Andrew Mahler believes the lines of customer experience are continuing to progress. Here, he outlines how to maintain connections
The importance of customer experience may seem like old news, but marketers still struggle to address it. Winning the attention of B2B buyers depends on factors that continue to evolve, and this evolution impacts marketers and agencies alike.
Digitization has permanently changed what it takes to deliver effective sales and marketing. Whether it’s due to the influx of B2C expectations, increased choice, or the influence of digital-native millennials, we’ve reached the inflection point. Deliver an exceptional experience from the prospect to the customer stage – or you’ll get beat.
But what does it take to deliver an exceptional customer experience? First, it’s important to define the experience’s breadth. In the past, siloed teams volleyed back and forth from prospect to initial sale to customer retention. Now, with B2B consumers in control, we’re not dealing with a prospect, buyer or customer at one point in time. Rather, we need to create a seamless experience across the entire journey, from awareness to purchase to on-boarding and expansion.
This experience includes easy-to-find information, intuitive experiences, quick access, self-service and relevant content. It’s less about driving the sale and more about helping customers buy.
So agencies need to surrender the old ‘push’ tactics
and focus on strategies that pull customers in while still giving them control. To do this, agencies need to connect strategy and delivery more holistically.
Here are four key ways to create connections and deliver exceptional customer experiences:
1. Buyer-centric brands
In a customer-driven world, brand perception and awareness are still crucial. Since brands are measured by how they live in customers’ minds, it’s up to us to create sophisticated and emotionally resonant brands that consistently deliver across content, employee interactions and product experiences.
2. Conversations via creative
With consumers delaying sales conversations or simply making self-service purchases, B2B marketing needs to replace sales conversations. That means listening to the customer and treating them as the hero. This requires buyer insights such as personas and journey maps, alongside a customer-centric approach.
3. Digital first (but not digital-only)
B2B organizations must deliver
world-class digital experiences that address B2C expectations
. This involves personalized web experiences, digitally-optimized content, and apps that enable on-demand purchase. But digital transformation can’t happen in a vacuum. It must align with offline, high-touch tactics (like telemarketing, in-person events, and direct mail) that cement sales and loyalty.
4. Optimized interactions
Since B2B buyers seek increased autonomy and anonymity,
the ideal customer experience entices buyers to initiate conversations
. Since fewer sales conversations are happening, it’s important to make sure those that do occur are successful. This means making sure customer insights (i.e. contact data, online behaviors, and research findings) are accurate, accessible and actionable. We should be thinking beyond marketing to support sales and retention efforts. For example, contextual sales tools can ensure the efficacy of each connection by creating a consistent message and experience across the full lifecycle.
As more and more marketers see the need to deliver a truly connected, seamless customer experience, agency partners who can connect the dots will set themselves apart, improving efficiency and results.
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