As new channel technology and digital experiences gain more and more influence over B2B markets, disruption has become the norm for channel sales and marketing. With disruption comes the chance for suppliers to take control of that disruption, turning it into a competitive advantage. In this kind of atmosphere, a competitor stealing customers has more avenues to do so, in ways that have little or nothing to do with product or price. If you’re losing customers to the competition, here are some of the strategies they may be using:
A Formal Channel Marketing Plan
Your competition might be among the 64% of B2B companies with a formal channel marketing If your channel marketing isn’t consistent, goal-oriented, and aligned with sales strategies and overarching organizational objectives, your marketing plan isn’t formal. A formal marketing plan has the following qualities:
Your marketing plan should be based on data and insights gleaned from that data. Things like average monthly web traffic, highest-converting CTAs, lead attributes, and sources of your most qualified leads should inform your marketing plan.
Your marketing goals should be tied as directly as possible to company revenue and lead-generation goals. Break down these goals into goals specific and clear to marketing teams and individuals. Everyone in the company should be aware of these goals, and every marketer should have a role in contributing to achieving them. Hold individuals accountable for measuring their own goal progress.
- Marketing & sales alignment
To become truly customer-centric, you can’t continue thinking of channel sales and marketing as separate worlds. Your sales strategies and marketing plans should live in total harmony. Sales should be working toward delivering the promises made in marketing messages.
Compelling Content Marketing
A Think with Google study found that B2B buyers conduct 12 searches before engaging with a specific brand. And this study was in 2015! Before COVID-19 forced massive digital adoption and more digital-savvy millennials poured into B2B decision-maker positions. How much more do you think this number has grown by now?
Let me throw another stat at you: B2B companies that blogged more than 11 times per month had almost three times more traffic than those blogging 0-1 times a month.
Where am I going with this? A B2B competitor stealing customers could be doing so by putting out relevant, educational, interesting content—and lots of it. Make sure you dedicate marketing resources to creating the kind of content your customers want to read.
Integrated Channel Management Technology
Smart channel technology and its effective implementation will give you a competitive advantage. With more channel tech platforms going to market every day, B2B companies are more enabled than ever to collect and manage customer data, generate demand, design sales and marketing plans, manage inventory, and create channel partner loyalty programs.
A smart tech stack is a competitive strategy all its own, but effective integration of that technology is just as important. As Forrester channel expert Jay McBain puts it,
“Partner programs generate mountains of data from multiple internal and external systems. Data also arrives at unpredictable intervals, is often incomplete or inaccurate, and doesn’t provide an integrated view of each partner or channel performance as a whole.”
It doesn’t necessarily matter who has the bigger or better channel tech stack. A tech stack can become much more than the sum of its parts with strategic integration. Your competition could be light years ahead of you by leveraging software integration efficiently, consistently turning data into actionable insights.
Intangible, Emotional Value
The functional and practical value of a B2B products has traditionally been their most important feature. High-quality and reliable products aren’t enough to secure customer retention and acquisition these days, though. Intangible, even emotional things like “hope,” “anxiety reduction,” “vision,” and “responsiveness” now factor largely into B2B buyers’ decisions.
A competitor stealing customers might be doing a better job of communicating to B2B buyers how valuable they are in intangible areas. Here are a few ways B2B companies might demonstrate this value:
Be clear and upfront about costs, how you measure against your competition, and how you’ve helped your current clients. Customers want ease of access to pricing, helpful content, case studies, and product data sheets.
- Industry expertise
Nearly two-thirds (64%) of B2B customers want to work with suppliers who demonstrate knowledge of their company and offer useful insights into their problems. Any time you speak with a new prospect or existing customer, you should be prepared with the knowledge and expertise to help solve unique industry pain points.
- ROI analysis
Buyers in B2B industries are under increasing scrutiny to prove the value of business purchases. A 2019 Demandbase study found that 74% of B2B buyers conduct a detailed ROI analysis before making a final decision. Guiding customers through an ROI presentation aimed at their upper-management decision-makers is one of the best ways to prove yourself a reliable partner.
By putting yourself in your customers’ shoes, understanding the pressures and demands they’re facing, you can formulate better ways of connecting to them on an emotional level. Provide transparent product data and proof of ROI in a way that calms their anxieties and helps them see the big picture of your shared success.
Customer experience and communication
“Customer experience” is the main concern of so many B2B industries these days, and with good reason. More and more customers expect a B2C-like experience when they work with B2B brands. Check out these findings:
- 80% of buyers expect real-time interaction and responsiveness from B2B companies.
- 68% say their brand loyalty is influenced by whether a company offers rewards.
- 58% say their loyalty is influenced by reward offers for referrals, feedback, or product reviews.
- 74% say their loyalty is influenced by personalized or exclusive offers and discounts.
By investing in marketing and sales technology such as live chat, online appointment scheduling, calendar integration, personalized marketing tools, and loyalty rewards software, you can improve customer communication and remain competitive. These features strengthen the customer experience and send the message that your brand is attentive to needs, easy to work with, and reachable.
As distribution channels swiftly change, the rapid evolution leaves plenty of lagging learning curves, knowledge gaps, and new opportunities. A B2B competitor stealing customers is more equipped than ever to gain leverage. But if you remain customer-centric, respond quickly to buying trends, and apply agile channel technology, you can be much more than the first company to hop on a new fad: you can be the company firing on all cylinders with a successful vision guiding you.