When we read about personalized marketing, we tend to think first about B2C—the ads for camping gear we’ll see on a website because we last searched for “tents” on Amazon, for example. Yet what about B2B personalized marketing? It exists and, perhaps surprisingly, welcomed.
To that end, recent voice-of-the-customer (VoC) research conducted for a variety of clients by my firm, ERDM, yielded some important findings. Namely, B2B executives are quite willing to share their preferences—the topics and types of communications they want to receive, for example—if it results in significant improvements in personalized interactions with potential new vendors and partners.
That emphasis on reciprocity came out of hundreds of in-depth interviews conducted with vice presidents and senior vice presidents across multiple industries and countries. Many said providing their information was a way to ensure the companies they are dealing with know enough about them to provide proactive guidance and support.
At the same time, B2B marketers must earn the trust of customers. After all, customers know that their data is precious and valuable. Marketers must prove that they can use this information in a trustworthy way if they are to become resources and solution providers.
Many executives told us that it’s crucial for marketers to get to know their businesses in order to build a mutually beneficial relationship. “That is what creates relevance,” one said. They’re also looking for reliable partnerships and “to feel that somebody’s in your corner … and doing things to help me in my specific role and environment,” another executive told us.
Still, B2B execs don’t want to feel like they’re being “marketed” to. They want to know that the companies they deal with are looking out for their best interests—that the companies are investing in their customers’ success.
Execs also want companies they are doing business with to build relationships at every point in the customer journey, to enable them to update their preferences as they change, and to develop value-added services that speak directly to their business’ needs.
In addition, B2B execs said when marketers are communicating with them, they should also keep in mind that they want to be able to select the communication method by activity; for example, use email for new products and text for delivery information. Execs are also looking for easy back-and-forth communication among different departments within the same company.
What turns off B2B execs? They said they don’t want to feel like they are getting lost in a sea of customers; they don’t want to be ignored, with a company failing to provide assistance or attention when it’s needed, and they don’t want to work with vendors who seem uninvested in their success.
Our research shows that conscientiously engaging B2B customers and building deeper relationships with them will increase retention and profitability by building strong long-term value. To do this, companies need to build trust, they need to be responsive and offer proactive guidance, and make it easy for others to work with them. By applying these VoC research-based guidelines, you will cultivate and retain a legion of B2B customers that are more likely buy from you.