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B2B Customer Journey Re-Defined

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Long viewed as traditional, B2B marketing in China is currently undergoing a major shift. With the Internet empowering consumers with more information and choices than before, B2B organizations are challenged with changing their strategy and integrate digital marketing as a central activity. In this white paper, I introduce the b2b customer journey. I look at how companies in China currently struggle with it, and what they can learn from best practice examples in order to influence this journey for their own benefits.

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B2B Customer Journey Re-Defined

  1. 1. B2B CUSTOMER JOURNEY RE-DEFINED How digital changes B2B marketing and sales practices. by Chris Krakowski mediaman //
  2. 2. Copyright © 2014 All Rights Reserved | www.mediaman.com.cn | b2b@mediaman.com.cn | Page 2
  3. 3. Copyright © 2014 All Rights Reserved | www.mediaman.com.cn | b2b@mediaman.com.cn | Page 3 The digital impact on China’s B2B Market According to a study of Google & CEB, 57% of a B2Bdecision-making process happens online, before engaging with sales. For certain industries, this number can go as high as 70%. This means that the digital customer journey has become a decisive factor in today’s B2B marketing. In this white paper, we are looking on how B2B marketing in China is currently being re-invented. How relationships between companies and customers are changing through digital communication. We show weak points and the influence of digital marketing on the B2B customer journey, and we finally give examples on how these trends can be leveraged on. A new growth cycle in China’s B2B market In the recent years, digital communication has empowered customers to access information more easily than ever before, and to: • Form opinions, • Detail requirements, • Find providers, • Compare solutions, • Narrow down options, with minimal influence from the organizations. As a consequence, more and more B2B enterprises have started to utilize these digital trends for their own marketing purposes, and to expand their influence on their future customer’s decisions. From a micro perspective, there are several reasons for this shift. One reason is the maturing of B2B business models; another reason is a new demand for very specific services, which have become major digital trends (for example: Big Data). Also, security standards have been improved, giving the market more confidence. Further positive effects were contributed by the government policies, financial support and
  4. 4. Copyright © 2014 All Rights Reserved | www.mediaman.com.cn | b2b@mediaman.com.cn | Page 4 an increase in domestic trade. In its research, EnfoDesk acknowledged the year 2013 as the first year of a new growth cycle of China’s B2B market. Re-inventing through digital communication „The Old” is essential today. A website presence is the most important digital marketing tool owned by B2B companies. It is a central hub for all digital activities. The site has to be optimized for this purpose, reflecting the company’s qualities visually, but also content-wise. Recognizing this, and assessing your current situation allows understanding what will be the next step for your digital communication strategy. „The New” is your new strategy. Giving customers the information they need, in a format they prefer, will shorten the sales cycle. Marketers need to understand their customer’s behavior, recognize their presence and predict the next step using channels that in a ‘traditional’ understanding may seem unconventional or simply unknown. Examples for new, innovative content formats are videos or webinars, or a targeted social media presence. “75% of B2B buyers seek content on their smartphones” Source: 2013 IDG Enterprise Customer Engagement Research Developing mobile-friendly content is a must in today’s B2C marketing, with B2B gradually catching up. But an even more important question is how social media can be used in a meaningful way, in the B2B marketing mix: With Weibo’s influence decreasing as a communication channel, marketers are left
  5. 5. Copyright © 2014 All Rights Reserved | www.mediaman.com.cn | b2b@mediaman.com.cn | Page 5 with one option shorter. And WeChat’s effectiveness as a social lead generation tool in industrial marketing is yet to be proven: Its ability to automate one-to-one dialogues between users and companies is a promising feature, but can B2B organizations use it to communicate to their target audience, generate leads, provide support or simply manage customer relationships? Identify the Customer Journey The answer lies in the process and readiness of B2B organizations. No matter if it’s a small business facing sales issues or a multinational enterprise challenged by localization to the local market, the key to digital excellence is to identify the buyer’s journey and to innovate it. Once marketers understand the journey through their online presence, they will be able to eliminate digital roadblocks and thus using digital more successful than ever before.
