The B2B Marketing Value of a Personalized Customer Experience [Interview]

marketing, marketers, customer experienceThe “Making Personalization Possible” report from the CMO Council discovered that as more marketers shift their focus to personalization, they are hopeful that their efforts will pay off.

About 68 percent of marketers said they planned to optimize the customer experience through better client data and analytics.

We had an opportunity to speak to Liz Miller, senior vice president of marketing at the CMO Council, for more insight into the results.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE TACTICS THAT B2B MARKETERS ARE USING TO IMPROVE CUSTOMER PERSONALIZATION?

“B2B marketers are connecting the dots. Rather than just emailing out a new white paper or research report, they are tailoring content and even brochures to be more personalized to an individual buyer or an individual account. We are seeing some really terrific experiences where marketers are leveraging data that is coming in from service and support, to being able to predict when a customer is looking to potentially upgrade equipment or is in need of self-service solutions to get more from their existing investments. Most decidedly, B2B marketers are keenly understanding that their buyers have started shaping their experience expectations in B2C environments. For example, if I can personalize a pair of shoes, why can’t I personalize a 1,000-page product brochure to just include products relevant to my business? More specifically, when it comes to tools and tactics, the top strategies [B2B marketers] plan on using to accelerate or deploy more personalized engagement strategies in the coming year include:

  • Digital analytics and lifecycle management tools (52 percent)
  • Social listening initiatives (46 percent)
  • Comprehensive mapping of total customer journey across all touchpoints (44 percent)
  • Personalized experiences online and offline (44 percent)
  • Predictive analytics (40 percent)

WHY DO YOU THINK IT HAS TAKEN AN EXTENDED PERIOD OF TIME FOR MARKETERS TO EVOLVE IN TERMS OF CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE MEASUREMENT?

“I think measurement has needed time because the evolution of digital and experience have taken time. Marketers have been in an all-out sprint to keep up with the pace of digital evolution — which has been happening as business has kept moving forward. Nobody hit pause, let everyone get up to speed on technology, and restarted the engine! While we have been priming the sales funnel, we have been remapping and redefining what the funnel actually is in today’s customer-driven, digitally empowered world. Measurement fell behind because we were really having to work hard to keep up with channel complexity and technology advancement. But, now that we have those channels in our sites, we are staring to shed those ‘campaign-centric’ measures that are really best suited to aid in the optimization of engagements, but are not well suited to actually measure impact in the terms of the business. Clicks, views, likes and opens – they are all great metrics to help optimize and improve individual campaign performance. However, it’s retention rates, acquisition rates, sales speed, and volume and metrics around lifetime value that demonstrate how marketing strategy and customer experience impact the business.”

HOW HAVE YOU SEEN MARKETERS TACKLE THE CHALLENGE OF DATA ANALYSIS WITH THE LARGE AMOUNT OF INFORMATION AT THEIR FINGERTIPS?

“The best marketers I have seen jump in, armed with a theory or hypothesis, and a willingness to test this theory on a small sample group. This is not an exercise of looking at all of the data in the world and asking big, broad questions like, “Tell me about my customer.” This is more about diving into the data to determine which of your most valuable customers have a common behavior, a propensity for specific actions, and a set of indicators and desires that, when viewed in total, point to a potential need or purchase. To get to these types of campaigns takes new questions being asked of data from all across the organization (and even some from outside of it).”

DO YOU SEE ANY POTENTIAL “HIDDEN” CHALLENGES AHEAD FOR MARKETERS LOOKING TO ENHANCE THEIR CUSTOMER PERSONALIZATION STRATEGIES?

“Blindly turning to automation could actually be a hidden challenge. Without a person — a marketer — there to assess, understand, and constantly improve a process, strategy, or campaign, we assume the data will somehow fix things or identify issues on its own. Data might tell a certain story, but it still demands a marketer to turn that story into a vibrant picture that is relevant and engaging for the customer. Far too often, we want this to be a ‘set it and forget it”’ opportunity, but data, intelligence, and personalization still require care and feeding by smart marketers who turn data and insights into intelligence and knowledge about our most valued commodity — our customers.”

WHAT DO YOU VIEW AS KEY VARIATIONS IN CHALLENGES FOR B2B AND B2C MARKETERS?

“Scale, speed, and visibility. While B2C marketers must create vibrant campaigns that are bite sized and scalable to millions of possible customers, B2B marketers must personalize to continue relationships that might have relied on face to face engagements for decades. While B2C consideration lasts seconds, B2B can last years, so how do you keep a personalized experience going over years of consideration? This is why B2B marketers are often more adept at creating those lifetime relationship, content-driven experiences. It’s also why B2C marketers are looking into the B2B world to understand how to craft those ongoing, loyal relationships, even in their fast-paced decision cycle.”

DO YOU HAVE ANY OTHER INSIGHT ON THE RESULTS THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO ADD?

“Personalization is nothing new, but today, personalization is the cost of doing business, and that expectation isn’t set by the competition — it is set by our customer. Before, when we could play a branding game of keeping up with the competition, we could afford to chalk personalization up to a clever campaign or ‘gimmick.’ Now, as customers are actively telling us they expect relevance and personalization as a cost of simply sharing their data and information, we have no choice but to respond.”

The CMO Council composed its findings based on data from senior marketers in the fourth quarter of 2015. The report can be downloaded here.

“Having worked with multiple agencies, I can say KoMarketing is one of the best around. They truly feel like an extension of our own internal team. KoMarketing understands our business, our goals, and I appreciate that I don’t have to micromanage them. I would gladly recommend KoMarketing to any organization looking to drive real results through digital marketing.”

Rebecca Johnston-Gilbert' — Rebecca Johnston-Gilbert, Marketing, Postman

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