When you think of “B2B” marketing, you naturally think “Business to Business,” not “Business to Customer.” But insufficient focus on the customer experience or customer marketing is a crucial mistake that many B2B companies inadvertently make. The modern B2B customer expects an experience that’s personalized, omni-channel optimized and engaging, just like what they have come to know know and trust in their consumer buying experiences.
The B2B market continues to grow and fill with competitors, so it’s essential that your marketing is fully supportive of the buyer’s journey. Even if your product or service’s pricing may be higher or there may be features of your business that are less developed, amazing customer marketing that engages audiences and drives home your unique value proposition can be a huge differentiator edge in a crowded market.
The Goal of Customer Marketing
Even in B2B settings, all marketing efforts are ultimately aimed at prospects who you hope will become customers and current customers that you want to retain and deepen relationships with. All your marketing efforts should keep customers front of mind at an individual buyer persona level and consider the broader needs of the organizations that these personas represent.
One of the principle objectives of customer marketing is to build and solidify trust. To create trust, you need to build authority and educate customers through value-added content supported by facts and practical experience. Demonstrating credibility on trends and topics that relate to their pain points and objectives translate to trust that your product or service is similarly credible and a viable option for addressing their needs. Many bucket this approach under the umbrella of “Thought leadership” – an approach that conveys expertise across people, products and services alike.
Another focus of customer marketing is determining what’s needed at each stage of the buyer journey. You don’t want to just think about them at the top of your funnel. Ensure your marketing efforts properly support individuals through the entirety of the funnel, from awareness to consideration to decision and beyond to build loyal champions of your business.
What Makes Up Customer Marketing in 2019
Now that we have a good idea of what customer marketing is, let’s examine four key components that support modern customer marketing in the wake of new expectations from individuals in how they’re marketed to.
1. Testimonials and Advocate Marketing
When talking about testimonials, we’re circling back to the earlier discussion of trust. Since 53% of B2B customers need testimonials to help make their purchasing decisions, it’s evident that genuine, authentic testimonials can be a big factor in turning prospects into customers. Testimonials from customers on their experiences and results with your organization builds confidence that your company will deliver on promises and guarantees outlined in your messaging.
Advocate marketing is similar to testimonials, in that it also focuses on giving current or previous customers a voice to inform future or potential customers. Whereas testimonials are succinct forms of text that you can use within your customer marketing pieces, such as email marketing or features on your website, advocate marketing is more free form. Rather than following up with customers to get their testimonials, customers will advocate for your products seemingly without being prompted. This often comes in the form of social media posts or potentially sharing experiences in customer forums.
2. User Groups/Events
Hosting or participating in face-to-face events where prospects get to see your product or service in action is another great way to help build trust with your potential buyers. It also works as a great two-way street of info gathering. While the prospects are getting to experience first-hand what you have to offer, your organization is meeting with your target audience in person to see how they respond to your products, so you can know what they’re most interested in and what potentially needs improvement.
3. Online Customer Groups
One way that technology is informing customer marketing is the use of online customer discussion boards and groups. There are lots of popular forum software options, which allow you to integrate forums and discussion boards with your website, so your customers can easily see what topics other customers are most regularly discussing and how they’ve been experiencing your products.
It’s become a standard for customers to be able to discuss the topics that matter to them in a free and open manner. It also allows you another opportunity to learn what’s most pressing for your customers, so that you can refocus your marketing on their needs. You can even join in on these forums to address any issues someone is having or respond to positive feedback that’s being posted.
4. Referral Programs
If you’re not organically seeing the kind of customer feedback and responsiveness you’d like, referral programs can be a solid option for pulling in potential leads. Referral programs allow you to incentivize current customers to refer your business to someone they know. Common referral programs may entice customers to refer your business to someone by offering a discount on a product or an additional feature.
Referral programs are an important part of customer marketing because your chances of getting a qualified lead from a referral are much higher than if you were to try and generate leads without that initial touchpoint. When someone is referred by a trusted acquaintance, they are 4 times more likely to buy from you.
The Necessities of Customer Marketing
Understand Your Customers
If you don’t understand your customers, it’s impossible to create effective customer marketing. While we’ve already discussed how user groups and events can allow you to put a face to your customers and gather authentic information from them, social media can also be an important tool for getting a sense of what your customers are talking about and what’s important to them.
Polls, surveys and questionnaires are another widely used way of tapping into prospect and customer mindsets. You can formulate the questions yourself based off what you’ve already learned in other marketing channels and then send surveys via your email marketing or post a pop-up form on your website. Much like referral programs, these kinds of blind surveys might also take some incentivizing, possibly with a free eBook or white paper download. Survey software has become very common and you can find the right one for your business here.
Keep in Contact (Just the Right Amount and with the Right Stuff)
To make sure your customers become familiar with your brand voice and feel as though your customer marketing is geared thoughtfully towards them, you want to keep a regular cadence of communication. This will come most notably in the form of email marketing but can also entail other marketing channels like direct mail and paid remarketing. You want to ensure that newsletters, welcome emails and asset sends are all tailored to the segment your customer is in, so that they’re receiving the most personalized experience possible.
You also don’t want to be flooding their inbox constantly. Just because you’re focused on them, doesn’t mean they’re able to focus entirely on your business. Send emails at times and on days that make sense for your audience, and make sure to send them regularly so that customers keep you top of mind and can trust that you’re regularly producing content and marketing with them in mind.
While there can be a lot to think about as a B2B or B2C leader (your employees, your ROI, etc.), honing in on the customer can help refocus your marketing and sales team energy, allowing for more direct, streamlined branding and communication.
Need to get more from your marketing? Not sure where to start? Download the free Big Rocks First eBook.