  6. 6. Copyright © 2014 All Rights Reserved | www.mediaman.com.cn | b2b@mediaman.com.cn | Page 6 1. Pre-sales Marketing It is a marketing task to influence the purchasing decision of a potential customer, before he will get in touch with sales staff. According to research, three challenges are currently keeping B2B marketers from succeeding in digital pre-sales marketing. Working towards Digital Integration For B2B companies, the official website is a central hub for marketing operations. However, many B2B marketers find themselves in a conflict of interest with other departments, such as IT, Customer Support, Corporate Communications or Sales. If central authority and clear processes are missing, departments have to interact as independent silos, defending their interests against others. As a consequence, the marketing output will become inconsistent, confronting potential customers with different messages. It is important to establish policies that can limit those conflicts of interest, especially for large B2B enterprises with multiple platforms and long rollout procedures. Eventually, organizations must prioritize the integration of their online business processes in favor of a decent user experience, which considers branding, information architecture, content management and technology. A successful customer journey is mostly characterized by its precise integration of various disciplines, from the moment of landing onsite, until conversion. More than ever, Content is King Every business has a story to tell, and marketers need to find ways of telling this story in the most convincing way. Good content can do far more than just giving information about the business, products or solutions: It engages the target user to start
  7. 7. Copyright © 2014 All Rights Reserved | www.mediaman.com.cn | b2b@mediaman.com.cn | Page 7 interacting with the organization, thus identifying himself and his interest. Although most B2B marketers would agree that good content is essential to a successful digital marketing strategy, the majority yet considers it as one of their biggest stumbling blocks; especially the challenge of maintaining a high quality content output over a longer time span. In China, this problem appears even more complex: A multi-lingual and culturally diverse target group, a less mature media landscape and a general lack of trust in corporate communication are only a few examples of many obstacles that marketers have to deal with. Therefore, B2B organizations in China require even more assistance and guidance in developing their content strategies. The Channel Mix Challenge With the ongoing growth of digital channels and devices, companies are challenged with ‘consumerizing’ their content. Internet users nowadays have greater choices on how to consume content, forcing the content providers to deliver accordingly. But matching with new consumer devices or entering the wide field of social media is still a journey into the unknown for many B2B marketers. Still, the ability to influence customers throughout multiple channels and formats is a critical marketing component, and organizations will have to learn, explore and ultimately adjust their communication channels in order to reach their target group. Finally, each channel requires an individual management strategy. Although a consistent distribution of content across various channels is a main goal of marketing communication, each channel needs to be activated separately.
  8. 8. Copyright © 2014 All Rights Reserved | www.mediaman.com.cn | b2b@mediaman.com.cn | Page 8 2. Prospecting & Selling Once a potential client unveils his purchase interest to a seller, digital marketing tools can support a successful conversion process, for example through automation or customization. But in order to realize such approach, commitment is required from different stakeholders within the company. Eliminating the 'Silo Effect' A consistent information flow is one of the key factors in successful lead management. But this consistency is hard to achieve if business units manage leads independently, without common guidelines. Yet, this silo-like structure is the reality in many B2B businesses today, where a new prospect is approached by marketing, sales or distributors independently, with different messages, or even worse, with competing offers. A common example would be the launch of a major marketing campaign, involving several departments, marketing sub-units, plus external agencies. While the groups and their agencies work in isolation, using different tactics to fulfill their parts of responsibility, they often fail as a whole to support the broader business objective. In these situations, marketers need to assume responsibility for internal communication, in order to avoid silo issues. Building the bridge between the campaign stakeholders will not only increase the visibility of a campaign but also provide a clear ground for prospect qualification. Therefore, identifying and eliminating these silos, and building a clear lead management mechanism, is one of the main responsibilities of marketing nowadays.
  9. 9. Copyright © 2014 All Rights Reserved | www.mediaman.com.cn | b2b@mediaman.com.cn | Page 9 Building prospect profiles A “Lead-no-contact” experience, where a follow up ends nowhere, is a frustrating experience for sales people. Reasons for the poor quality of leads are often a lack in data consolidation and unsolved silo situations. Developing prospects with higher quality is a long-term process that requires joint efforts in consolidating leads throughout every existing channel, including online inquiries or offline events. Prospect profiles can only be evaluated or segmented, if the basics are logged: origin, language, intention and contact details are minimum information standards. Logging additional touch points with the same person will enrich the profile with sales-relevant information. While large organizations are investing into Big Data and User Analyses to substantiate their prospects, small businesses can utilize existing CRM integration solutions to develop quality profiles. Automation is key to a relationship According to a research of InsideSales, only 0.9% of the audited B2B companies attempted first contact during the first five minutes after receiving an enquiry. It means, a large amount of marketing budget might be spent on generating leads without value, because no one bothered to follow up. Automated responses, although not a replacement for personal interaction, can help to smoothen the follow up process and to fill out the communication gaps. Fast response is a key influencing factor whether a relationship can be established from the first touch point onwards.
