Social Significance: Why B2B Brands Value Social CX & Are Spending More

B2B marketers strategizing around a table image.

B2B marketers strategizing around a table image.

Why are B2B brands placing greater value on social media, and why are they willing to spend more than ever before on social customer experience (CX)?

New digital marketing research reveals why B2B brands are finding a renewed passion for the expanding benefits of social media, and why they are becoming more willing than ever to spend more for the competitive advantages that social CX offers.

Let’s take a look at some of the latest report and survey data, and see how B2B brands are changing their social media strategies and outlook.

1 — Social Helps B2B Brands Meet Customer Expectations

A new report from Sprout Social reveals how customer expectations have evolved for the brands that they follow on social media.

Examining insight from over 1,000 U.S. consumers and the same number of U.S. marketers, along with 782 million public social messages, the recently-released “Sprout Social Index, Edition XVII: Accelerate” report showed that 90 percent of consumers will purchase from brands they follow on social media.

“For marketers, this is an opportunity to demonstrate how social positively influences all parts of the business and why a brand’s competitive advantage lives on social,” the report suggested.

55 percent of marketers said they used social data for understanding their target audience, while 48 percent used it to develop creative content, and 39 percent for supporting other departments, the report showed.

Only 26 percent of marketers said they used social data to foster connections with customers, however, and just 10 percent said they used the data to inform business decisions.

Sprout Social Chart

88 percent of marketers agree their social strategy positively influences their bottom line,” the research concludes.

The value of social data has generally increased over time, and the new Sprout Social study bears this out, revealing that 47 percent of marketers consider social a resource that influences strategy for multiple organizational teams, while 46 still see it as strictly a marketing resource, with eight percent viewing it as an organization-wide resource for business intelligence.

Something as seemingly simple as responding quickly to customer questions can be very important in brand purchase decisions. 47 percent of consumers said that responding to customer service questions in a timely manner was the top way brands could get them to buy and forgo competitors.

Nearly as important among consumers were brands that demonstrate an understanding of what consumers want and need.

“Nine out of 10 consumers will buy from brands they follow on social, while 86% will choose that brand over a competitor,” the Sprout Social report data showed.

Given the importance customers place on speedy response times from brands, it’s easy to see how the new Sprout Social data indicated that “78 percent of consumers agree that social media is the fastest and most direct way to connect with a brand — and consumers want their voices heard.”

When it comes to sharing feedback about a product or service, after social media, consumers turn to e-mail and a brand’s website (18 percent for each), followed closely by review websites, and just 11 percent prefer calling a brand’s customer service phone number, according to the report data.

Even for reaching brands about customer service issues or questions, most consumers (33 percent) prefer social media, followed by customer service (24 percent), e-mail (23 percent), and just nine percent prefer using a company’s website for such questions.

Sprout Social Chart 2

44 percent  of consumers will unfollow a brand on social because of poor service, putting  a damper on brands’ growth goals,” the report warned.

The Sprout Social study surfaces a fascinating distinction between what consumers and marketers believe makes for best-in-class social media performance.

The most important factor among consumers — at 47 percent — was brands that offer strong customer service, while that was only the sixth most important factor to marketers, at 35 percent.

2 — Social Will Drive Post-Pandemic B2B Customer Engagement

According to Ascend2 and Wpromote’s newly-released 2021 State of B2B Digital Marketing report, the number one digital marketing trend B2B brands are prioritizing is the utilization of new social platforms.

42 percent said new social platforms represented their top trend priority, followed by 34 percent who said virtual events, and 30 percent who noted that influencer marketing was a priority trend.

Ascend2 / Wpromote Chart 1

“Brands embraced new social platforms, virtual events, and influencer marketing strategies that can open the door to new opportunities to drive brand awareness and grow new audiences,” the report suggested.

A robust 68 percent of B2B marketers said they expected their digital marketing budgets to increase during the forthcoming year, with 26 percent seeing a significant budget increase ahead, according to the report data.

When it comes to driving revenue, 57 percent of B2B marketers saw social media as the most effective digital marketing channel, followed by content marketing and email, each at 47 percent.

