Updated March 3, 2023
41% of B2B marketers planned to add the ability to provide personalized content and offers to customers this past year.
But what’s the big deal? Is personalization really that important?
The answer is yes.
Personalizing the B2B buying experience not only transforms a usually cold, robotic transaction into a human exchange, but it also speeds up what tends to be a longer-than-average sales cycle. However, it’s easy for B2B sellers to think that their prospects don’t buy with the same emotional gusto that B2C consumers do, therefore making personalization somewhat redundant.
Surely having a website where dozens of prospects can land at any moment means it’s better to have a generic approach and create a “one-size-fits-all” strategy?
Unfortunately, the answer to that question is no. It’s not true for B2B in general, let alone for B2B technology buyers. Thankfully, B2B tech companies are beginning to wise up to this.
B2B buyers have evolved and demand more
The B2B technology customer of the 2020s and beyond has evolved drastically. But how?
They’re more comfortable making purchases online
It’s an understatement to say that marketing changes at a breakneck pace, especially in today’s high-tech digital world. Consumers have become extremely comfortable making purchases online without the help of a salesperson. Even B2B buyers expect to be able to make completely digital purchases – 99% according to research from McKinsey. They’re comfortable spending $50K or more online, with as many as 20% willing to spend $500K to $5M through digital self-service or remote human interactions. When they do decide to speak to sales, they’ve done their own research and are ready to buy. And research giant, Gartner predicts that by 2025, 80% of B2B sales interactions between buyers and suppliers will occur online.
They want a purchase experience that closely resembles B2C
Marketers have been saying the gap between B2B and B2C is closing for at least a decade or more. Maybe it was partly lip service then, but global events over the past few years have accelerated that transformation. Today enterprise technology decision makers expect their experience as B2B customers to mirror their purchasing experience as consumers. Yet, they aren’t getting it.
Research from Gartner claims 77% of B2B buyers rated their most recent purchase as “very complex or difficult.” Whereas customers who thought the information they received from companies was helpful felt differently. They were 2.8 times more likely to feel like the purchasing process was easy and 3 times more likely to spend more. And according to Deloitte research, B2B buyers are at least 34% more likely to buy and 32% more likely to renew contracts with companies that master customer experience.
B2B customers, regardless of industry, want more of everything when it comes to information and purchasing. They want more channels, more information and, more importantly, they want an experience that shows the company understands their needs. To create better customer experiences for B2B tech decision makers, technology companies must focus on supplying highly targeted information that helps those same customers make a purchase. And accomplishing that feat means personalization.
What is personalization?
Personalization is essentially meeting a prospect’s needs more effectively and efficiently by serving them content and offers targeted to them – to their individual role in the decision-making process, their pain points, their industry, their company, their current and past behaviors, etc.
Today’s enterprise buyers expect companies to already know and understand them and be able to anticipate their needs. And they will distrust companies who do not provide personalized information and experiences. As a result, B2B tech companies will see an increase in customer satisfaction levels and a boost in repeat visits if they improve their ability to personalize content to individual buyers.
Personalization requires data and technology
Providing content experiences that are optimized to the individual technology buyer takes customer data and content data. It also requires the ability to sift through and analyze data quickly and efficiently to create metadata – data about the data. But it doesn’t end there. Instead, use the resulting conclusions to craft information and build customer experiences that are highly personalized to a specific person, not just at the company or buyer persona level. Moreover, as digital cookies and the other sources of 3rd party data shrink, data sources must increasingly be 1st party.
To accomplish that feat requires technology, increasingly sophisticated artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technology. And yet, according to the Oracle research mentioned earlier, just 19% of marketers in 2022 claim AI is a must-have solution and 30% worry they’re missing out on AI capabilities to help with personalization. However, about 25% of marketers surveyed complain about repetitive manual tasks related to content customization. Meaning, marketers who get ahead of the curve and embrace AI and other advanced tech could improve their ability to provide better B2B customer experiences.
Still not convinced that personalization and the technology to support it are must-haves moving forward for tech marketing? Keep reading for three more reasons to get on board.