  10. 10. Copyright © 2014 All Rights Reserved | www.mediaman.com.cn | b2b@mediaman.com.cn | Page 10 3. After-sales Sales and marketing doesn’t just stop when a deal is closed. Efficient after-sales service is an essential part of the customer journey. Implementing an after-sales strategy enables B2B companies to increase the loyalty of customers, suppliers and employees. Knowledge and Consulting Preparing and closing a Sale in B2B can be a very complex procedure, with numerous approval steps and authorizations from different stakeholders needed. Three skills are important for sales reps to succeed: • Understanding the customer’s situation and objectives thoroughly • Having fundamental industry knowledge • Having the ability to manage a sales process successfully towards closure While many corporate training programs are focusing on the sales process itself, there is less educational support offered on consulting skills and digital versatility. But there is no doubt that a company, which is providing its sales-force with the tools and skills of managing an integrated digital sales approach, will reach far better results than companies going the manual way. 58% of surveyed B2B sales and marketing professionals say they have not enough digital knowledge. Source: Corporate Visions Report There are many reasons to implement digital solutions into the sales process: • Distributing up-to-date information equally • Access to any application example or best practice in multiple media formats • Combining digital and offline activities through O2O sales platforms • Saving cost through paperless sales materials Keeping the distributors interested A decisive element in B2B marketing and sales is the management of distributors. “Unhappy marriages”, meaning problematic relationships between organizations and
  11. 11. Copyright © 2014 All Rights Reserved | www.mediaman.com.cn | b2b@mediaman.com.cn | Page 11 distributors are not uncommon in industrial marketing. Both sides benefit from their agreement, but simultaneously lack of trust into each other. Sharing contact information and sales performance data, or applying common sales tactics are key challenges in today’s distributor management. Digital solutions can be used to establish mutual trust, and strengthen the relationship. Communicating With Chinese Companies Source and image: B2B International Keeping the distributor interested in the cooperation is an essential responsibility on the manufacturer side to make this relationship work. Educational support, sales incentives, prizes, newsletters and constant support are examples of vitalizing the relationship with distributors through digital methods. Communication Channels with Distributors Loyalty Programs made for people While loyalty programs are considered to be more cost-effective than marketing efforts to acquire new customers, marketers tend to forget that this “give-and-take” approach works as good for customers as it does for employees and distributors. B2B businesses are made up of people, and people need to feel recognized and appreciated by their suppliers or employers. Organizations can leverage on this fact to influence loyalty towards brands or increase the fundamental knowledge of their employees through educational applications; for example by implementing an internal academy combined with a rewarding system. But most importantly, loyalty programs are a valuable marketing tool to stay in touch with customers, educate them on solutions and increase their satisfaction. Abandoning customers after the moment of sale, means giving away a return on investment that was made during the pre-sale and selling phases. Lastly, it is important to understand that marketing efforts do not end when a sales is closed, but continue to be an integrated element in shaping the entire customer journey.
  12. 12. Copyright © 2014 All Rights Reserved | www.mediaman.com.cn | b2b@mediaman.com.cn | Page 12 Conclusion and Key Takeaways Digital transformation is already changing the way marketing is done throughout all B2B industries. Organizations need to analyze the journeys of their future customers, and dare to explore, innovate, and to create new ways of communicating to them. 1. Define your customer’s journey including all key touch points and stakeholders. 2. Develop marketing strategies for the pre- sales phase in order to be able to influence the decision-making process at an early stage. 3. Develop a content strategy that ensures relevance to target audiences. 4. Build bridges and platforms between organizational silos to avoid inconsistent responses and to improve the information flow 5. Consider automation as a tool to improve and quicken the sales response. 6. Provide prospects with the information they need in a format they prefer in order to shorten the sales cycle 7. Integrate online with offline marketing (O2O) into the marketing mix 8. Provide your Sales Reps with useful digital marketing tools and the necessary knowledge to master them 9. Keep the distributors interested and strengthen the trust by supporting them to reach their goals. 10. Deliver value through loyalty programs in order to extend customer lifecycles.
  13. 13. Copyright © 2014 All Rights Reserved | www.mediaman.com.cn | b2b@mediaman.com.cn | Page 13 How to start The first question asked after going through this introduction of the digital consumer journey is: How can we get started? The best answer to this is: Start simple. No matter if you are a large organization or a small business, start your digital strategy by drafting an initial roadmap for the future digital ecosystem. Our advice is to assess your current digital presence, your immediate and long-term objectives. Creating or optimizing each digital element can be done separately later on, as long as there is an overview and a long-term execution plan. mediaman provides assistance in conducting initial assessments of user journeys, digital eco-systems and strategic roadmaps, including interviews with marketers and other stakeholders. Contact us for an appointment. Services related to this whitepaper Assessment User Journeys Digital Roadmaps User Experience Platform Development E-Mail Marketing Content Strategy Digitalization of Events CRM Online-to-Offline Strategies and Solutions Social Media integration Mobile Sales Applications Distributor Management & Loyalty Platforms
  14. 14. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Chris Krakowski, Business Strategy Director Chris is a Business Strategy Director at mediaman – a digital agency founded in 2006 in Shanghai. Chris has 5 years of local and 14 years of global experience in digital services, including project/product management supported by PRINCE2 PM Certification, consulting and account management. Before coming to China, he worked in Poland, UK and Norway. At mediaman, he develops digital strategies for B2B clients. He currently focuses on mobile-based marketing, awareness- generation through innovative technology, and strategic roadmaps for digital marketing.
  15. 15. mediaman Shanghai Suite 601, 68 Changping Lu, +86 21 6299 4416, www.mediaman.com.cn

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