Humanizing B2B: The key to better customer experience

Learn how to appeal to the rational and emotional needs of B2B customers and first-party data’s role in enabling meaningful connections.

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In the crowded B2B space, reaching your target audience is challenging. Product alone is not enough to engage and retain B2B buyers. But surprisingly, B2B businesses often overlook the importance of a great customer experience for their buyers, which is typically a top priority for B2C.

B2B and B2C customers, despite their different needs, are still human decision-makers. A great customer experience matters for B2B, just as in B2C. Unpleasant buying processes and subpar service deter B2B customers.

B2B companies need to create good customer experiences to build lasting relationships. To achieve this, they must understand what motivates B2B buyers.

Who are B2B customers?

B2B buyers are typically seeking long-term, scalable business solutions for their organization. Unlike most B2C transactions, when a B2B buyer begins the customer journey, they aren’t just representing themselves but a whole suite of decision-makers within their organization. 

Up to 27% of B2B buyers say their journey will involve more people in the future, so it’s important to:

  • Know all of the decision-makers in your customers’ organizations.
  • Understand the complexities of their relationships.
  • Appeal to the needs of the entire decision-making suite to move them down the funnel as a group.

Dig deeper: It’s time to prioritize customer experience in B2B

Understanding and anticipating needs

B2B customers have both rational and emotional needs that converge and overlap with one another to impact decision-making. 

Rational needs for B2B buyers include:

  • Cost-effectiveness. B2B buyers need effective and affordable products. If your product works well but is too expensive, B2B buyers may be swayed by a cheaper option and vice versa.
  • Usability. How usable is your product? If it requires a lot of training with little payoff, buyers will have difficulty convincing their co-workers it was worth the investment.
  • Reliability. Businesses need to be able to rely on the products they use to carry out their business functions. They may look for products that consistently exceed industry standards. 
  • Scalability. B2B buyers need products and services that can grow at the pace of their business. 

Emotional needs include:

  • Trust. B2B buyers need to trust your brand. They need to know your company follows through on what it says because their job may depend on it.
  • Security. B2B buyers need to be sure their decisions won’t have any negative consequences, including risks and disruptions.
  • Confidence. B2B buyers want to feel confident in their decisions. They want to be sure they made the most beneficial decision for their company. 
  • Reassurance. B2B buyers want to feel as though they’ll have ongoing support from their vendors. They may value feeling like they’re entering a partnership rather than buying a product or service. 

Appealing to these needs requires a deep understanding of your products and services’ benefits. One of the most common errors B2B marketers make is not fully understanding their unique value proposition. 

Ask yourself: How does my product solve a challenge for my customer? The main challenges company leaders face include budget concerns, future outlook, organizational structure and growth strategies, according to LinkedIn Research

Once you understand the challenge your customer is facing and how your product helps, you can begin to pinpoint what your buyer’s most pressing needs are. 

Dig deeper: How B2B marketers can help sales overcome customer indecision

Using first-party data to create strong customer experiences

Three in four B2B buyers want a rep-free sales experience. This means B2B companies need to do more to drive value for buyers than making cold calls and spamming inboxes, which can come off as unhelpful and impersonal. Rather, they should build meaningful connections with customers through personalized, thoughtful touchpoints in their journey to create a positive customer experience for B2B buyers. Doing so requires a data-driven, 360-degree view of the customer. 

First-party data is the cornerstone of B2B marketing. As more privacy regulations develop, third-party data becomes increasingly expensive and hard to source. Therefore, first-party data is the most effective tool in your arsenal, providing a deeper understanding of customer preferences, needs and pain points. All this enables us to:

  • Personalize content for real audience segments. 
  • Identify quality leads already interacting with your brand.
  • Implement retention strategies based on your customers’ historical interactions with your organization or product.

While first-party data can be hard to find in B2B businesses, sourcing the right first-party data requires a group effort from your organization. Important data may live in various teams, including sales, digital or customer success. 

Because B2B buyers include a suite of decision-makers, we must create a 360-degree view of their target customer’s company and its decision-makers. Technologies like customer data platforms (CDPs) can help centralize and sort first-party data. 

A robust, first-party data strategy can help us pinpoint and respond to emotional triggers influencing B2B purchasing decisions, such as:

  • Personalization. Personalized ads that speak directly to pain points can motivate buyers to purchase by being recognized and understood. 
  • Instant gratification. The right ad at the right time can motivate buyers to purchase, triggering feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment.
  • Anxiety. Buyers make decisions that quell their anxieties. Ads that provide buyers with the reassurance that their decision was the right one will lead to confidence in their investments.

A strong first-party data strategy helps you collect the right data from sources, including:

  • Email responses.
  • Website interactions.
  • Sales representatives.
  • Customer reviews. 

From there, analyze the data to identify patterns in audience behavior that express emotions — whether that’s satisfaction, frustration or excitement. Once the emotions have been identified, you can segment their audience and create personalized messages that resonate with customers.

With continuous first-party data collection, you can receive real-time insight into your marketing efforts. This allows you to pivot strategy as needed, leading to more meaningful and long-lasting customer relationships. 

Creating a meaningful B2B journey

B2B companies that transformed their customer experience strategies not only increased their client satisfaction scores but also experienced revenue growth of 10-15%, according to McKinsey

With a deep understanding of the B2B decision-making journey and a concentration on creating a meaningful customer experience, your company will likely see higher retention rates while targeting new customers more effectively.

Like B2C customers, B2B customers want to feel seen, valued and appreciated. An important part of a strong B2B customer experience is ensuring customers have their needs met. 

Two of the biggest challenges in curating a compelling journey for B2B buyers are getting the tone right and understanding customer needs. These can be mitigated by leveraging data to gain insight into the needs of your customer’s business and remembering that your B2B customer is human, too. 

Dig deeper: Influencer marketing: The bridge between B2B brands and genuine connections

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Alicia Arnold
Alicia Arnold brings 20 years of award-winning experience working at the intersection of digital, marketing, data, and technology. Arnold partners with Fortune 500 companies to navigate the complexities of building a brand in an ever-increasing, technology-centric world. Arnold has held agency and consulting executive roles at Cognizant, Forrester, Hill Holliday, and Isobar. She is also the founder of a consulting company, AK Arnold, and served as a member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA). Arnold holds an MBA in Marketing from Bentley University, as well as a Master of Science in Creativity, Innovation, and Change Leadership from SUNY Buffalo.

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