24 May The Future of B2B Marketing – What Does Your Future Look Like?
B2B marketing entails the marketing of products and services to other businesses for resale, or to be used in the production of more products and services that will be sold to consumers.
This could entail transactions between wholesalers and smaller businesses, or it could involve a business providing support services to a wide range of business entities, for instance, an IT firm providing software development and related services.
Differences between B2B Marketing and Traditional Marketing
According to marketing experts, there are at least three major differences between B2B marketing, i.e. marketing to other businesses, and marketing to consumers:
– Fewer clients and customers to market to
In the UK, as in any country, there are far more individual consumers than there are business entities, which means that businesses reliant upon B2B marketing will have fewer clients and customers to market their products and services to.
– The buying process is often more complicated
Depending on the products and services marketed, the buying process is often more complicated because each party involved is trying to make a profit, which differs from marketing in the traditional sense as it is only the party selling the product or service to the consumer who is looking to profit financially.
– Consumer demand affects business demand
Consumer demand and trends have a tendency to affect some sectors more so than others, and the knock-on effects from changes which occur can be significant. The ‘butterfly effect’ is a good term to use here, because events in one part of the world can have a major effect on business activities on the other side of the globe.
These differences represent challenges that businesses involved in B2B marketing will have to step up to and meet, though they should not be seen as obstacles blocking the way to business success, but rather opportunities to be capitalised upon where possible.
What Does the Future of B2B Marketing Look Like?
As with any future predictions and trends, the future of B2B marketing is subject to its fair share of debate and disagreement. Nevertheless, most marketing experts agree that social media will play a significant role in the future of B2B marketing.
David C. Edelman, of McKinsey’s Global Digital Marketing Strategy practice, wrote in Harvard Business Review’s ‘Branding in the Digital Age: You’re Spending Your Money in All the Wrong Places’, that the way consumers and businesses interact has changed significantly in the digital age and that it “is transforming the economics of marketing and making obsolete many of the function’s traditional strategies and structures.”
The same argument, or logic if you like, also applies to the way that businesses are interacting with each other, so trends like taking an inbound perspective over an outbound perspective to marketing are vital to take note of and formulate strategies for, as is focusing their marketing efforts more upon the ‘evaluate’ and ‘use’ stages as opposed to the more traditional ‘consider’ and ‘buy’ stages, as Michael Brenner wrote several years ago.
The future of B2B marketing is therefore very much a ‘social’ thing, but what does it really mean for businesses dependent upon sales of products and services to other businesses?
It means that they had better take note of trends like smartphone marketing, which means strategizing for the smaller screen and thinking more about the smartphone experience their marketing efforts are delivering, and it also means that they need to capitalise upon the opportunities that Google AdWords and local marketing present.
These are just two examples of the trends that businesses need to take note of with regard to B2B marketing and there are many more of equal importance.
But does this mean that all interactions will be digitalised? In a nutshell, no, that will never transpire. While our interactions are becoming increasingly digitalised, there will always be the need for interactions of a more personal note because people will always crave good old-fashioned customer service when purchasing products and services from other businesses in a B2B relationship.
Plus, as has been a notable trend brought on by the rise of smartphone marketing, there now exists an excellent way to drive enquiries about a business’s products and services to their phone lines which means that many businesses are now focusing more upon over the phone interactions than they have for many years.
Local Marketing and Increased Enquiries – Are You Ready?
If have just started using platforms like Google Local or Google My Business, when you get the hang of what you are doing you can expect a significant increase in the number of phone enquiries that you receive.
This is because just like consumers, more businesses are searching for the products and services they need on their smartphones and they are more likely to make a call to enquire about a product or service they need than they are to send an email.
So, are you ready for the extra phone calls you will receive? And just as importantly, are your employees ready for all those extra calls? Moreover, what about after-hours calls – are you able to answer those calls yourself professionally at all times, or are you looking at setting up a recorded message?
When other business owners or managers call your phone lines to enquire about your products and services it suffices to say that they want to speak to a person and not a machine, so you need to make the appropriate arrangements to facilitate this, for instance, utilising the professional telephone answering services Netcall Solutions provides businesses across the UK with, services that are sure to prove essential in this regard.
