Who cares about relationships in B2B marketing?

Marketing has undergone a transformation in the last two decades from an art form to a science; a demand and lead generation engine. We’ve all ‘gone digital’ and can measure and optimise at the touch of a button.

B2B Marketing is typically much more relationship orientated than B2C. We have a more complex buyer ecosystem and more than one person in the chain. Some lower value products are pure e-commerce transactions but many require a complex integration of marketing, sales and customer service to complete the sale.

Yet even in B2B, where relationships remain critical to much of what we do, things have changed. We have personalisation and automation software at our fingertips. Tools that can search and aggregate intent signals from prospective buyers into a simple format that can inform and guide our Account Based Marketing Strategies. In theory, we can build integrated campaigns that span a year or more of time without ever speaking directly to our customers.

But that doesn’t mean building relationships isn’t important any more. Far from it. In reality, the very fact that we can operate through technology and not always directly through people makes it absolutely critical that we maintain a focus on building relationships and empathy with our prospects, customers and team.

So in today’s digitally driven world, how can Marketing Leaders develop strong relationships that will benefit the brand, positively influence purchase decisions and create a strong working relationship with their internal team?

Awareness and reputation

First let’s be clear – brand awareness campaigns do not manage your brand reputation. Brand awareness campaigns are designed to get a specific, managed message to your customers. To share information about who you are and how you can help solve their problems. Reputation management is still critical to longer term brand building and short-term crisis management. It takes roughly 40 positive experiences to undo the impact of one negative review. View every customer engagement as an opportunity to build and manage the relationship your prospects and customers have with your brand in a positive way.

Building your story

No matter how technical you are, you need a story. And I don’t just mean a brand story but a value proposition story that talks to your target customers’ needs – both emotional and functional. In my experience this is one of the most under-invested areas in Marketing. A Product Manager will typically default to a list of product features when describing the benefit to the customer. Whilst features play a role, you need to go deeper. To start with the market, the customer and the need. You need to talk to customers or talk to sales who have the relationship with customers to get the depth of insight needed to see it from their perspective.

Content Marketing

A 2018 CSO Insights study suggested B2B buyers have a strong preference for self-education in the early stage of the buying process and over 70% of B2B Buyers prefer to have a clear understanding of their needs before they talk to a sales rep.

The content we create has to have the right tone of voice, one which shows our expertise and professionalism but connects on a human level with the buyer. That’s the trick of great B2B content. Getting close to what your buyer needs has to be a key priority.

It is also absolutely fundamental to understand how your buyers needs change across the different stages of the buying life cycle – from awareness through interest, consideration, purchase, post purchase and repurchase.  Content needs to be crafted to meet the needs of the individual person within the buying centre at a specific stage of the life cycle. Think of it as having a conversation with your prospect or customer, split across different moments in time. In this way, your content forms a key part of relationship building.

Sales and Marketing = friends not enemies

Many a Marketing Leader has experienced a painful weekly trading meeting with Sales. When the business isn’t ‘on the number’, fingers start pointing – often towards Marketing with responsibility for filling the top of the sales funnel.

But the perspective that we have to maintain is that we lead from the front. How sales and marketing interact at the top, sets an example for the rest of our teams.

Companies with tightly aligned sales and marketing teams experience 36% higher customer retention rates and 38% higher sales win rates (Marketo).

If you need some ideas for how to change the quality of conversation and metrics focus at management level – check out our blog on How To Change The Perception of Marketing that addresses this specific challenge.

For those running Account Based Marketing programmes this relationship could not be more critical to success. Both must input on account selection and strategy and jointly nurture leads. Sales have to trust that a lower volume of better qualified leads will yield better results. Neither party is in total control, so communication and trust are fundamental to establishing a strong and effective relationships.

Customer experience

The customer experience you deliver should not be the sum of its parts. It should be a carefully crafted series of events and when done well can be a major point of strategic differentiation in crowded markets.

Research from New Voice Media in the US found that of those who had decided to switch providers, almost 50% did so because they felt unappreciated. This isn’t about your customer support staff not being polite on the phone – it is so much more because the experience you deliver begins the moment you start to exist as a brand. We have to think about delivering personalised and crafted experiences at every stage of a customer’s journey with our business and use the right MarTech tools to help us nurture and build the relationship. This will ultimately enhance retention and NPS metrics.

There are no two ways about it. We are digitally driven. Many parts of marketing are a science. We can automate a lot of interactions and we should use the technology we have to deliver a personalised experience that builds a relationship with our customers, even when we are operating at a distance. But there are some things you cannot automate; your reputation, your authenticity, your story and your relationship with your sales people and team. These still require you to simply be human. And an effective one at that.

And that’s what I love about B2B Marketing. What do you think? Let us know: info@see-blue.co.uk

About Us

Seeblue Marketing is a specialist marketing consultancy for tech sector businesses. We are a team of specialists with over 30 years of direct experience driving growth in world-class blue-chip companies. We now apply our knowledge and deep understanding of B2B marketing to working with SME’s and scaling technology businesses.


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