There are many truly amazing experiences (mostly digitally enabled) consumers have today that were completely unthinkable 15, 10, or even five years ago. Whether a new app, immersive virtual experiences, instantly summoned vehicles, digital boarding passes, smartphone hotel room keys, or same-day/hour delivery of meals/products/whatever, it is a magical time.
Most of that magic, however, is occurring in the consumer or B2C world. Those of us in the B2B world can feel a little behind the curve by comparison.
And the answers B2B companies give for lagging in the digital or customer service areas are almost always related to the idea that “we’re not a B2C company” or “our customers are different.”
- We don’t have adequate IT staff
- Social media isn’t important for our business
- A website doesn’t matter as much for our business since we talk to people face-to-face
- We don’t need online content or a digital marketing strategy
- Our customers wouldn’t do that on a mobile phone
- Waiting a few days for a critical part is all our systems can deliver
- Waiting a few days to respond to any request is acceptable
- We don’t need to be available after hours
- And more …
News flash: people are people. The everyday experiences we have in our personal lives are shaping the expectations we have from our business lives. And B2B companies are often woefully lagging behind in how they interact with today’s end-users. Here are a couple of common consumer scenarios that your B2B customers are comparing to your services:
I can order groceries on a website, pay for them, have someone at the grocery store shop for me, put the items in a locker where I can pick them up at my convenience (or better still, deliver them to my home). So why can’t you get me a part or a piece of equipment that quickly as well?
I can have a queen-sized mattress delivered to me in a small box without ever testing it at the store and return it if I don’t like it many months later. Why can’t I do the same for an expensive business purchase?
I can connect to a customer service person any time of day, chatting them online or requesting help via Facebook or Twitter. Why can’t the team at your B2B company provide that same level of service?
Time to Evolve
There are many more examples of how the consumer world constantly innovates to satisfy customer demands or preferences for how they want to be communicated to.
Many B2B companies are engaging in new behaviors and shifting their approach to marketing and connecting with their customers in new ways. They’re still catching up to how B2C companies operate, but they are at least making deliberate strides.
If you’re at a B2B company, look at your marketing and communications approach and ask yourself if you’re making those strides. Are you still doing the same things you were doing five years ago? Are you integrating more closely with the sales team and using marketing to enhance and support their activities? And is the sales team recognizing the importance of digital marketing in their efforts?
Are you serving and communicating with your customers in the way they want to be served and communicated with? Increasingly, the way they want to be served is the way they are treated by Amazon or Delta or Marriott, and they are puzzled when met with the inability of B2B companies to meet their needs.
People are people. Forces beyond the control of B2B are resetting expectations. We need to either keep up or get left behind by the companies that finally recognize that.