?
As buyers or customers consider a product or purchase in their journey with a brand or are simply seeking information, marketers must be ready to deliver meaningful, relevant across all touch points. The research shows that cross-channel capabilities can help companies navigate complex buyer journeys. B2B and B2C marketers believe that cross-channel marketing capabilities will drive an increase in sales (with B2B, 59%, and B2C, 70%) and an increase in the quality of customer data received (with B2B, 64%, and B2C, 59%).
This can be a challenge with disconnected systems and teams and three key components that should be considered:
- Data: Having a single, accessible view of the customer will allow for personalization, as well as improve decision making.
- Content: Ensuring beautiful, timely, and relevant content is presented to or available to the customers.
- Delivery: Natively incorporate email, mobile, as well as other online and offline channels into workflows that allow marketers to deliver meaningful experiences every time a customer engages.
The inability to bring these ingredients together will lead to marketing inefficiencies, broken processes, siloed teams, and decreased marketing effectiveness.
What You Should Do Today
There are many considerations to take into account thinking through how best to manage the customer journey. Knowing where to start is a common question, and assessing readiness should be a logical first step. Ensuring teams are aligned, technology is consolidated or integrated, there is executive buy-in and a proper roadmap. Also, consider Forrester’s recommendations from the research:
- Foster collaboration between B2B and B2C marketers. As there is a convergence of the two, there is much to gain.
- Get more comfortable with anonymity. Both B2C and B2B marketers should be confident and respectful in allowing buyers to remain anonymous when they are doing their initial research to determine whether or not to buy from you.
- Put empowered customers at the center of the customer journey. Remove friction, make relevant content accessible and go beyond convincing them to buy, to helping them to buy.
- Start more conversations with customers. Be prepared to educate and inform customers at every step of the way in an extended, contextual conversation, which ultimately leads to a better experience.
Properly managing the customer journey will allow you to increase engagement, revenue, and brand advocacy, and to deliver personal experiences that are consistent across all touch points. A great customer journey is within reach for B2B and B2C marketers—if they lean on and learn from each other, and put customers first.