That was how one of my primary messages sounded, when I had the honour of giving the keynote speech at EPiServer’s B2B Conference in Denmark last spring. My opinion is that even it was the B2C who “invented” the term omnichannel, it is mainly the B2B companies who are better off with omnichannel than B2C necessarily are. Below, I will clarify why and what is specific to B2B across all discipline in Customer Targeting.

You can also see my slides from the Conference on B2B E-Commerce here.  From the B2B Conference in Denmark – April 2015

 

Customer Recognition and Permission Collection

The requirement for being able to provide a personalised message is to recognise the customer and have permission to communicate 1:1 to each and every customer. Like the levels in Customer Targeting show, the first step is to recognise the single customer, reprocess a reasonable volume of customers and potential customers and then maintain an engagement in the communication with the customer base across the communication channels.

An example of a B2B company that professionally works with this is Pfizer. Pfizer wants – like so many other companies – to communicate more cost effectively and relevant to their customers. When they collect permissions at pfizerpro.dk, they make sure they clarify whether the customer is a nurse or a doctor and what this person’s speciality is. In this way they acknowledge that a customer is not just a customer but can have different roles in the decision-making process. In addition, they make use of the fact that B2B companies are not placed in the same way under the consumer agreement, which is why they are able to combine their permission collection online through an active effort in the telemarketing area.

Data Collection

Customer data is the company’s opportunity of getting to know the customers and giving them a coherent experience – even if different people serve them on different channels. The more you know about every single one – the more relevant it can get.

The special thing about B2B and data collection is that quite often there is data on the customer-level already. Even the smallest craftsman typically has no problem in collecting customer data – otherwise they can’t send the bill… This is an advantage compared to the many B2C retailers, who have to make customer clubs and devise other tricks in order to entice the customers to identify themselves.

But as soon as the data collection has to move on to the next level and rise above “only” combining transactional data with CRM data, then the same problems as for B2C arise. Because how do you integrate the digital footsteps placed daily on your company’s digital channels by B2B customers and potential B2B customers? And how do you use this in your communication and serving of the individual customer?

How do you link data with third-party data? Using both Danish and International data catalogues such as Virk.dk and Dun & Bradstreet, B2B companies have especially good opportunities for comparing their own data with data from others catalogues.

And what about the customer’s customers? Shouldn’t B2B integrate data collection on the products they deal in to a higher degree? Like the company BAM Lambs, which provides equipment to the U.S. medical healthcare sector. They have reinvented a pressure sensitive mattress, which in practice collects a lot of data about the patient. The patient can lie at home instead of in the corridor of an overcrowded hospital. And from the hospital they can measure the pulse, the respiration frequency and how long the patient stays in bed etc. This is all data which can be useful to both BAM Lambs and to their customers. It even benefits the patient.

Data Analysis

In terms of analysing the wealth of customer data and third-party data, B2B are facing the same challenge as B2C. The thing that makes the discipline special is primarily the data that is available. Traditionally, B2B have worked with CRM for a long time and the “inherent” transactional data on the customer and the possibilities from third-party data means that B2B should be able to move in this discipline from the offset.

My favourite example of data analysis in B2B is surprisingly not The Brothers Dahl (Danish company working with; heating, ventilation and sanitation technology as a wholesaler), who on the basis of its own transactional data and company data from third parties gives vendors prioritised phone lists, so they receive support in deciding who they should call and what they should talk about. No wonder The Brothers Dahl won the FDIH’s (The Danish E-business Association) gold prize at the E-Commerce Awards 2014.

Communication & Service

Data is only worth something, if it is getting used. So how are you making the best use of your data when it comes to Communication & Service for B2B?

B2B marketers often operate in a niche market – so mass communication is often not so useful. But when we haven’t yet received permissions from potential customers, we still need to turn to paid media; whether it is the target ads on LinkedIn, placed outdoor, cleverly hidden or expensive direct mail marketing.

The volume is quite often less than in B2C marketing. Does it make any sense to use data, if you are on first name terms with all your customers? Can it be used in the personal conversation between the vendor and customer – informing them that the customer’s users of the product have used all the new features in the new app and have looked closely at the websites concerning an update? Of course it can be used – but it means that the right tools must be available for those employees who work with communication to persuade customers.

If your B2B company has a high volume of data on customer relations, you will have the possibility to automate personalised communication to customers.

But be careful – using old CRM data can easily have repercussions. In her fourth year of working as a director at BabySam (the largest retail chain of baby department stores in Denmark), Jeanette Aaen found that she was receiving direct mails from Microsoft Dynamics xRM – or actually they were meant for the former director and not her. That is bad for business – especially for someone who sells CRM systems.

Effect Measurement

If the customer is centred in Omnichannel, then it makes sense to measure customers instead of channels… But that is not to say that we should still not measure and optimise our conversion on every single channel – we still have to. That way the measurements contain both operational and strategy levels. Once again B2B has an advantage over B2C because the customer data is more available.

Two companies that are very good at measuring customers are Trustpilot and Atea (a Nordic IT infrastructure company). Trustpilot has built customer lifetime value into their measurements. They therefore know whether their moves actually result in more profitable customers over time and not just give a boost here and there. Customer life value can be difficult to work with – which is why many take shortcuts and instead ask their customers about their willingness to become a Brand Ambassador. Atea is one example of a company who regularly measures on the so-called Net Promoter Score – optimization in particular is constant because of the results. These two examples thus illustrate the hard-core financial and the more emotional customer perspectives.

Organising

Lastly, it is all about how we organise our company.

Whether your marketing is B2B or B2C, you will not get very far with omnichannel, if internal agendas and personal bonus targets get in the way of giving customers a coherent experience across channels, stages in life cycle and the contact with the various organisational units. All the examples I have given above constitute a movement of companies who are fighting hard every day to create a coherent customer experience.

I’m convinced that the primary characteristics of the organisational challenges for omnichannel B2B marketing constitute the following two circumstances:

In Denmark B2B customers have a bigger tendency to be product-oriented – sales-oriented at its best. We have many companies, which have been started with an engineering approach to product development and a product, which maybe can be applied in many industries and businesses. That can make it difficult to incorporate the customer orientation in the culture.

In B2B there is typically a bigger conflict between Marketing and Sales than in B2C. Discussions are often about when is something a lead? What is the quality of the leads? Is marketing only about branding and paintbox? Or are they actually able to create insights based on customer data, which can be used by sales in the direct dialogue with customers, which is the case with The Brothers Dahl?

How far has B2B come in Denmark?

As the debate was winding up I asked the participants to express by a show of hands, where in Customer Targeting they would place themselves. The result was that NO ONE thought they were in the inner circle but 60% chose the outer circle and 40% picked the middle circle. So even if B2B is best prepared, they have barely got started. I’m looking forward to asking the same question in a couple of years.

 

Read more about our Omnichannel self-assessment tool