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Creating a B2B customer experience that rivals B2C’s best

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As a B2B marketer, I love comparing B2B and B2C customer experiences – even if it does give me a little bit of B2B marketer shame. I’m always jealous of the personalized content, the omnichannel marketing, and the one-click everything. At this point, I have an annual prescheduled email reply to my CEO for the day Shopify’s Year-in-Review email comes out explaining why we can’t do that. 

The question for those of us in B2B is – does it really need to be this way? Sure, our buyers’ journeys are way more complex, the purchase is higher cost and the process is higher consideration. But, that just means we have more touchpoints, more lifetime value and more interest from our buyer in learning about our solution. 

Really, we should be leading the way in great customer experience

Sadly for our buyers, we’re not. B2B still has a long way to go to catch up to B2C in customer experience. The good news is that the experiences aren’t as disconnected as they seem. With a tech stack that connects customer touchpoints in the digital space, you can create rewarding experiences that attract, engage and delight your customers – and even make it easier for your customers to pay you.

Customize the journey across all touchpoints

Say what you will about United Airlines, but I was legitimately delighted by the digital experience on my first post-pandemic flight. When I touched down, I got a text letting me know what gate I was arriving at, where my bags were and a map of the terminal in app. The company known for breaking guitars was now telling me via omnichannel messaging where I could pick my guitar up. 

While I was delighted by the experience, it wasn’t created out of nowhere. Instead, it was orchestrated by a datacentric view into my journey. While we don’t have their itinerary in-hand, we can re-create the United experience by integrating customer touchpoints into the CRM.

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is one company that’s putting that approach into practice. In 2020, WWF needed to consider the way its customer journeys would work across all of its segments, including governments, businesses, communities and individuals, to reach the agency’s goal of addressing pressing environmental issues. To create a personalized digital experience for all of these stakeholders, WWF needed visibility – and data – to inform how guests engage with its website. By integrating the agency’s website with its CRM, WWF created highly segmented groups of users based on the content they were interacting with on its website. The agency then used this data across its content and email strategies to create customized journeys for its customers and saw a significant increase in contacts and form submissions during the campaign. 

Create a rewarding partnership by connecting your sales and marketing

Like many, I’ve become a little too reliant on food delivery services over the past couple of years. The silver lining is that it’s given me the opportunity to observe how these companies are innovating to better meet customer needs. Let’s take DoorDash for example – after submitting a recent order, I got a popup message asking if I wanted my Dasher to pick up some ice cream on the way. It had been a long week, so yes, yes I did want the ice cream (#treatyourself). That seamless, rewarding purchase experience was great for me as a buyer, and for DoorDash, an extraordinary upsell. It left me thinking – can we replicate that experience in B2B?

B2B sales often happen through a sales rep, not an app. Does this mean you can’t create a rewarding experience? Absolutely not. As the old saying goes – if you can’t hide it, feature it. We can create our own ice cream moment by obsessing about alignment. By bringing together messaging, intent and value across marketing and sales, buyers can feel like the company magically delivered the right solution for them. Maybe not as tasty as ice cream, but just as satisfying for you and your customers.

ResellerRatings is a great example of a company that is having its ice cream and eating it too. (See what I did there?) Relying on disparate marketing and sales systems with two different sets of success metrics made it hard for them to create a connected journey. By aligning marketing and sales messaging and data, ResellerRatings saw immediate results with an impressive 60% increase in customer growth. They now have a connected team delivering rewarding partnerships to the businesses relying on them.

Make paying easy

I’m not sure anything has been more destructive to my bank account than the advent of one-click payments. By removing the need to hunt down wallets and credit cards, B2C companies remove nearly all friction from the buying process. I use one-click payments nearly exclusively across groceries, retail and services. 

Meanwhile, B2B payments are often a convoluted, complex and cobbled back-office process. Don’t even get me started on sales forms or their weeks-long processing time. The reality is that B2B buyers want what B2C buyers want – the ability to pay in as few steps as possible. B2B should ditch sales forms and instead offer a hybrid model to help buyers who need more assistance and an option to easily pay with a touchless model for those who don’t.

In a recent study commissioned by Stripe and HubSpot, 69% of respondents said their customers experienced a more seamless buying experience when paying through a native payment function within a CRM. ZenPilot is a great example of this – it was able to save $15,000 and two workdays of manual work per month by swapping the company’s labor-intensive payment system with a native one. It was also able to increase lead volume by 30% by shifting resources to lead generation. By evolving its CRM from a database to a revenue driver, ZenPilot moved from seller enablement to buyer empowerment, and that all started with making it easier for the company’s customers to pay it.

B2C is still in the lead on customer experience, but B2B is quickly closing the gap. We’re in the early innings, but the first step is realizing that taking the time to improve the B2B customer experience is a really good thing. With a little bit of work, it won’t be long before we can email our CEO about how our annual review will rival or surpass Shopify’s.

Jon Dick is SVP of marketing at HubSpot, where he brings nearly 20 years of experience in building brands to help over 140,000 global companies transform how they market and sell. 

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