Leading business-to-business marketers are moving away from their spray and pray acquisition strategies, opting instead to create more personalized experiences for each buyer. And it’s no wonder: a recent Corporate Executive Board Marketing Leadership Council study found that only 14 percent of B2B buyers believe that feature differences and unique selling propositions alone justify paying more for that product.

New School Business-to-Business

Instead, B2B marketers are reaching their online buyers with three new school tactics:

  • Creating a visitor-centric strategy

  • Reaching visitors with personalized messaging, from the right organization

  • Re-targeting that visitor across the web, to drive them back

Creating visitor-centric strategy

Last October, McKinsey and Company did a survey to gauge how marketers perceived the impact of their B2B marketing efforts compared to how their B2B customers actually felt. The three things customers cared most about were that the company:

  • Engages in honest, open dialogue with its customers and society

  • Acts responsibly across its supply chain

  • Has a high level of specialist expertise

The fascinating thing is that B2B marketers surveyed placed these three crucial characteristics well outside of their top five. What this means is that many B2B marketers are missing their target audience.

The Executive Board studied B2B customers and they found “Customers who believe a brand will provide business value are 4x more likely to consider that brand.” And, the same study concluded, “when [potential-customers] don’t see personal value, they are over three times less likely to purchase, and over seven times less likely to pay a premium.”

Many B2B marketers understand this paradigm and are marketing with personalized messaging to their site visitors. Alterra Group recently reported that Account-Based Marketing (ABM) tactics are continuing to grow in popularity, with 87 percent of B2B marketers using this approach.

This underlines the key value of messaging to the individual and leads us to the message itself.

Reaching visitors with personalized messaging

Your buyers aren’t interested in your market share; they want to understand how you’re committed to building business solutions that can help them do their jobs more effectively.

Thought leadership and content is one way to get that message across, but it has to be highly targeted, highly relevant and highly engaging to resonate with your audiences.

Some B2B marketers have been making efforts to create that content. According to research firm Forrester, content generation in B2B marketing in 2013 was up from 22 percent over the prior year. That content, though was “product information that fails to pique buyer interest and raises eyebrows over quality.”

Without creating content that is highly targeted, highly relevant and highly engaging, however, B2B marketers can create the unforeseen effect of driving potential buyers away from their brand and their content.

So what can you do to more effectively get your message to your buyers?

  • Start with your business value proposition

  • Speak to your visitor’s organizational context

  • Take your targeted experiences cross-channel

Visitors are immediately looking to understand whether your product is relevant to them personally and professionally and then whether it applies to their company. Marketers now can segment these visitors by their context, their organization’s firmographics—company size, industry and the individual’s role.

By understanding their role and their organization context, marketers in the B2B space can now truly speak to their customers and position the best business value proposition to the right individual, creating a closer relationship.

Companies like Cisco have leveraged that data to better identify the business demographics of their website visitors and have changed their their web experiences accordingly. These changes help the companies better cater their messaging directly to these needs of those demographics—CXOs, CIOs and CMOs in Cisco’s case. Cisco believes this relevant messaging lead to more than $18 million in incremental revenue and an increase in engagement rate from 13 percent to 18 percent, driving true bottom-line value.

Message to visitors’ context, on and off-site

Finally, we’re seeing new marketing innovation happening offsite. B2B lead-to-conversion timeframes can be lengthy, in some cases upwards of a year. This involves many interactions before a client may even engage on a form conversion or reach out to sales.

Zendesk.com, a customer support platform targeting Fortune 500 businesses, leveraged 3rd party providers to identify anonymous visitors, segment them, qualify them and finally re-target visitors coming from the right industry and/or from pre-selected target organizations. Combining this strategy with sophisticated behavioral on-site tracking, Zendesk.com was able to retarget visitors who visited and left in the last two days—focusing on recency. They saw more than 2,000 new conversations in two months due to this effort.

As B2B marketers are learning about their clients, they’re putting this into action at every encounter, never forgetting what they’ve learned. Marketers now have the tools to employ new strategies that bring message context to the user, across channels. I think we’ll begin to see exciting and new creative strategies in 2014.

This is the new-school B2B marketing approach: Align with your customers’ needs through messaging and put a premium on the customer relationship on site and off.

Business agreement image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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