Forbes | Date: 2022-02-25
Feb 25, 2022,07:45am EST|504 views
Four Reasons Omnichannel Is Vital To Your B2B Marketing Strategy
[Forbes Agency Council]
Forbes Councils Member
Paula Chiocchi is CEO of Outward Media, Inc., a leading provider of multichannel marketing data that drives business growth and success.
It’s an understatement to say that the pandemic has transformed our lives. The B2B market has also experienced tremendous disruption. One of the biggest shifts we’ve seen is that B2B buyers’ attitudes and actions have changed. When in-person meetings went away, digital communication became imperative, and the businesses that had already embraced digital tools and platforms had an advantage over competitors. Of course, video conferencing proliferated, but the pandemic also impacted the way we target prospective customers.
Below, I’ll dive into four stats from a recent McKinsey research report on the state of B2B sales that caught my eye. As a longtime B2B data provider, they made me think about how B2B businesses of all sizes need to adapt to the changing market:
The number of channels available to customers is growing rapidly.
B2B customers now use 10 or more channels to engage with sellers — that’s twice as many channels as five years ago and up from an average of five in 2016, McKinsey says. This makes sense, as today’s buyers are now more inclined to conduct their own research online, whether they turn to webinars, social media content, review sites, industry experts or peer recommendations.
With so many channels, marketers must recognize that there are also many ways to reach a single prospect. This can be positive or negative because omnichannel outreach is only as effective as the quality of your data. That’s why working with a vendor that guarantees the validity of their third-party data is essential. Keeping your own data clean with routine data cleansing is also important.
Buyers prefer to use multiple channels.
One general rule of engagement is emerging in the B2B buying realm: Customers prefer to use a mix of traditional sales, remote (such as video calls and phone discussions) and self-service (digital portals and e-commerce) as they move through the stages of the sales process.
B2B buyers want these options because it gives them more flexibility. This means B2B marketers need to think in terms of omnichannel when planning everything from acquisition campaigns to customer retention. It also means they need to prepare content for each stage of the buying journey, including the educational phase along with the purchase and post-purchase phases. One lesson many of us in B2B have learned is that weaving brand name testimonials into your content from key customers can go a long way toward building trust with prospects, regardless of channel.
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B2B loyalty challenges can be a growth opportunity.
When it comes to customer retention, research shows that consumers are changing brands or retailers at a faster rate since the pandemic began. B2B customers are likely no different: The majority of those B2B customers surveyed by McKinsey said they would actively look for another supplier if their primary needs are not met.
It’s clear that B2B sellers must focus more than ever on what their customers want, but shifting loyalties can also be viewed as a potential growth opportunity. The way I see it, now is the perfect time to target prospective customers who may work with your competitors but are now looking for a new solution. One way to identify those buyers is through intent monitoring, a data strategy that allows marketers to find out who is digitally searching for their solutions. From search engine queries to repeat website visits and content downloads, intent monitoring uncovers digital signals that a prospect is potentially in-market. Typically, these signals are generated weekly or monthly and can provide valuable insights that, when coupled with high-quality contact data, allow you to target potential companies that have shown an interest in solutions like yours — at scale. Additionally, intent data can be used to identify members of a buying group by tracking IP addresses mapped to the same company.
Omnichannel impact is rising.
Since the pandemic unfolded, marketers have been questioning if today’s new omnichannel approaches to sales are truly working. McKinsey’s early research indicated that 65% of buyers in April 2020 viewed it as being on par with previous methods. But that number has steadily risen. It jumped to 85% by February 2021 and rose to 94% in a November 2021 study.
Buyers are also willing to spend more through remote and online sales channels. In fact, according to McKinsey, 35% will use those channels to spend $500,000 or more. Clearly, digital channels are no longer just a way to start a conversation or share information, but a way to engage in digital buying methods.
B2B sales and marketing models are changing, and a key force behind that change is omnichannel as a preference for today’s B2B buyers. If you’re not already employing a multichannel strategy, now is the time to get started.
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Paula Chiocchi is CEO of Outward Media, Inc., a leading provider of multichannel marketing data that drives business growth and success. Read Paula
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