If you are looking for flexible phone handling options that enable you to change the services you use when necessity dictates, then our media response, message taking, and overflow call handling services are sure to be perfect for your needs, and will help you adapt to the changes and challenges that the future of B2B marketing will present you with. What does your business future look like?
Robots and Humans Working Side by Side
A report published on 24th August by influential research and advisory firm Forrester, concludes that robots and automated systems are set to become an integral part of the workforce by 2025. Whilst this can hardly be classed as revolutionary thinking, it is the fact that humans will be working alongside robots rather than being supplanted by them that is the most interesting takeaway from the report. Corporate managers who had previously assumed that automated systems would supplant their human customer service agents may have to rethink their strategies for the future. The way in which technology is deployed alongside human workers will be crucial to the survival of businesses over what remains of the 21st century.
Retaining the Human Element
What firms have already discovered, through their experiments with automated call handling software and answering machines, is the fact that customers do not always respond well to technological advancements that promise greater efficiencies at the expense of personal service. Any commercial organisation that wishes to capitalise on the technological developments that lie in the future would do well to remember that the human element is still of vital importance as far as their customers are concerned.
If you are currently planning for the future and want to make sure that your company avoids making the same mistakes that have been made by other organisations when introducing automated systems into the workplace, the following points should be born in mind.
- Automation Should Support, Not Replace, Your Employees – One of the biggest mistakes that companies make when they attempt to introduce automation into their call handling functionality is taking things a step too far and replacing the human element completely. As anybody who has been asked to leave a message by a robotic voice will tell you, it is not the most pleasant way to be greeted the first time that you contact a company. Software that redirects calls to human receptionists in a remote call centre when your sales team are busy is a very good idea; a system that asks them to choose from numerous multiple choice options before asking them to leave a message is not.
- Automated Systems Can Create New Jobs – Whilst conventional wisdom might suggest that the introduction of more robots and automated systems into the workplace will lead to largescale job losses, this is not necessarily the case. There will of course be areas of employment that decline owing to technology replacing human workers but at the same time, there will be opportunities for growth and new jobs created in other areas. If, for instance, you are able to provide your customers with better products thanks to automation on the shop floor, you may well find that you start to attract more business and subsequently need to take advantage of the services of a call handling company to cope with the volume of enquiries you receive.
- Robots Cannot Read Emotions – There may well come a time when robotic devices are able to accurately gauge the mood of a caller simply by listening to the timbre of his or her voice but that time is not yet here. If you want to make absolutely sure that you are able to gain the maximum benefit from every marketing campaign that you launch, human sales agents will be essential to your future plans. The mood of callers and their emotional reactions to the information they receive when they make an enquiry can offer valuable clues that help experienced sales representatives to close a sale. Failure to take full advantage of these clues could lead to a significant reduction in the turnover that your business enjoys.
- Technology Is Constantly Evolving – Many companies are reticent to adopt new technologies when they first appear on the scene and this can lead to a loss of competitiveness from which it is hard to recover. However, what can cause more damage to a company’s reputation and future is a sudden and overenthusiastic adoption of the latest gadgets and systems without pause for careful consideration. It is important to bear in mind that technology is constantly evolving and what might look like a very attractive and sensible proposition for your company right now could turn out to be a big mistake with hindsight. It is always a good idea to evaluate each new development carefully, and to consider all the implications that it may have for your business and your customers, before making any changes to the way that you do things in the workplace.
What to Leave and What to Take
If your business is to thrive and survive in the long term, you will need to decide which technological developments to adopt and which to avoid. Whilst this might at first sound like a task more suited to Nostradamus than the average corporate manager, it is not as difficult as you imagine. Here are some questions to ask yourself when considering whether to adopt a certain new technology or automated system, which should help you to avoid making too many painful mistakes:
- What do Our Customers Think? – Sometimes the best solutions to the most difficult problems are the most obvious. If you are not sure how your clients will react to a new automated process or robotic device, ask them!
- What Is the Anticipated ROI? – If a fully automated call handling system, for example, is likely to cost more than it saves your company, it might be better to delegate responsibility for this function to a specialist third party service provider instead. In this way, you will be able to save money and retain the human element at the same time.
- How Disruptive Will It Be? – A new technology or system that takes too long to introduce is probably best left until it matures.
If you would like to ensure that you can continue to offer your customers a cost effective and efficient personal service without recourse to automated telephone answering systems, Netcall Solutions is here to help.