B2B pitfalls – three things to avoid in 2016

Michael Haynes warns against common pitfalls B2B organisations risk falling into when focussing on standard customer experience ‘commandments’.

Over this past year, there has been tremendous focus on companies becoming customer centric and delivering a positive customer experience. Unfortunately, there are a few deficiencies with some of the current thinking and approaches to creating a B2B Customer Experience. If B2B companies are to retain and grow their business customers – that ultimately is the key goal businesses wish to achieve from customer experience – they must stop practising three ‘commandments’ that many purport to be essential to delivering a positive customer experience.

Three pitfalls B2B companies must avoid in 2016

Tailoring for the individual

Literally every article related to customer centricity will talk about the necessity of producing content that is tailored to the priorities and interests of the individual buyers. The problem with this is that in B2B it is not individuals who buy but rather it is groups that buy (the latest studies show that on average between five to seven people are involved in a business purchase decision). The individuals within these buying groups may each have diverse roles, objectives and priorities. Therefore, tailoring content to each individual buying may further reinforce these differences and inhibit the group from gaining the consensus required to make a purchase decision.

Running the content sausage factory

This emphasis on content generation has resulted in companies focussing on the quantity of content produced rather than the quality of content. As a result, much of the content is being ignored. According to a recent study by CEB (formerly known as Corporate Executive Board), 51% of business stakeholders have tuned out from suppliers’ unwanted contact by unsubscribing from supplier email lists, deleting emails without reading them, refusing supplier calls and visits and in some cases even posting negative feedback on social media forums.

Content cannot simply spark interest about a company’s known pain points and challenges. Instead, it must change the thinking and direction of your customers and process while simultaneously position your organisation as the primary means to meet their objectives.

Making digital the Holy Grail of B2B marketing

With the exponential increase in the amount of online research that is conducted by both consumers and business stakeholders alike, a strong focus is placed on providing the appropriate messages and content online.

While this does make sense, to a degree, to reflect the overall purchase process, B2B suppliers and service providers must also be aware of the implications and the impact it may have on getting customers and prospects to purchase from them. Providing content digitally will enable prospects and customers to educate themselves and identify their needs when and where it suits them.

However, B2B suppliers must not leave prospects and customers to learn entirely on their own. Doing so will result in what the Corporate Executive Board calls ‘established demand’ whereby customers determine their own specific requirements and pricing thresholds. This reliance on ‘self educating’ means that organisations may miss out on key insights as to how your organisation and help them achieve a number of their key priorities. As a result of identifying their requirements solely on their edification, prospects and customers then invite a few other suppliers to compete. This leads to commoditisation of the offering and a focus on price.

What B2Bs need to focus on

Gain buying group alignment and consensus

This must be a key focus of B2B sales and marketing efforts as it is essential in getting organisations to buy (or buy more from you).

Achieving this is no easy feat and will require that B2B suppliers and service providers:

  • have an in-depth understanding of the members of the buying group,
  • identify and engage ‘mobilisers’ (i.e. influential, highly respected and connected individuals) within the organisation who can mobilise buying group members, and
  • foster buyer group learning through confrontation and disruption – you must get the buying group members together (and yes that means doing so the old fashioned way: in a room, face to face) and challenge the way the they think about the business and how it operates.

Gaining such alignment and consensus requires that B2B service providers deeply understand their prospects and customers better than they understand themselves and that they are able to uncover new opportunities that these companies can pursue to meet their objectives.

By doing so, companies will be able to position themselves as the preferred, if not only option to their prospects and customers, resulting in increased sales, and customer spend without having to resort to the ‘price play’.

So in 2016 it’s time for B2Bs to stop blindly following these CX ‘commandments’, and determine how you can best deliver value to your customers by creating buying GROUP alignment and the appropriate offerings (be it  advice, ‘products’, service and support) to meet their objectives.

 

Michael Haynes
BY Michael Haynes ON 18 February 2016
Michael Haynes is the founder and director of 2excell Consulting, a strategic marketing firm that specialises in working with B2B services firms to acquire, retain and grow their ideal business customers.