The B2B sector has dramatically changed. Its new reality demands business models with a strong digital focus, and such evolution can’t be delivered exclusively through training for a few employees, a conference, or a motto.
The scale of this change and the speed that the environment needs require a shared project that responds to the demands of the new B2B consumer, breaks down silos and is built on a data-driven vision.
In this context, implementing a marketing automation strategy can be a very valuable lever that catalyses digitalisation in your B2B company. Not only because it involves implementing new technology but, above all, because it will be an opportunity to train the company in digital techniques, channels, and tools that will allow you to deliver B2C experiences to B2B buyers at a time when 66% of them expect personalised interaction.
Still not convinced? Here are three insights to change your mind:
1. The B2B sector is made up of liquid, hyper-connected citizens and employees
B2B customers and employees are not separate entities. Like the rest of the world, they have seen Zoom grow on sales soar 326% to $2.6bn in 2020., they are part of the 2 billion people with Whatsapp and they certainly do some of the 6.9 billion daily searches on Google.
That is why we insist on the idea that, when talking about the B2B sector and its digital transformation, the first thing we have to do is to talk about people. Decision makers in B2B companies are becoming increasingly younger and more hyper-connected. And although four generations with so many differences have never coexisted in the workplace, they all agree that the way we do business will change drastically in 5 to 10 years.
Millennials and centennials represent 35% of the global domestic income. Although, more than as a generation, some —like María José Jordá, head of the Millennials Project at BBVA— think of millennials as an attitude or way of thinking, mainly because of the influence they exert on the older generations. They are driving a mindset change with a digital prism that prioritises connectivity and mobility. It is not for nothing that business schools have added the H to the term VUCA to add the factor of hyper-connectivity to the (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) environment.
No wonder 44% of millennials prefer not to have to interact with salespeople. Don’t you think that’s enough to automate your B2B sales processes?
2. The B2B sales process is becoming increasingly digital, and the sector needs a new business model.
And we’re not just saying that. Here are some numbers:
- According to Gartner, B2B buyers spend only 17% of the buying process time with sales reps.
- In 2018, BCG described the new B2B buyer as “younger, more digital, and increasingly likely to do business online and on their smartphone.”
- 60% of B2B businesses had already adopted some form of automation in 2019, according to Statista, with 25% reporting plans to implement it in the next 12 months.
- And the superdigitalisation of the last few years has only accelerated this trend: McKinsey indicates that the post-COVID B2B buyer has increased its preference for a digital sales process and commercial relationship (self-service) by 50%, already standing at 250%.
That’s why it is not just a matter of boosting online sales, but of taking a step further towards the development of data strategies, towards the automation of processes to add value. In short, towards a new business model that integrates processes, data, and technology and uses digitalisation to break down silos, especially between marketing and sales.
3. B2B automation without a focus on data will not yield a ROI.
The importance of data is nothing new. Netflix saves $1 billion a year in consumer retention thanks to Big Data. And with the departure of third-party cookies, adopting first-party data strategies is becoming more important: 94% of B2B companies in the US have or are considering some form of CRM. This paradigm shift will allow us to establish new data management and processing processes to access the consumer relationship funnel through data obtained from proprietary and third-party platforms.
It is time to take control, to stop thinking about the data your company currently owns, and start asking what data it needs. That is: to know what information is relevant to the business and how to make it accessible, timely and with good governance.
Where to start?
These are the building blocks for creating the seamless buying experience that the world’s leading companies have already incorporated into their digital B2B relationship mix:
1. Get to know the new B2B buyer. Did you know that 75% of efforts to automate, personalise and interact with the B2B consumer fail to yield a return due to a lack of good consumer insight? Understanding that there are individuals on the other side and mapping their particular habits and pain points will be crucial to the project’s success.
2. Corporate culture. Contrary to popular belief, the first step in tackling the digitalisation of a B2B business is not to invest in the latest technology, but to promote a change in corporate culture, opting for collaborative models that allow us to break down silos to gain agility. We will have to create a multidisciplinary team to lead the project, promote collaboration between areas, impose a rhythm, and provide the teams with real quick wins.
3. People-first. It is time to accept that your target is not a company: it is a highly digital and connected person who expects the same experience in their B2B purchasing processes as when they buy their favourite B2C products. Whether we target customers or partners, our digital strategies must place people at the centre.
4. Technology as a tool. Although it is a crucial pillar for the success of our project, we must not understand technology as an end but as a means to enhance processes, personalise the experience and fine-tune the customer journey.
5. Data-driven approach. If we understand the digitalisation of sales processes as part of the company’s data strategy, we will be able to build experiences and make decisions with the information we gather.
At Good Rebels, we have seen first-hand how marketing automation projects increase the efficiency of sales teams, allowing them to focus on what generates real value. It also allows them to build a direct relationship with the customer and personalise their shopping experience, eliminating friction points. All this in an environment that collects relevant, measurable, and actionable data, which will be of great use as first-party data becomes more relevant.