The research includes insights from senior executives working for brands and agencies including LinkedIn, Schneider Electric, RS Components, Paragon Customer Communications, Janus Henderson Investors, ReallyB2B, Influencer Intelligence, Epsilon, Avatria, Frevvo Inc, JLL, Stein IAS, Cushman & Wakefield and twentysix As well as drawing on the insights and advice of those interviewed, the report will provide guidance and advice on where B2B companies should be focusing their efforts and highlight other Econsultancy resources available to help develop their expertise in different areas.

For more insight, Econsultancy subscribers can download the full report, but here are several key themes emerging from the study.

Digital has re-engineered the way B2B companies buy

More than three-quarters of all B2B purchasers today have only limited interaction with salespeople and buyers are doing their own research and relying on digital resources. There is the realisation that this is only going to increase, particularly with demographics entering the purchasing journey who are accustomed to services being delivered digitally.

There is the acknowledgement that marketing is playing a bigger role further down the funnel before the sales team is engaged, yet only 10% of B2B companies having fully integrated ‘digital’ into marketing. Understanding the needs of stakeholders at different stages of the buying funnel and how digital can be integrated into all marketing activities has become a key area of focus.

Expectations of B2B customers are rising for consumer-like experiences

Customer experience is rated by B2B companies as the single most exciting opportunity for 2019, but over half of companies consider their customer experience to be immature or not very advanced. One of the reasons customer experience can be challenging to deliver comes down to the number of people involved in making decisions around B2B solutions and services, which is often more than six.

Yet improving the customer experience can lead to significant business benefits. Improving the customer journey experience from average to “wow” can lead to a 30 to 50% increase in KPIs such as likelihood to remain/renew or to purchase another product. The priority for companies is to make the customer experience seamless across all these channels and to tailor the experience to the needs of different stakeholders. Ensuring that everyone in the business has a responsibility for customer experience and understands their role in improving it.

Developing an understanding of the customer journey

B2B companies that have developed a deeper understanding of the customer decision journey have been seen to boost sales by an average of 5 to 10% and customer retention by an average of 30%.

With B2B customers expecting the same levels of service as B2C consumers, there is a need to move the focus towards creating journey-based experiences. This includes understanding any pain points and where digital can support customers across all touchpoints.

Bringing together insights and teams across the business can help marketers to better understand the customer journey. Using these insights, personas can then be developed to provide a deeper understanding of customers and their key motivations that influence their behaviour and decision-making. This forces companies to consider any emotional drivers and frustrations that may influence customer decisions and helps to build empathy for them.

Learn more on using insights and developing personas

Getting to Grips with Market Research and Insight Best Practice Guide

Bian Salins, EMEA Lead, Content Marketing Consulting at LinkedIn says:

“A B2B purchase is an emotional and impactful decision. Understand your audience’s mindset within the buyer’s experience and take people on a journey they identify with; they don’t just buy into your product, but buy into your brand promise which is fundamental to effective marketing.”

Getting the customer journey right should be a critical part of any B2B strategy. A good customer journey map visually illustrates all the different steps to help align content and messaging.

Joel Spence, Chief Growth Officer at twentysix, explains that as B2B firms start building out more immersive digital experiences, they are able to capture data all the way through the customer journey and are starting to learn from it.

“Companies need to understand which customer journeys to work on and continuously optimise these. Customer experience leaders have a culture of continuous improvement that is driven by data and collaboration between teams. More and more of the customer journey can now be digitised, with firms turning training sessions into online training experiences, and a lot more of the pre-purchase content being online.”

Greater collaboration between sales and marketing teams

A key theme raised by interviewees throughout the report is the need for greater collaboration between sales and marketing teams to be successful, with some companies using liaison roles or teams to help to support this.

In particular, the need for greater collaboration is illustrated as more companies embark on account-based marketing (ABM). With the potential to drive stronger, more valuable customer relationships and enhance retention, ABM is an increasingly valuable strategy for B2B marketers.

Dun & Bradstreet raises a valid point around the need for greater alignment. Companies should stop focusing on the ‘M’ in ABM; it needs to be called account-based marketing and sales. When done well, they say, companies should not be able to tell where marketing ends and sales begins.

This also raises the issue of proving ROI and the effectiveness of marketing on sales and conversions being key to success, with some companies using test cases and projects to show the value marketing has driven towards sales and revenue contribution.

To find out more about where B2B companies should be focusing their efforts and the resources available to support you, download  the Econsultancy report.