By now, the observation that COVID-19 has drastically changed how we interact is old news.
However, it's never a bad idea to incorporate best-practices into your B2B marketing strategy, and marketers can learn a lot from how customer service professionals have adapted in the last year and a half.
Those insights can help marketers meet new customer expectations and build long-lasting customer relationships.
Thanks to Zoom, many of us have met each other's kids, partners, and pets, so there's no going back to business as usual. The use of technology we've adopted will persist, as we've already seen. When B2B marketers shifted to digital outreach to generate leads, they rose to the challenge using new channels.
So, what happens next?
As always, customers are driving the transformation, and their experience during the pandemic raised expectations for hyper-personalized outreach. Changing customer expectations and new regulations designed to protect consumer privacy require B2B companies to rethink how they contact customers and build long-term relationships.
Tips for Adapting to New Customer Expectations
The shift in customer expectations, as well as the long-term nature of the change, were emphasized by a recent Gartner report on B2B buyer demand for digital options. B2B customer expectations for a rich virtual experience are informed by their experience as consumers, the report notes, which makes embracing customer service best-practices a no-brainer.
Here are a few tips that can help marketers use the best of customer service best-practices for their own engagement strategies.
Personalize, but don't generalize
Although it's true that customers expect hyper-personalization in digital outreach, concerns about privacy are on the rise, too; at the same time, customers don't like to be pigeonholed.
That may sound like a contradiction, but it isn't. Customers expect you to know who they are and where they are on their customer journey. That requires data and segmentation so you can reach them on the right channel at the right time. But it's risky to make assumptions or rely on stereotypes—particularly those that are based on demographic information.
Instead, review the data from a different angle so you can recognize what makes your prospects and customers unique. Gather your cues from requests and purchasing behavior to make sure you're addressing their specific needs.
Be fun, be real, be seamless—and lead with your company values
After the deprivations we've endured over the past year and a half, people are understandably hungry for fun. Digital outreach that is experiential and interactive is a good idea in this environment, and technology can help you be more conversational and responsive to customers and prospects.
Also, people are more interested in doing business with brands that align with their own values, so lead with your values in an authentic and relatable way. Meet customers where they are (email, text, social media, etc.), and make sure they get a seamless experience across every channel you use to communicate with them.
Don't kid yourself—consent applies to you, too!
All human relationships between equals are based on consent, and that includes the relationship between B2B marketers and prospective or current customers. Use every opportunity to ask customers for permission to continue an open-ended conversation, and find out which channels they prefer to use.
If a customer reaches out for service or a prospect requests information, ask them to opt in for future conversations, and respect their preferences. People do business with people they trust. Getting customer consent and carrying on the conversation via their preferred platforms can help you build lifetime value and reduce churn.
Continuing Your Customer Connections
The pandemic dialed up the humanity and authenticity of communications with customers and prospective buyers. As the pandemic recedes, it's important to not downgrade the connections marketers have built. Because customers drive interactions, we can't reset the calendar to 2019, anyway. Changes in customer expectations are here to stay, which means hyper-personalized, thoughtful communication is table stakes.
Lead with the company's values as professionals; give your current and prospective customers a reason to want to do business with your brand. Just as a customer service professional authentically connects with those who need help or support, marketers, too, can be their authentic selves and make conversations with B2B prospects and customers a fun and interactive experience.
It will be critical to build and maintain trust in a post-pandemic environment where digital outreach still dominates but the customer experience is more important than ever. Marketers can build trust by treating people with respect, which includes managing customer consent and communication preferences effectively.
B2B marketers who figure out how to do that will thrive not just this year, but in the years to come.
More Resources on Customer Expectations
Customer Journey Maps for Marketers: Understand and Exceed Expectations | MarketingProfs Master Class
Consumer Psychology: Five Tips for Creating Positive (and Reasonable) Expectations
The 4Es of Video: How to Align Your Marketing Content Strategy With Buyer Expectations
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