Demand generation is consistently ranked as one of the top challenges for B2B marketers year after year. This should come as no surprise as B2B buyers continue to become more sophisticated in their approach to buying. Multiple studies show that buying committees continue to increase in number and the result is that buying cycles are taking longer and becoming more complex.
Due to the continual change in B2B buying, B2B marketers certainly have their hands full with the design and implementation of demand generation programs that align to these buyers. However, to truly get the most from their demand generation programs, B2B marketers need to think beyond the buying cycle and begin to understand the connection between the buying process and customer experience.
While a customer has many different interactions with a company, their buying process (what the discipline of demand generation addresses) is just one of many touch points. If marketers make the mistake of thinking about demand generation in isolation, this could lead to a poor customer experience. This is why marketers who are responsible for generating demand need to think of their demand generation programs in a Customer Experience context.
1. Many Buyers Engage With Brands Before Entering a Buying Cycle
In many instances, a buyer’s first interaction with a vendor will not be once they enter a buying cycle. Many buyers will interact with brand content before making any kind of purchase or formalizing a buying committee.
Having continuity from brand messaging to demand generation content is a must and while they are different types of content, there has to be a connection that the buyer can follow in order to provide a consistent experience. Without this consistency of message the interactions from brand to demand become disjointed and can lead to confusion for buyers thus limiting the chances that the would be would become a customer.
2. It’s Not All Digital
While many buyers engage with brands and consume content throughout their buying process via digital channels, it is imperative that marketers understand there is a good part of the buying journey that occurs person-to-person. While demand generation is a marketing and sales activity, the majority of organizations I speak to look at demand generation as a marketing function.
If the sales experience of the buying process does not match that of the digital experience, organizations are missing the mark. Companies who are intent on delivering an exceptional customer experience, must properly equip, enable and empower their sales people. This means they must have the brand promise and value engrained in their approach to selling. They must understand the buyers journey, pain points, motivations for purchase and know the content their buyers have consumed. They must be empowered to deliver on the experience of their brand and meet the needs of the buyers and in so doing fulfill the brand promise.
Sales plays a key role in both demand generation and customer experience and if they are not part of the strategy development the hopes of delivering on that experience will fall flat.
3. The Customer Relationship Does Not End When They Buy Something
While many marketers think about engaging buyers with demand generation programs, the reality is that much of the customer experience is delivered once a buyer becomes a customer.
Organizations need to think about the process of on-boarding a customer and how they enable the delivery of their service or product. Their ability to provide support that addresses customer needs, how they cross sell and upsell (also a demand generation function), and how they communicate with their customers in a relevant manner. These are all keys to improving the relationship and turning a customer into an advocate.
With 66% of CMOs being responsible for the customer experience, how organizations execute on demand generation is vitally important. Why? Because if the buying process is one that makes it easy to buy and enables an informed buying experience but post sale; the service, delivery and support is lackluster, the customer will quickly become disenchanted and the likelihood of increasing their spend or advocating for your brand (they may just advocate against it if this is broken), will diminish.
While B2B marketers will be challenged with developing demand generation programs that align to their buyer and their buying process, they need to be aware that their jobs are not solely focused on a buying journey. There must be a collaboration and connection to other areas of the organization so the buying process becomes a catalyst for delivering on customer experience.