6 key aspects of B2B digitalisation

Pedro Jesús González

22 June 2020

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There are almost three million companies in Spain. Six million in the UK. 5 million in Mexico. All of them buy products and services from other companies, which strive to capture customers and sell at all costs. But to achieve this, it is important to understand that the B2B buyer is not an archetype in a glass box. There’s always a real flesh-and-blood person who makes the final decisions on purchases.

Traditionally, the ‘buyer side’ of people who own or manage business areas has been more or less separated from the ‘consumer side’, as B2B selling required differentiated channels and mental frameworks, and in many (but not all) organisations, specific processes. 

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Digitalisation is rapidly eroding many of these barriers in many businesses. On the one hand, it allows the generation of demand to work in a more asynchronous way and through new channels. On the other hand, it offers new opportunities for part of the one-to-one commercial process to be developed remotely and provides solutions to respond to buyer-driven demand. Finally, it presents us with the opportunity to analyse the data, which can then be fed back into the process. In this way, 6 key aspects arise to be taken into account to make the most of these opportunities:

1. The medium is no longer the message. 

There was a time when buyers and managers of companies read either Expansion, a supplier’s catalogue, or the brand’s catalogue, at some point in their day. B2B companies had to “find the space” to advertise on managers’ favourite channels, so they could reach them directly. Due to digitalisation, this has changed. A purchasing manager is a purchasing manager when they read Expansion or when they are on Instagram, LinkedIn or Whatsapp. And their “mental framework” is becoming less rigid in its consumption of information because they no longer need to “compartmentalise”; they can gather knowledge about all their interests on almost any platform. 

Coca-Cola European Partners understood this when it anticipated the trend and launched its employee advocacy program to help its employees communicate better on their personal social networks, understanding that many of its customers are audiences of its employees on social media.

2. The B2B buyer prefers digital. 

This is the other side of the coin. The buyer is so accustomed to the use of digital tools that they prefer (and demand) the convenience and quality of a digital process with the standards to which they are accustomed as a consumer in their relationship and purchase processes with their B2B suppliers. In other words, it’s getting more and more annoying to have to order via fax or on an extranet from the year 2010.

Global Business Travel (GBT) is the division of American Express specialised in the organisation and integral management of travel and events for companies. Their new website, designed by Muskae, a Good Rebels company, is not only designed for that demanding B2B buyer, but it also reflects the reality of the company in a way that did not happen before. People serving people. 

3. Digitalisation helps in the personalisation of the value proposition for B2B. 

Many business processes between companies make personalisation and the consumer experience part of their logic of being. Treat the buyer well, give them time and attention. However, only certain B2B and customer-specific businesses can function in this way, because they are expensive business processes.

Digitalisation has led us to expect personalised experiences in everything we do and consume and at the same time has given companies techniques and tools to be able to carry it out. For years now, AECOC has transformed the relationship with its 27,000 associated companies, generating a truly personalised relationship and providing complete services from the online platform.

4. Digitalising processes and equipment is becoming increasingly relevant.

People with commercial responsibility are already digitalised. All that remains is to digitalise the equipment and processes of which they are a part. They use WhatsApp and digital banking, but in their work, their business processes use little data and those they use are almost always more for reporting than for planning. 

Aliseda was aware of the opportunity, so it developed a solution to provide the company’s salespeople with tools that improve customer relationship management at any time in the life cycle, as part of an extensive effort to optimise customer knowledge prior to the sales visit. 

5. The contents help to strengthen business relationships. 

Digitalisation has made many B2B buyers more frequently adopt a proactive search position for product and service information for their business. A careful elaboration of contents – more technical or more commercial – and their distribution adapted to the moment of consumption will help to strengthen our position in the first moments of the commercial process. 

The global company of bakery products, AB Mauri, through a strategy of B2B content in digital channels, managed to strengthen its relationship with the distributor and have access to a relevant database full of insights about the final consumer.

6. Marketing automation allows for improved prospecting and pre-qualification. 

The correct marketing automation strategy associated with digital assets allows for a strong value relationship to be built with potential buyers, with much less effort from the B2B company (calling 50 clients requires more time and resources than sending them a personalised email through a marketing automation tool). Once the potential buyer has met a series of requirements, it is time to take them to a later stage of personalised commercial attention. In this way, we make processes efficient that were not efficient before. 

Telefonica Empresas was a pioneer in the implementation of this type of project throughout Latin America with Business Destination, which aimed to achieve more agility in the management of content resources, optimise data capture and contribute to the generation of leads.

B2B sales are already undergoing their own process of superdigitalisation. It is critical for sales and marketing managers to understand the change of context and remove the mental framework of “digital is for B2C”. It’s not for everyone, but it is already vital for many B2B sales. These are uncertain times in the marketplace. The correct choice of tools and lines of work that lead us to optimise our resources is more critical than ever. And digitalisation is here to help make it happen.