Keynote speaker at ServiceSource’s Recurring Revenue Forum (London, Nov. 16, 2017), Anders Sörman-Nilsson, shares insight on what businesses must understand about the evolving Customer Journey.
Customers are taking buying matters into their own hands. Literally and metaphorically. This fundamentally calls for a re-design of your brand’s customer journey, and a re-assessment of the role of your marketing and sales functions. 74% of business to business buyers will conduct a majority of their due diligence digitally before ever speaking to one of your sales reps. According to Forrester, up to 1 million B2B salesmen and women will become redundant by 2020 because of B2B buyers shifting from human faces to B2B eCommerce interfaces. Meanwhile, the distinction between B2B and B2C is increasingly becoming moot, as the B2B customer journey becomes consumerized. Our analysis illustrates that there are three key – interrelated – paradigm shifts in the customer journey, which deeply impact your recurring revenue and customer loyalty tomorrow.
Firstly, courtesy of the digital democratization of information we are moving from information asymmetry to information symmetry. This means that your marketing and sales professionals are no longer the sole fonts of product / service wisdom, and they have to stop behaving as if they were. Because of this commoditization of information, we all behave as if we are in procurement, which shifts the power from seller to buyer. Not only are our rational, information-focused minds digitizing, we are also mobilizing, meaning that contextual, mobile-optimized content which nudges your buyers forward in their customer journey is critical – delivered into the palms of the digitally connected buyer.
Secondly, the customer journey, which used to be linearly designed by brands in line with the idea of a marketing and sales funnel now looks more like a slinky spiral. As buyers, we skip around, seemingly erratically, between analogue and digital touch points and different types of media as we research the solutions to our business challenges. While the buying journey phases of awareness, engagement, evaluation, decision, and usage cannot be digitally discarded (yet), it is imperative that brands design human-centric journeys with engaging, educating and thought-leading content that appeals both to digital minds and to enduringly analogue, emotional hearts. No matter where in the buying journey your clients and prospects might be, you need to create and serve up a smorgasbord of consumerized media that contextually connects with the unique needs of the psychographics of your buyer.
Thirdly, in a world of digital sharing and the constant creation of digital breadcrumbs, we are moving from a yesteryear of generic, bland demographic messaging, to a world of psychographic “smarketing.” In this world, any sales or marketing message which appears out of context or impersonal runs the risk of being quickly discarded. The buyer – via Facebook, Quora, Linkedin or psychographic forms on your website – has created a digital twin, which means you have a duty and responsibility to create and connect them with finely segmented messages. It’s never been easier to narrowcast a message at scale, and in a world of recommendation engines – from Netflix to Amazon – we have become accustomed to exchanging data for relevance, which has re-set out our expectations on our B2B vendors. This drives a convergence of your sales and marketing functions into a fusion of “smarketing,” where contextual content and social selling blend to build trust and loyalty with buyers for true customer success. In an era where it’s never been easier to opt in or opt out of Anything-as-a-Service options, we have all become incredibly results-oriented, and if your “smarketing” seems as though it is not dynamically data-driven, it is easy to assume that your product or service may not be fit for purpose either.
This begs a few important questions of B2B brands and vendors:
- Are you changing at least as quickly as your most demanding client?
- Are you training your marketing and sales professionals in professional skills which won’t be required tomorrow?
- Is your brand making enough investments into re-designing and upgrading the customer journey, while connecting your clients and prospects with seamless content that moves the sales and loyalty needle?
- How are you equipping marketing with social sales insights, and reversely how are you weaponizing your sales staff with content that connects psychographically with your prospects?
We all want to deal with vendors who illustrate smart, intelligent and responsive behaviors. While the features and benefits of their products in a world of Anything-as-a-Service are important, the way you design the customer journey in a human-centric, seamless fashion, while connecting with digital minds and analogue hearts is a great way to showcase that your brand stands for smart, intelligent and responsive results in everything you do.
Our human intelligence, on both the buyer side and vendor side, has the potential to become augmented and amplified with artificial intelligence and digital data insights. Yesterday, your customer changed to embrace this potential. Now it is your turn.
About the Author
As an Australian-Swedish futurist and innovation strategist, he has helped executives and leaders on 4 continents map, prepare for, and strategise for foreseeable and unpredictable futures. Since founding Thinque in 2005, he has worked with and spoken to clients like Apple, Johnson & Johnson, Cisco, Eli Lilly, SAP, IBM, Xerox, ABN Amro Bank, Commonwealth Bank, McCann Erickson and BAE Systems, across diverse cultural and geographic contexts.