If they're not already, business marketers may want to start paying close attention to what their consumer counterparts are doing to reach customers and prospects. That's because personal and professional worlds are collapsing into each other for most people, said Sheryl Pattek, VP-principal analyst at Forrester Research's CMO practice.
“When you're not at work, work bleeds into your personal life; so now [prospects] set the same expectations that they have in b-to-c marketing as they do in b2b,” said Pattek, who is in the process of finalizing a report about building b2b brands.
As a result, b2b marketers need to think about how their brands can be as central as those in b-to-c marketing—including when it comes to email marketing, Pattek said.
“Consumers are more empowered and taking control of the buying process,” she said. “However, since all they see early on in the selling life cycle is the brand, it needs to carry through—especially in email marketing.”
Today, she said, 60% to 70% of the buying journey is completed even before the customer contacts a company. If the brand isn't “front and center,” it can affect the purchase cycle.
When it comes to email, Pattek said, marketers need to create a firm brand standard with graphic look and feel. But even more important, branding should carry over into the messaging itself.
Some organizations may need to re-evaluate the customer's buying process to better understand how current customers see a brand and what worked to move them toward a sale. Pattek suggested mapping out the customer journey to see how purchases are made. What search terms are people using to find the website? Which email links or stories did they click on in previous emails? How are they talking about your brand on social media? Marketers can take that information and couple it with individualization.
“We've moved from personalization to individualization,” she said.
It used to be enough to simply add "Dear Joe' in the body of an email, she said. Now, marketers need to change the message and the offer based on the customer's needs, brand awareness and email interactions. “Email marketers need to focus on the customer on a one-to-one basis, using information about what's worked in the past,” she said.