How B2B Companies Can Deliver Indispensable Customer Experiences

July 26, 2018

Art of Winning

Editor's Note: A version of this post originally appeared on the LinkedIn Marketing Blog

Far too many B2B buyers are frustrated by their buying experiences – and companies are leaving money on the table as a result. Talk of delivering the ideal customer experience can seem intangible and pie in the sky. But plenty of companies have mastered the art of delivering a customer experience that sets them apart. Read on for practical advice on how your organization can do the same.

Embrace Personalization and Trust

The best companies design the buying experience around personalization and trust. After all, these are the hallmarks of a company that understands its buyers and cares about their experience.

It’s a given that consumer experiences have impacted the way B2B buyers think about their business buying experiences. We’ve all been conditioned to expect the same levels of personalization we experience when shopping on Amazon and watching Netflix.

Hand in hand with this, trust is a foundational element of a standout buying experience. After all, to deliver personalized experiences, businesses must know their potential buyers. And to convince them to share information that will enable personalization, businesses must earn buyers’ trust. No wonder 75% of executives say trust will be critical to their business in two years.

Learn from Winning Brands

One company that has mastered this formula is Tesla. This pioneering car company allows each buyer to design the car of their dreams, and share it with friends and family via Facebook and email. Once they’ve designed their car, Tesla strikes up a personalized correspondence with each prospective customer, providing real-time updates on the car’s status along with relevant content. These customers can join a community of fellow drivers for candid advice. They don’t even need to leave their property to take possession of their car; Tesla delivers it to their front door. The entire buying experience is wrapped in trust and personalization. And it feels revolutionary and extraordinary because of that.

Perhaps you’re thinking this example is irrelevant when talking about B2B buying experiences. But it’s relevant because the lines are blurring between the consumer and business worlds. Remember: All business buyers are also consumers and they compare every interaction with your company to their experiences with Amazon, Netflix, Uber, and the like.

So what are the key elements that make it possible for every B2B company to deliver an experience on par with Tesla?

Arrive at a Shared View of Buyers

Marketing and Sales now share ownership of the buying experience, since buyers act autonomously before engaging with a sales rep. That means these groups need to work in lockstep to ensure a seamless, friction-free buying experience.

The first step is agreeing to the following:

  • The ideal customer
  • Definition of a lead
  • Relevant messaging and offers

The next steps is for Marketing and Sales to gather knowledge about prospects as they interact with and observe them on their buying journeys. By sharing their understanding and insights about each buyer, the two teams pave the way for a consistent, personalized buyer experience.

Remember: Different stakeholders are involved at different points in the B2B buying cycle. Knowing who is involved and when makes it possible to develop a story thread that carries across all stakeholders from beginning to end, enabling a smooth handoff between Marketing and Sales.

Mapping to the buyer journey provides a more realistic understanding of the buyer’s experience, reducing the risk of wrongly assuming who is involved and in what ways from the buyer’s side. With an accurate view of this journey, Marketing and Sales can more confidently define and execute on plans, messages and campaigns designed to trigger and encourage engagement with everyone involved in the purchase.

Orchestrate Marketing and Sales Processes

To enable Marketing and Sales to put this shared understanding into action, your organization needs to equip them with orchestrated processes that get the teams working in tandem. The key is to eliminate the artificial funnel division between Marketing and Sales and instead align each to a holistic view of the buyer journey from start to finish.

Not so long ago, marketing teams could reliably call upon advertising to funnel leads into the sales cycle, where sales reps would then progress prospects through the buyer’s journey toward an eventual conversion. But prospects go through a buying journey, not a funnel or pipeline, and Marketing is involved in more of that journey than in the past. Plus, there are those different stakeholders appearing at different stages.

To account for all these variations and unpredictable realities, Marketing and Sales need to be aligned every step of the way. Simply put, collectively both teams need to engage buyers at the right time, with the right content and the right messaging. Mastering this sequence of engagement starts by going to market together and working jointly throughout the buying journey to execute and close deals.

Remember: Buyers are seeking more than solution providers – they’re looking for trusted advisors who understand their challenges and goals and can help them move smoothly down the path to purchase. The goal is to move past the distinction between Sales and Marketing and view them as a single entity with common goals and responsibilities. By forming a truly united front when engaging and interacting with potential buyers, Marketing and Sales can deliver an indispensable experience that converts.

For more expert information on how to align your sales and marketing efforst for a seamless customer experience, read our guide Delivering Intelligent Customer Experiences