Reinforcing the notion supported by the other research we’ve examined, the Ascend2 and Wpromote data showed that social media was the area of digital customer experience that had the most impact on overall strategic success, according to 57 percent of respondents — ahead of website optimization’s 47 percent and paid advertising’s 42 percent.

“Whatever social platforms you use as a B2B marketer, if you prioritize the time and resources to add new social platforms to your mix, you increase the opportunity to build new audiences and further engage with your existing audience,” Todd Lebo, CEO at Ascend2 told me. “Newer platforms that B2B should consider are TikTok, Clubhouse, and Twitter Spaces,” Lebo added.

We’ve taken a look at how B2B marketers can utilize Twitter Spaces in “On-Target: What’s New With Twitter For B2B Marketers In 2021,” Clubhouse in “How B2B Brands Can Boost Confidence in Livestream Video, Podcast and Clubhouse Marketing,” and other new social platforms in “How B2B Marketing Influencers Are Finding Success On New Social Channels.”

The most successful B2B marketers have also tended to inform their CX strategy by including other departments — a structure that less successful marketers don’t tend to utilize.

Ascend2 / Wpromote Chart 2

Bringing many of these trends and tactics together, account-based marketing (ABM) — or even account based experiences (ABX), as our CEO Lee Odden recently explored in “Is ABX the Next Evolution of B2B Marketing?” — is increasingly used by the most successful B2B marketers.

43 percent of the most successful B2B marketers already have a working ABM strategy in place, and 30 percent are actively implementing one, the Ascend2 and Wpromote data showed.

[bctt tweet=”“To do ABM well, you need to bend the sales odds in your favor. The best way to bend the odds is to utilize customer data you collect over time and deliver a seamless customer experience (CX).” — Ruth Stevens @RuthPSteven” username=”toprank”]

3 — Social Drives B2B Customer Experience Personalization

B2B brands are increasing finding success in delivering more personalized CX through social channels.

The digital experiences customers crave can be crucial for building brand affinity, as some 80 percent of respondents in a survey conducted by Salesforce said that these experiences are every bit as important as a firm’s actual products or services.

Brand storytelling helps build more memorable digital experiences, as Microsoft’s Miri Rodriguez has explored, which I outlined earlier this year in “Microsoft’s Miri Rodriguez on How B2B Marketers Are Embracing Empathy For Better Customer Storytelling.”

[bctt tweet=”“Storytelling isn’t the mere telling of story, it’s the intentional design of story structure, attributes and elements that conjure emotion, drive inclusion and lead with empathy.” — Miri Rodriguez @MiriRod” username=”toprank”]

Some 68 percent of businesses in the Salesforce survey said that they expected brands to demonstrate empathy, but only 37 percent said that they were experiencing it — a sentiment Rodriguez shared when she noted that, “Brands want to transact with people who are showing high levels of empathy.”

Ryan Higginson, vice president and UK/ROI Country Leader at Pitney Bowes, sees a future that includes better customer experiences that go beyond the mere algorithmic.

“B2B decision makers want humanized, personalized, helpful and relevant experiences to reduce complexity and save them time,”Higginson recently noted. “They want businesses to anticipate their requirements beyond the ‘You liked that, now try this’ algorithm. The more B2B organizations get to know their clients at a personal level, the better the relationship becomes and the greater the customer experience,” he added.

A McKinsey study revealed that 97 percent of B2B buyers said that they would use an end-to-end self-serve digital model to make a purchase, with most being comfortable doing so while spending $50K or more.

The pandemic has brought about a shift among B2B buyers, who have grown more comfortable with digital self-service and omni-channel interactions.

McKinsey & Company

LinkedIn’s* State of Sales Report 2021 noted that trust in a brand’s product or service was consistently a top factor in influencing purchases among buyers, and the 2020 version of the report showed that some 75 percent of B2B buyers were particularly influenced by social media, with 84 percent of senior executives utilizing social media to support buying decisions.

We dug into the shift to executive influence in B2B marketing in “Brandfluence – Why Growing Executive Influence is Essential for B2B Marketing,” and also shared 20 tips for driving executive credibility efforts in “20 Ways to Build B2B Executive Credibility and Thought Leadership.”

