A recent online discussion on Forrester Research reviewed trends in the B2B segment and how they will impact and change the marketing function as a whole.
Commoditization. New trends like Web 2.0, software as a service, service oriented architecture and others are making it easy for competitors to enter the market with undifferentiated features and capabilities. As a result, companies have to work much harder to understand, capture and maintain customer attention and interest.
Consumerism and the social groundswell. In many technology segments, buyers are increasingly turning to their peers for information and references rather than traditional marketing messages and sales people. Social media offers them a more direct and transparent way to collect experiential information, devoid of marketing spin and product fluff.
Ad avoidance translates to sales call avoidance. Thanks to TiVo, spam blockers and email filters, buyers can bypass advertising, online ads and salespeople and go directly to the Web to get the information they need. Today, a buyer can control how and when to interact with sellers.
Globalization. Marketers have to not only figure out how to address regional markets but fend off offshore skill competition in lead generation, telemarketing and more. Moreover, the high degree of outsourcing undermines marketing’s control and execution of campaigns.
So, what can companies do to keep marketing relevant to their customers?
Improve customer insight. Marketers must develop intent customer listening skills, rather than just pushing out communications. Customer research, segmentation, understanding the buying process and creating relevant information are critical to developing long-term customer relationships and dialogue.
Manage demand, not just generate leads. B2B marketing and selling involves supplier teams interacting with buyer teams, which means that there are multiple touch points. Sales and marketing have to work closely to identify the quality leads, educate and nurture them through the process, and deliver true information that will help buyers make optimal decisions.
Embracing the social groundswell. Buyers have always turned to peers for information and advice, but today they have more effective tools. Companies can take advantage of the new technology and pervasive social media to deliver those messages that really matter to the customer – value, evidence and real solutions.
Companies must also learn to integrate online and offline communication to create better customer dialogue and use technology to quantitatively measure, test, and report on marketing activity and the progress of building relationships.
In the end, the role of marketing must evolve from one of generating demand to one that fosters all customer dialogues and interactions, from product design to packaging to sales and support.
Contact us today to reach your customers effectively with meaningful knowledge, messages and tools.