by Mousumi Behari, Strategy Practice Lead To create the momentum to win, B2B brands must define their 2020 strategy now, allocate resources to digital initiatives and focus on creating a memorable, relevant customer experience. To do so, brands need to overcome legacy foundational challenges and inspire their organizations to define their purpose and clearly communicate how that purpose will be the root for promoting change and growth.
The first questions a brand should ask is, “how do we connect with our customers? What do we know about their needs?” And on the flip-side, “how do we meet those needs?”
Brands need to align on a strategic North Star that anchors their purpose and reminds them to stay authentic. Creating a storyline around how you partner with other brands and your customers will increase your brand’s visibility in a world where 35% of consumers will start their search on Google or Amazon according to a recent Avionos study. For example, Salesforce, a SaaS company, focuses its brand purpose on building a community of partners and users through its platform to simplify customer relationship management. Through insights like purchase patterns, content engagement, etc., Salesforce allows its partners and customers to improve sales and service, among other values. The company continually tells its story of innovation through its clients by calling them “Trailblazers” and reinforcing its purpose of innovation through relationships in its brand messaging. Additionally, brands like KEMET, a leading global supplier of electronic components, have invested in marketing campaigns to celebrate its Centennial Year and all of the people, products and innovations that have transformed the company and industry over the past 100 years. According to PwC, half of B2B purchasers are millennials who want to see the bigger picture, and really connect with the brand. You can deliver on that demand by investing in your brand and telling the story only you can tell about your purpose.
Once a brand is aligned in its purpose, how do they create a memorable customer experience?
Most B2B companies suffer legacy technical debt, have hacked together manual processes from disparate systems, and often have internal teams that are siloed or resistant to change. These challenges make prioritizing digital commerce and marketing much harder. Yet, according to the Avionos report, 73% of online shoppers are likely to avoid a brand after a single negative experience. The thing to avoid here is analysis paralysis, which can be combatted by prioritizing projects efficiently. The answer sometimes lies in not solving for everything but fixing one thing at a time. Once that is successful, you can tackle another item and build a totem pole of success slowly over time. The other thing to remember is that not every problem is a technology one. Are there investments you can make in people to train them to use a product optimally? Can certain manual processes like asset management be streamlined? Thinking holistically about people, process and technology will result in a plan with different success metrics and resources to complete across each variable. An example of this is current Avionos client, a commercial real estate services firm JLL. Tasked with rolling out multiple websites in various languages on a global scale, JLL not only focused on the technology implementation, but they also created a project management office (PMO) to prioritize according to business value and technical complexity, ultimately creating a global roadmap. The health of the roadmap was assessed quarterly against their key performance indicators (KPIs), and if they needed to adapt and change the strategy, they did so by digital steering committee consensus. When it comes to adaptation, agility and defining a roadmap, there are always digital disruptors that threaten to uproot the strategy such as RPA, AI, machine learning, IoT, and so many more.
When do B2B companies adopt a digital trend, and when should they be spectators?
The answer lies in the digital maturity of the organization and whether the specific digital trend is relevant to the brand’s customers. For instance, if a brand wants to begin using AI for product recommendations to specific customers, the company first needs to look at its data. Is it clean? Can it be connected to produce a valid recommendation? Reports show that Amazon sees 35% of sales coming from the product recommendation feature. Since a B2B brand’s sales cycle is typically more complex and longer, low touch technology like this could give the customer a more personalized experience and increase the brand’s revenue.
In the end, there are several success stories and others that have fallen by the wayside in the race for digital innovation. However, if you can start with a purpose, create a plan, execute, and measure the success, you are starting the race prepared.