According to new research by Silverpop, with Forrester Consulting, today’s buyers control the buying process far more than today’s vendors control the selling process, a phenomenon that affects both business-to-business and business-to-consumer marketers. Buyers seek the information they want online, on the Web and in social channels, as well as in the “real world.” Today’s buyers, though, expect sellers to know where they’ve been, what they’ve seen, what they’ve accepted or rejected, whether that behavior happened on their tablet, via their smartphone, or at the local branch office. Today’s marketers are struggling to keep up.
Through in-depth surveys with 157 marketing professionals in the US, the study found that most marketers are simply using marketing automation to scale and standardize marketing processes. However, a small vanguard is using automation to focus on customer behavior across multiple engagement channels. The study finds that marketers who have adopted behavioral marketing practices have realized business benefits ranging from higher return on marketing investment (ROMI) to higher contributions to sales pipelines and revenue.
Four key findings:
• Marketing automation is broadly deployed to manage core marketing processes from campaign development to lead management. But top performers seem to be leveraging their tech investments differently, executing a higher number of more focused campaigns and setting higher targets.
• Both B2B and B2C marketers have accepted multichannel marketing as common practice. Marketers are familiar with the concepts and practices of multichannel marketing. One-quarter of the survey respondents assessed themselves as mature practitioners of multichannel marketing. Another 39% were in transition. Only 7% of respondents had no plans to implement multichannel marketing.
• Behavioral marketing is a slightly less mature practice. Only 17% of the survey respondents assessed themselves as mature practitioners of behavioral marketing. But early adopters perceive significant benefits to becoming more buyer-centric. Significantly, a higher percentage of behavioral marketers grew revenue faster than plan (53% versus 41%) and contributed more than half of the sales pipeline (20% versus 11%).
• Practitioners of behavioral marketing have significantly different practices. Those marketers who self-assessed as “mature” reported significant differences in their approach to marketing: They have more fully implemented marketing automation, run more campaigns, and run a greater variety of campaigns.
Companies have always, to a greater or lesser extent, called themselves “customer-centric.” But the age of the customer requires that the marketer go beyond customer-centric thinking to customer-centric operations . In the age of the customer, three elements are essential to success, says the report:
• A customer-obsessed approach to defining the business and marketing strategy;
• An in-depth understanding of customers’ behaviors and needs;
• A customer engagement strategy that is calibrated to those behaviors and needs.
For many product categories, buyers now put off talking with salespeople until they are ready for price quotes or delivery terms. Buyers are finding the information they need in an ever-expanding array of content types, from infographics to video to white papers, in an ever-increasing number and variety of online and offline channels, and accessing the online channels from an increasingly diverse array of devices.
This changing buyer dynamic changes the role of marketing in several fundamental ways:
• Marketing owns a bigger chunk of the “selling process.” Guiding the buyer through the early stages of the buying process (traditionally the role of sales) requires an outside-in approach, calibrated to the buyer’s wants and needs, shifting the focus from content that details features and benefits to engagement that informs, persuades, and convinces.
• Marketers must engage consistently over multiple channels. According to the study, B2C marketers are much more prepared than B2B marketers to engage multi touch-point customers with a multichannel approach. 69% of the B2C marketers reported that they were either mature multichannel practitioners or were transitioning to that state. Among B2B marketers, only 59% indicated a similar level of maturity.
Buyers seek answers to different questions that stand between them and a decision. The speed of purchase decisions is predicated on the delivery of relevant marketing activities, messages, and content at each stage of the buyer’s journey. But only 17% of survey respondents, in assessing their maturity with behavioral marketing, rated themselves as mature practitioners. B2C marketers were slightly ahead of the game, as 20% rated themselves as mature practitioners and another 41% as in transition, compared with 16% and 25%, respectively, for B2B marketers.
Small and medium-size businesses (SMBs) have dramatically adapted their marketing practices to changing buyer behaviors, where the journey for nearly every purchase (business or consumer) begins with a web search. The new generation of top-performing SMB competitors has embraced online marketing, as demonstrated by their marketing investment levels.
B2C marketers have an automation advantage over B2B companies. B2C marketers reported a higher level of automation in all but one marketing automation category (see Figure 5). More than half of the B2C marketers claimed to be “somewhat aggressive or at the forefront” of technology adoption. B2C marketers also have a better relationship with their IT support: 56% reported having an “excellent or good” relationship with IT, versus only 46% of B2B marketers.
B2C marketers are decidedly more social. In particular, B2C marketers are using social media management technology far more than their B2B counterparts (83% versus 57%). B2B marketers consistently underestimate just how “social” business buyers are. Forrester’s research finds that 86% of business buyers engage in social activity for their work; 55% cite online communities and forums as influencers on their decisions.4
B2B marketers are more likely to nurture customer relationships. The one category where B2B marketers are more heavily invested than B2C marketers is in the category of lead management systems. Many B2C marketers don’t take advantage of technology to engage with customers systematically throughout a longer buying cycle — or throughout the entire customer life cycle. In fact, digging into the campaign strategies of our respondents, we learned that 44% of B2C marketers had no plans or intention to implement lead nurturing campaigns, while 71% of B2B marketers are either executing lead nurturing campaigns today or plan to start doing so within the next 12 months.
According to the report, behavioral marketers are getting better results. Survey results show that even the most advanced behavioral marketers still rank as neophytes — but the early results are promising, as the behavioral marketing vanguard is performing better than its peers, says the report.
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