Setting a Brand-New Stage for B2B Buyers

Marketers need to bolster the customer experience to drive growth and engage prospects

By Marie Griffin

UPS commissioned Sophia Yeshi, a Black South-Asian illustrator and graphic designer, to create artwork for 600,000 limited-edition, medium-sized UPS Express boxes promoting diversity within the small-business sector. It's the first time UPS has used its boxes for messaging, and is part of a wide-ranging effort to support minority-owned businesses and their customers. Courtesy of UPS

The pandemic continues to spur a dramatic shift in B2B buyers' behaviors and preferences, as C-level executives lean on marketers to monetize the rapidly changing (read: digital) demands among their customers and prospects. Indeed, B2B CMOs have an unprecedented opportunity to own the customer experience (CX) and drive new efforts for growth, according to Jennifer Ross, VP and senior research director at Forrester. "CMOs have always had to deliver exceptional experiences to acquire new customers, but the remit has extended to delivering exceptional experiences across the full customer journey pre- and post-purchase," she says. "That requires viewing decisions on technology, resources, and staffing through the lens of improved ability to deliver value to customers."

"The Forrester 2021 Global Marketing Survey," a recent study released by Forrester, analyzed the responses of 507 senior B2B marketing leaders to understand how they were adapting their growth strategies in a pandemic-altered landscape.


B2B Marketers' Top Priorities in the Next Two Years

note: Based on the responses of 507 global B2B senior marketers
source: 2021 "The Forrester 2021 Global Marketing Survey"

According to the survey, more than half (56 percent) of B2B marketers said improving CX would be their focus in the next two years to support their organizations' growth strategy.

The next-most-popular responses were introducing a new go-to-market strategy (48 percent) and improving the experience of business ecosystem partners (48 percent), followed by new business model introduction (43 percent).

"Whether that growth strategy involves new markets, new buyers, new offers, acquisitions, or combinations of them," Ross adds, "the CMO must be the No. 1 champion of customer needs — and lead the marketing motion to collect and share customer insights in order to create a shared view of the customer across the revenue engine."

Unleash Creativity

The most common measures for CX are beacon metrics like Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Effort Score, or Customer Satisfaction, says Judy Weader, senior analyst at Forrester. "But the underlying drivers and other data from a comprehensive measurement program get you closer to insights in areas of strength and opportunity," she says.

B2B giant UPS measures CX two ways: a quarterly competitive NPS survey and a transactional NPS survey conducted soon after an activity or interaction occurs, such as a package delivery or a customer service call, according to Chris Byrne, president of marketing operations and digital acceleration at UPS. The former provides rich insights into what customers think about UPS in broad terms while the latter provides real-time feedback at a point that is likely more actionable. "We cannot define the customers' perception of their experience with UPS," Byrne says. "We must get it from the customers."

Bolstering the customer experience is atop the agenda of UPS CEO Carol B. Tomé, and the company has set a goal to be above an NPS of 50. Elevating the digital experience is a "foundational priority" across the company, Byrne says, pointing to a new experience management platform the company is using that monitors CX in real time. "Our dashboards show what customers tell us is really important, and why, and what we're doing about it," he says.

"Customer Experience" is one of four centers of excellence at the heart of the marketing restructuring initiated by UPS CMO Kevin Warren in June 2020. Byrne manages the centers, which also include Advanced Analytics, Product Management, and Brand Management.

Since implementing its new organizational model, UPS has been shaking things up creatively and ramping up its digital programmatic advertising and social media messaging. For example, in 2020 UPS launched its "Be Unstoppable" campaign, which featured inspiring stories about small and midsize business (SMB) customers — one of UPS' key markets. The company extended the Unstoppable campaign in 2021 to focus on minority-owned businesses, which have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic.

UPS and its partner The Martin Agency developed month-long "Proudly Unstoppable" campaigns, for subsets of minority-owned businesses. The program, which kicked off last February to coincide with Black History Month, includes several elements, such as providing forgivable microloans for struggling businesses.

UPS is also using its shipping boxes to get the message out in support of minority-owned businesses. Literally. Last year, the company commissioned Sophia Yeshi, a Black South-Asian illustrator and graphic designer, to create artwork for 600,000 limited-edition, medium-sized UPS Express boxes. The delivery boxes show a diverse group of people locking their hands in unison. It's the first time the company has used its iconic packaging for messaging.

The company rolled out similar programs catering to LGBTQ+, Latinx, and Asian-American/Pacific Islander-owned small businesses. The effort will continue this year, but with different executions. "We always want to take a step forward and one-up ourselves," Byrne says.

Ungated Content

Improving the customer experience is also a major priority at security services company Nisos because existing customers drive growth, says Thomas VanHorn, VP of marketing at Nisos.

VanHorn, who joined Nisos in 2020, gauges CX by revenue growth, cross-selling and upselling success, and customer churn rate. Nisos also is building a client portal, debuting early this year, that will provide the company with "much better metrics on the client experience," he says.

To attract new customers, VanHorn is embracing a tactic that may seem like heresy to some B2B marketers. "I've made a commitment to get as close as I can get to 100 percent ungated content," he says. "B2B buyers want to do their own research and contact a sales rep when they are 70 to 80 percent through the process." VanHorn recently stripped registration forms from the company's website rather than drive away between 30 percent and 50 percent of visitors.

Using an account-based marketing (ABM) strategy, VanHorn tries to find the web domains of companies that are engaging with Nisos content. He correlates the domains with recent promotions, lead-nurturing efforts, and sales engagements to gauge interest, which he shares with his sales team.

Forrester's Ross stresses that CMOs who cannot work across various departments will be left behind.

"Alignment can't exist in B2B organizations without something to align on, and that's the growth strategy," Ross says. "CMOs must help engineer that alignment by developing common strategies, sharing data, implementing processes, defining KPIs, implementing technology platforms, and establishing norms of behaviors — all centered around the shared view of the customer."



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