1. Personalization ensures you deliver the right message to the correct person, at the right time and place
- Relevant messaging – personalization helps you to send the right message and the right content to the right customer. For example, someone who has just learned about your product is less likely to be in a buying mindset than someone who is deciding between your solution and your competitor’s.
- Perfect timing– not only does personalization help you send the right message, but it also helps you to send it at the exact moment a prospect needs it and for where they are in the B2B buyer’s journey.
- The right place– finding out where your prospects prefer to get information after an initial search is difficult. Some prefer to receive emails, while others might favor social media or web-based chat. Even with more B2B buyers favoring a mostly online, even e-Commerce experience, others might still prefer a good old-fashioned phone call. Personalization lets you know where each individual prefers to interact.
2. Personalization and the technology to support it helps you segment your audience at a granular level
One of the key problems with a scattergun approach is that you end up not resonating with anyone.
However, by using personalization strategies, you can quickly and easily segment your audience, even down to each individual prospect and ensure they’re getting the right information at the right time.
This will not only build trust and loyalty, but it will help speed up the sales cycle when you can serve the content the customer needs at exactly the right time.
When you can identify your different buyer personas, you can segment them into strategic groups and create personalized content that serves their specific needs. Examples of strategic groups might include:
- CEOs of small businesses who’ve just begun searching for a tech solution
- Decision makers at large corporations that have their wallet out ready to buy a solution
You might choose to segment buyers using:
- Firmographics – segmenting based on a prospect’s business size, what industry they’re in, what level they’re at, their job title and their location.
- Tiering – segmenting targets based on concrete expectations. For example, instead of targeting every company in a certain industry, you can instead focus on companies that have the potential to generate a certain amount of profit.
- Needs and intention – segmenting your prospects based on what they want from you and where they are in the sales cycle.
Video production company Vyond does this. They use personalization to segment their audience and serve different solutions to each group.
On one hand, they offer a self-service option for SMBs and, on the other, they provide a more service-oriented approach for larger enterprises.
Each one is framed in a unique way and guides the target through the sales funnel differently (the enterprises are encouraged to speak with a salesperson, while the SMBs are led straight to a purchase form on the site).
3. Personalization simplifies your sales funnel – especially when you leverage AI and machine learning
One of the biggest issues B2B tech brands face is grappling with long sales cycles. Usually, purchasing decisions have to go through several different gatekeepers, and the costly price tag often means it takes buyers longer to make a decision.
But personalization can change this.
If you can provide the right content for the right people at the right time, you’ll be able to push them through the sales cycle quicker.
For example, someone who has their wallet out and is ready to buy is more likely to convert from a case study that shows how a previous buyer benefitted from your product than a generic piece of content aimed at top-of-the-funnel prospects.
SaaS giant, Salesforce, works this in their favor.
Instead of promoting content to everyone, Salesforce segments go far beyond audience segmentation and use their data to provide personalized content experiences to each individual technology prospect. Salesforce combines behavioral data and customizable AI to deliver real-time 1-1 customer interactions.
Their effective use of advanced technology helps them create and deliver dynamic content that’s tailored to individual buyers. They also use AI to A/B test and optimize content in the moment. Their fine-tuned behavioral data and technology-driven personalization allows them to increase conversions, reduce costs and increase value.
In other words, each audience member instantly receives a different content asset based on specific criteria, including on who they are, what they’re looking for and where they are in the sales cycle, as well as whether they’re already a customer or not. The resulting customer experience is seamless, and prospects feel like the brand knows and understands them.
Turbocharge your B2B technology marketing with personalization
It might seem like an overwhelming task, but when you can start breaking up your audiences based on their behaviors and characteristics then use technology to serve them the right content at the right time, you’re putting yourself at a significant advantage.
Not only will you shorten and simplify the sales cycle (which means more customers in a shorter space of time), but you’ll build trust and relationships with buyers who’ll keep coming back for more.
Elevation Marketing has over 20 years’ experience helping B2B technology companies craft creative, content and messaging that produces customer experiences that convert and drive sales. We know data-based marketing at every level. After all, data and data-analysis are cornerstones of what we do. Get in touch.