How B2B Marketers Can Differentiate to Win | Marketing Maestros | Blogs | ANA

How B2B Marketers Can Differentiate to Win

August 5, 2020

By Doug Novack


At this point, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to face a new reality that there’s no true boundary between work and personal time. Our worlds blur together, especially as we spend more time at home. In the same way, there aren’t clean lines between what’s only consumer and what’s considered business. Consumer experiences from B2C carry over to B2B and greatly influence how buyers of business and industrial goods and services make their purchases. In order to meet these evolving B2B buyer preferences and needs, B2B marketers have a greater call to action to differentiate.

The research we’ve conducted highlights two important ways for B2B brands to differentiate in their space:

  1. Invest intentionally and specifically in digital experience to drive purchase decisions
  2. Break your brand out of a sea of sameness

Invest in a Digital Experience to Drive Purchase Decisions

Why digital experience? What if I told you that 79 percent of marketers believe online buying will increase in the next three years, but that business and industrial marketers are not investing in website experiences despite the finding that they are the No. 1 factor in the buyer selection process?

Specifically, our data shows us that B2B marketers are not investing in website features that would allow them to optimize the journey across four key buyer areas:

  1. Mobile site optimization (less than 50 percent are investing here)
  2. Website personalization (only 38 percent are personalizing their website)
  3. Experimentation (only one in seven are prioritizing experimentation such as A/B testing)
  4. Online checkout functionality (only 14 percent are investing here, while we know the majority of business and industrial purchases take place online)

Keep in mind that B2B buyer journeys are cross-device. In fact, 94 percent of buyers utilize mobile along their purchase journey, and 55 percent wish they were offered more tailored experiences. B2B buyers buy from supplier websites that are easy to navigate, have fast load times and streamlined checkout processes. One powerful finding: B2B buyers more heavily value an easy-to-navigate site than a knowledgeable sales rep.

While your website experience needs to be seamless and easy to navigate, it also needs to drive decision making. Websites are best positioned to accelerate the end of the buying process and journey. A poor experience will discourage your buyers from landing on your site, staying and ultimately purchasing. Digital experiences are a dynamic that is only more pronounced since the pandemic began.

What, specifically, should you do differently?

  • Optimize your user website experience to convert visitors to buyers by making it seamless for them to make it through to checkout
  • Prioritize mobile site speed, personalization and experimentation through A/B tests to understand what does and doesn’t work from the users’ perspective

Break Your Brand out of the Sea of Sameness

Only 35 percent of buyers are open to exploring new brands. As an example, buyers have an average of 91 brands to choose from, across 10 industrial categories, when they in fact decide to explore a new brand. Think about the reality of that. That means you only have a seven percent chance on average of being chosen by a new buyer. How will you stand out?

The good news is this: 92 percent of marketers say branding is important. And 83 percent say investing in upper funnel marketing tactics — like brand awareness, brand perception and consideration — is important. Yet most are not doing it. Our data shows that B2B marketers are only investing the following percentages in upper funnel strategies:

  • 29 percent in video ads
  • 29 percent in traditional ads
  • 34 percent in online display ads

Additionally, marketers aren’t considering just how many device touch points B2B buyers are accessing, and as a result are limiting their reach. Regardless of age, 95 percent of B2B buyers use connected devices for their job. This includes smartphones, desktops, laptops, tablets, smartwatches, smart TVs, home devices, etc. While in 2009 the average consumer used 1.8 devices a day, today the average B2B customer uses 10 devices a day. Ten.

Our data shows that in Q1 2020, 64 percent of sales and marketing dollars were allocated to sales. We have a big opportunity throughout the recovery phases of COVID to think about how we want to run our businesses differently. Smart marketing investment allocation can be a powerful way to achieve a first mover advantage in the new normal. Breaking out of “the sea of sameness,” leveraging digital, isn’t just a good idea. It’s critical.

How do you get started?

  1. Understand which brand awareness tactics can help you best differentiate
  2. Rigorously align your marketing investment to your key objectives
  3. Make sure your marketing programs are cross-device

Leveraging SimilarWeb, we can see traffic is only increasing to B2B sites — it’s critical we get our homes in order, quickly, as we move to the next phase of COVID, and driving buyers there through branding efforts will be key for differentiation.

Doug Novack is managing director for business and industrial markets at Google.

The views and opinions expressed in Marketing Maestros are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

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