[bctt tweet=”Social engagement with prospects along with publishing credible thought leadership content warms prospects for conversations that lead to conversion.” — Lee Odden @LeeOdden” username=”toprank”]

Reach New B2B Marketing Heights With A Social & CX Mix

via GIPHY

There’s no need to make a leap of faith when you have data-backed research informing your digital marketing strategy.

By using social media to drive customer experience personalization and to help B2B brands meet rising customer expectations, B2B marketers will achieve greater levels of post-pandemic B2B customer engagement.

We hope that our look at recent report and survey data will help inform your own B2B marketing efforts as we move ahead towards 2022.

Crafting award-winning B2B marketing with a creative mixture of social media, influence, and memorable digital customer experiences takes considerable time and effort, which is why many firms choose to work with a top digital marketing agency such as TopRank Marketing. Contact us today and let us know how we can help, as we’ve done for businesses ranging from LinkedIn, Dell and 3M to Adobe, Oracle, monday.com and others.

* LinkedIn is a TopRank Marketing client.

The post Social Significance: Why B2B Brands Value Social CX & Are Spending More appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

5 ways to make your marketing and branding more memorable

marketing and advertising
Marketing should be exploratory and dynamic to capture the interest of the new generation of customers.

  • Modern customers respond better to marketing that’s more personalized and interactive.
  • Customers tend to advocate for brands they have great relationships with via positive experiences.
  • This type of marketing helps businesses build loyal and recurring customers.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

As a business consultant, I often have to remind small-business owners that their marketing needs to be more interactive, versus the traditional “push” model, where you broadcast your message to as many people as possible.

New generations of customers respond better to the “participative” approach, where they get to provide input via social media and the internet.

It started a few years ago with email satisfaction surveys after an online purchase, but now includes interactive internet ads, as well as custom requests for input on the design of future products and influencers on social media. It seems that everyone these days wants an experience and a relationship, and is willing to become your best advocate via word of mouth.

Some call it a move from always “hunting” for new customers in the wild to “gardening,” or nurturing loyalty and value from the ones you already have.

In any case, the new approach is important to all businesses, and embodies some new marketing rules that you need to focus on and learn:

1. Make your marketing exploratory and dynamic

The days of big-bang long-term campaigns that never change are over. You should be constantly trying new approaches via social media and online, and asking for feedback and input from influencers and customers. Scale quickly on good feedback, and move on if you get little engagement.

A step in the right direction is to take advantage of the new tools available at very low cost, including sponsored podcasts, blogs, visibility in online communities, and Twitter influencer support. Sometimes it’s as simple as updating your website format and videos.

2. Use experiments versus designing the ideal ad

Trends and customer interests change quickly, so use small experiments to find something that works today, and use innovation to push the envelope, before your competitors can copy and overrun you. The key is to be able to measure your return, adapt quickly, and learn from your efforts.

According to the Harvard Business Review, e-commerce companies that conducted ad experiments saw 2-3% better performance per experiment run. An advertiser that ran 15 experiments in a given year saw a 30% higher ad performance.

3. Motivate customers to participate and engage

Reward customers for their advocacy and engagement with discounts and coupons, keep the interaction dynamic, and encourage their return. This requires a sense of urgency on the part of your team, and a culture of accountability and focus on the customer. Marketing must be everyone’s top priority.

For example, Dunkin’ Donuts did this through a photo contest, rewarding discounts to those who submitted a photo with the brand’s handle and hashtag. Other companies highlight live experience and happy videos, submitted by customers, on their website and promotions.

4. Partner with others to create blended offerings

A very successful marketing effort created by a restaurant near me during the pandemic offered a carryout from multiple sources – to combine flowers with food and drinks, all from different establishments, packaged creatively together. Everybody wins, and it spread quickly on social media.

People remember and endorse you as the primary brand that created the blended offering, as well as the other “endorsed” brands. The hybrid approach is also effective as an experiment if you are exploring ways to expand your own brand into new segments.

5. Market solutions as an experience or an event

Advertising more features, or even a lower price, is not as memorable to customers today as a great experience or a unique event. These may be live or immersive online experiences. Use social media to build anticipation and highlight successes, to get people talking and coming back for more.

The message here is that big blockbuster campaigns and big marketing budgets are no longer the key to results in the new customer environment, where participation and relationships are key.

