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Changing the B2B customer experience in manufacturing

As digital, social and shifting customer expectations give increasing power to brands, Kin + Carta Connect strategist Terry Markle asks whether it’s time for manufacturers to take ownership of the B2B customer experience and capitalise on the capabilities of digital.

We’re some years past the point when customer-facing brands recognised that new technologies were changing the way consumers shopped. They saw that the days of being able to rely on retailers to own the customer experience were no more. If brands wanted to be part of their customers’ lives, they needed to do more than ‘hitch their wagons’ to the fortunes of a particular retailer.

So brands began actively pursuing the consumer in the online marketplace. They discovered the power of using digital marketing tools and techniques to survive and grow. For customer-facing brands, the adoption and use of digital marketing techniques has now reached a level of sophistication and maturity unthinkable only a few years ago.

Yet there are many companies still sticking to their orthodox ways of doing business. Often, these are manufacturers. They are the appliance makers who have traditionally been able to rely on retail partners for product distribution and maintaining the direct consumer relationship. And they are the component makers whose businesses are frequently founded and developed on a few key relationships.

Prior to the digital age, their strategies worked perfectly well. Now, like their B2C cousins, it’s time to recognise the new reality; time for manufacturers to open up and own the B2B customer experience by leveraging digital to meet their customers’ expectations.

The drivers for change

A business which is able to preempt the needs and wants of its customers will be better positioned among its competitors. Building long term relationships with end users may not be the traditional comfort zone of manufacturers, but there are many reasons why bringing digital marketing tools and techniques into your marketing strategy can pay dividends:

Bridge the gap

You don’t need to be an established B2C brand to adopt a digital first mindset and bridge the gap that exists between you and your customers. With digital marketing, you can have the resources you need to attract targeted traffic, drive sales and create campaigns previously only available to the big players in the market.

Leveraging digital marketing strategies

Small and medium manufacturers can introduce their products to an exponential number of potential customers compared to traditional B2B advertising. Their innovations no longer need to be limited to their pool of existing clients. Larger companies can build and maintain a strong brand name online by delivering exactly what they promise. For appliance and product manufacturers, this opens the opportunity for building long relationships that span multiple products, and a wealth of add-on and cross-sell opportunities – all built on a foundation of trust with the brand, not the retailer.

Higher returns

The cost effectiveness and higher return on investment of digital marketing can help small and medium scale manufacturing businesses reach new audiences at scale.

Foster ambassadors

Digital marketing serves as a tool for interaction between manufacturers and end users. By interacting with users directly, manufacturers have an opportunity to find new buyers and foster the sort of relationships that turn customers into brand ambassadors.

The success of the above relies on strong data and insight. And it’s here that manufacturers have found themselves in the dark. 

One source for all data insights

What manufacturers need is a single strategy that delivers an integrated technology landscape and continuously builds the data spine of the organisation. This strategy is the foundation of any digital-enabled business

By starting with the customer and defining a strategic approach that serves them in the way they want to interact, you can build a digital ecosystem that grows and adapts. As new technologies are considered they will be selected for a key role with interoperability and only as a modular component in the wider digital ecosystem. This will future-proof your business and organically bring together all data sources from across the organisation.

It also enables live reporting and business intelligence.

The ultimate outcome is highly acute and critical data insights that can be owned and used to create clear ‘blue water’ between the business and the competition.

Data from within your business will give you 50% of the story and drive focus and rigour. However, the other 50% still requires a human: qualitative data from surveys, interviews, user testing and observations are just as critical. This ensures you keep the promise of your Brand and understand how your business responds and performs at every interaction with your customer.

In that way, you keep your brand promise with a great customer experience and develop successful, industry-leading products.

A strong data strategy will deliver deep and measurable insights into customer journeys, behaviours and interactions and be a core pillar of your business strategy.

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