2014-18-September-Crowds.jpgAn enormous shift is occurring in how B2B customers think about engagement and relationships. Customers expect marketers to achieve relevance by providing personalized communications based on their individual preferences, rather than continuing with irrelevant “spray and pray” marketing blasts. It’s this new way of thinking that’s unlocking the true potential of human data.

A Shift in Strategy

Gone are the days when B2B prospects and customers would sort through piles of spray and pray “stuff” to uncover the few relevant messages. They expect marketers to find them and provide relevant offers and communications based on their individual needs and preferences. This means that marketers must develop bold new strategies that achieve the delicate balance of requesting in-depth data in exchange for providing the value of significantly improved customer experiences.

That is why after careful research, The UPS Store repositioned itself as a small business peer to peer company which made it more relevant to its target audience. Its research showed that 90 percent of small-business owners would prefer to do business with other local business owners. The UPS Store targeted this small biz niche and carefully crafted its messaging to directly answer their specific requirements.

A marketing initiative was created to let UPS directly connect with this audience in order to provide personalized services, products and offers of real value. They launched a Small Business Solutions portal, offering resources for small-business owners and the Small Biz Buzz, an online community of more than 300 small-business owners.

An Exchange of Value  

Just like their B2C counterparts, B2B marketers are realizing that to be truly personalized, marketing must be based on more than transactional, overlay and inferential data. It has to be based on the individual customer’s stated needs and self-profiled preference information.

However, developing a program to gain progressively deeper levels of self-profiled data must start with a foundation of trust. Per findings from Voice of Customer research conducted by ERDM, B2B customers and prospects are willing to provide trusted brands with meaningful information in exchange for more personalized offers, communications and experiences. We call this exchange of value the “Reciprocity of Value.”

This Reciprocity of Value, built on trust, is the critical aspect of both B2B and B2C data-driven marketing. It is trust, and a perceived reciprocity, that will motivate customers to provide the preference-based information needed to drive truly relevant, engaging communication.

Keep in mind:

  • Trust is the foundation and basis for obtaining deeper levels of personalized, preference-based data.
  • Marketers must earn the right to obtain deeper levels of preference data by delivering on the promise of truly personalized communications.
  • Marketers should strive to build sustainable relationships with customers based on trust, commitment and reciprocity, from the initial prospecting phase to every aspect of the customer lifecycle.

Microsoft's Move Beyond the Product

To better connect with B2B consumers and develop a relationship program that transcended product transactions, Microsoft sought to gain a deeper level of customer understanding. Through VoC research with Microsoft’s SMB business consumers, key factors for improvement in personalization were outlined:

  • Understand my unique business needs.
  • Create user levels based on business size, industry and product focus and then create targeted content based these levels.
  • Develop a relationship program based on the user’s unique needs, not Microsoft’s.
  • Request user feedback at every touch point. And use that feedback to evolve the customer experience and provide relevant content and communications.

After a comprehensive program of gaining data through a preference-based, easy-to-navigate opt-in process, Microsoft developed ways to deliver on the promise of an enhanced experience. Customers received a welcome email, monthly personalized e-newsletters, and ongoing personalized offers and training.

The results were powerful:

  • Opt-in rates up to 95 percent.
  • Open rates greater than 50 percent.
  • Response rates performing in the double-digits.
  • Revenue increase of 2 times.

This is what the Reciprocity of Value looked like:

Customer Benefits   Microsoft Benefits
  • Deeper level of personalized experience
  • Customized communication, training, and services
  • Improved information relevant to business needs
  • Opt-in Profile information to drive personalized content and communications
  • Ability to analyze web and email interaction behaviors
  • Improved Cross sell/upsell opportunities

Earning the in-depth “human” preference data that drives personalized marketing is an essential strategy for B2B marketers looking to go from transactions to a long-term, value based relationships with customers.

In summary, earning the in-depth “human” preference data that drives personalized marketing is an essential strategy for B2B marketers looking to go from transactions to a long-term, value based relationships with customers.

Title image by Roman Kruglof (Flickr) via a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license