Now is the time to ask your customers and partners for participative ideas, do some experiments, and scale up the ones that work. Be prepared to make frequent updates as trends change.

Marketing is no longer a one-way conversation, whether you are a startup or a legacy business. How long has it been since you changed your marketing strategy? Are your costs going up and the returns going down?
Try listening and learning, more than talking and pushing.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Why Digital Customer Experience Will Be A Top Focus For B2B Marketers In 2021

Business woman working behind two monitors.

Business woman working behind two monitors.

Catching a movie in a packed theater. Crowding into a stadium with tens of thousands of fans for a sporting event or concert. Attending a bustling business expo in a convention center brimming with industry peers.

All of the above are previous mainstays that went noticeably amiss this year, lost to the ruthlessness of 2020 along with so many other in-person experiences. And while such large-scale gatherings will surely return to our lives at some point, the undeniable reality is that we don’t know when. We do know it won’t magically happen once the calendar flips forward. Analysts believe physical events may not return until 2022.

Because of this, and larger trends that supersede COVID-19’s impact, entities like the movie industry and sports leagues are strategizing for 2021 — and beyond — around digital-first models, designed to maximize the quality of user experiences while optimizing for distribution and monetization.

Businesses should be intent upon doing the same. And according to CMSWire’s 2021 State of the Digital Customer Experience report, a vast majority of them are:

SMG - SMSWire Image

Digital Customer Experience Is a Decisive Differentiator

Historically, department stores have placed a substantial emphasis on the in-store experience. Everything from lighting to layout to customer service is scrutinized to the extreme. Delighting shoppers at every turn means they are less likely to take their business elsewhere. It might even mean they’re willing to pay a premium for your goods.

Similar dynamics are in play for the rapidly accelerating digital business landscape. Except if you run a department store’s online presence, you’re no longer benchmarking yourself strictly against fellow retailers in the same space.

“Customers don’t compare you only to your direct competition anymore,” writes Shep Hyken in an article for Forbes on eradicating mediocrity. “Customers now compare you to the best service they have received from anyone, regardless of the type of business or industry.”

[bctt tweet=”“Customers don’t compare you only to your direct competition anymore. Customers now compare you to the best service they have received from anyone, regardless of the type of business or industry.” — Shep Hyken @Hyken” username=”toprank”]

Indeed, customers’ digital expectations have risen in retail and elsewhere since the advent of COVID-19. B2B companies are generally a bit further along in their digital maturity, but 2021 is an opportunity to separate yourself from the pack. Invest in digital transformation where it counts: customer-facing touchpoints.

A study last year by Kony found that, of the trillions of dollars being invested in digital transformation, only 28% were focused on the customer experience, with a much larger portion centered on business processes.

Building digital infrastructure is important, no doubt, but back-end efficiency won’t win customers and generate buzz in the market. With an eye on creating a differentiated digital customer experience in 2021, let’s zero in on some areas worth exploring.

Key Focal Points for Digital Customer Experience in 2021

Here are four ways that today’s B2B organizations can improve the quality of engagements, strengthen trust, and develop a sustainable strategy for success in our permanently altered environment.

1 — Embrace Technology to Innovate Digital Engagement

A recent article in Harvard Business Review articulated the need for industrial firms to give their customers a digital experience. Here are a few sector-specific stats shared in the piece, via research by L.E.K.:

  • Building and construction customers use digital channels 80-90% of the time to gather information, read reviews, compare prices, and check product quality/availability.
  • Across all industries, upwards of 40% of planned purchases are now made on websites or mobile apps.
  • 83% of the industrial firms that have been most successful at increasing revenue, market share or net promoter score (NPS), say they have made meaningful investments in digital customer engagement versus only 19% of less successful firms.

Industrial customers, like any customers, want a smooth and frictionless digital experience. They want information that is clear and easy to find. And they will respond to creativity and innovation.

HBR’s article mentions several noteworthy examples of industrial organizations going above and beyond to provide great digital experiences.

A global industrial gases and engineering solutions company called Linde uses augmented reality to project the image of their cryogenic freezer into a prospective customer’s factory setup. Similarly, building-products company Azek developed a 3D visualization tool that helps customers get an idea of what their products will look like upon completion (then leverages insight gained through the interactions). Global chemical distribution Brenntag partnered with DigiB to create a self-service portal for customers, using machine learning to tailor experiences and product recommendations.

How can you take advantage of emerging tools and technologies to stand out with your customers in the digital universe?

2— Aim for Omni-channel Presence and Consistency

Seamless consistency is the name of the game for digital customer experiences. Businesses should be easy to find and engage with across various channels and platforms. In laying out five key challenges to building a successful omni-channel customer experience strategy at CMSwire, Rich Hein points to these barriers:

  1. Overcoming data silos
  2. Unifying omnichannel data
  3. Personalizing across channels
  4. Creating a consistent experience
  5. Real time decisioning

It’s all about taking a holistic view of every customer touchpoint to ensure they are strategically connected. To see what this looks like in action, check out Clint Fontanella’s recent feature for HubSpot highlighting 15 examples of brilliant omni-channel brand experiences.

3— Build Trust through Customer Data

Customer data can be our greatest asset and our greatest obstacle. I’ve written before that marketers have an opportunity to turn the tides on mounting consumer distrust toward data practices in business. This opportunity is now riper than ever at a time where digital data is proliferating and trust hangs in the balance.

A key frontier for activating the power of customer insight lies in micro data, according to Billee Howard in a recent article for Forbes describing a CX-Centric Future Powered By Customer Advocacy, Micro Data + Emotion.

“In today’s world, brand loyalty is swiftly being reimagined via the ability to deliver a strategic marriage of brand utility and emotional acuity,” she writes. “This type of brand super power will be borne from an ability to discover ‘micro’ data that yields surgical customer understanding that can catalyze 1:1 commercial intimacy. To do this, brand leaders will need to continue to find new approaches to customer segmentation that unearth not only points of differentiation, but areas of commonality. In an ultimate scenario, these things will meld together to create the type of empathy delivery today’s customer not only expects, but demands.”

When done right, this one-to-one engagement can build strong trust and rapport. But brands must be cognizant of customer sensitivities around personal data. A recent report from professional services firm KPMG found that “U.S. consumers are becoming increasingly concerned with — and distrustful of — how companies use, manage, and protect their personal data.” In the survey, 97% of respondents said data privacy was important to them and 87% characterized it as a human right.

Delivering a great digital customer experience isn’t only about tapping into the potential offered by this new environment, but also removing inhibitions and reservations that rightfully come along with it.

4— Find Compelling Ways to Bring In-person Experiences Online

There’s no reason to view virtual events as a burden made necessary by the pandemic and social distancing. Yes, we all miss traveling and getting together with people, but digital gatherings can serve as a valuable replacement for now and a powerful complement once normalcy returns. There is all kind of upside in enhancing your capabilities on this front.

PathFactory and Heinz Marketing asked B2B marketers how they would like to increase ROI from virtual events in the future. The top answer, selected by nearly half of respondents, was improving the way they maximize engagement with audiences post-event. The second-most popular response was changing the format of virtual events to become more dynamic and interactive.

Marketing Charts Image

The biggest mistake we can make is trying to pigeonhole a live event into a virtual format. They just aren’t the same. Moz CMO Christina Mautz recently shared learnings from taking MozCon completely virtual for the first time, and talked about the need to fundamentally rethink how we approach online experiences. Elsewhere, Oracle’s Larry Ellison and Rob Tarkoff chatted during their company’s own virtual summit about the future of CX.

Plan Now, Profit Later

Leagues like Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association incorporated all kinds of new bells and whistles in their broadcasts this season, from in-game interviews to interactive features to increased streaming accessibility. And this was implemented on a tight timeline in reaction to unexpected circumstances. Imagine what these entertainment powerhouses might come up with for 2021, with full offseasons to devise plans and research evolving customer preferences for digital engagement.

The business world is in a similar position. We’ve all been adapting on the fly to this year’s events, but as we look ahead to 2021 we can begin to frame our strategic planning around the “new normal.”

That means making digital customer experiences an utmost priority.

Want to learn more about taking customer experiences to the next level? Read our post on how influence and SEO can join forces to drive CX forward

The post Why Digital Customer Experience Will Be A Top Focus For B2B Marketers In 2021 appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.