B2B merchants are increasingly borrowing B2C strategies to grow their online businesses—and they should follow suit when it comes to their B2B email campaigns. By delivering messages relevant to the individual and the stage of the customer lifecycle, B2B merchants can win sales and earn lasting loyalty.
B2C is influencing the world of B2B with good reason: a quarter of B2B vendors currently conduct more than half of their sales online, and fully 52 percent of those vendors believe they’ll do so within three years. As more B2B buyers turn to the Web to research products and services and conduct transactions, expectations for B2C-like features and functionality are growing — and that includes a desire to view merchant offerings through a personalized lens. More than half of consumers say they expect brands to recognize them across touchpoints, from the store to the mobile device to the eCommerce site and back again, and say they buy more from merchants whose offers take into account past purchases and interactions (both online and offline).
The personalization mandate is even stronger when it comes to email and mobile messaging. To stand out in corporate buyers’ crowded inboxes, B2B suppliers must move beyond “batch and blast” techniques and generic top-of-funnel messaging to present unique and compelling offers for every stage of the customer lifecycle. B2B merchants should consider:
Compelling and seamless on-ramps for first-time browsers. With more than half of B2B buyers saying they prefer to conduct research about corporate purchases online, B2B merchants have a ripe opportunity to entice these browsers to engage more fully via email or mobile messaging updates. But this opportunity is often squandered by the temptation to move into “lead gen” mode, overwhelming potential customers with lengthy signup or registration forms before the brand’s relevance has even been demonstrated. More than two-thirds of B2B buyers say excessive form field requirements are a deterrent to requesting further information, with close to 60 percent saying both phone number and postal address are irrelevant for at least initial signups.
Instead, B2B merchants should take a page from B2C eCommerce leaders and streamline the signup process, while highlighting the unique benefits or access accorded to subscribers. Kibo merchant O’Reilly, a publisher serving both B2C and B2B customers, greets new website browsers with a signup offer in a lightbox window that highlights the company’s popular “Deal of the Day” offers. One-step signup forms are also available from the right-hand column of the home page. And those who go on to register with the website are offered a bevy of convenient options, from a simple email/password account creation routine to the ability to use an array of social login tools.
Timely check-ins during a long consideration phase. While ordering office supplies might not require a huge amount of planning prior to making purchases, a number of B2B products and services have higher price tags that demand more research, comparison, budgeting, and internal buy-in before corporate purchasing agents can click the “buy” button. To stay in touch with these potential customers during a long consideration phase, B2B merchants should message them with relevant periodic updates and check in as to their continuing interest. Message topics could include:
- Price drops or special offers related to products under consideration
- New awards or industry reviews of products or services under consideration
- New updates or enhancements available
- Information about technical or other product support, including customer testimonials or reviews that praise the company’s customer service
- New content—including product comparison tools, videos, or buyer’s guides—to help B2B buyers make purchase decisions
Editing tool Grammarly entices users of its free service to upgrade with a discount offer coupled with social proof – a compelling combination.
Robust post-purchase support options. While more than 90 percent of B2B buyers say they want to complete purchases online independently, two thirds say they’d like help if products require installation or service—signalling an opportunity for B2B merchants to step up messaging and outreach once B2B shoppers have become buyers. In addition to developing robust transactional email messaging in the immediate post-purchase period, B2B suppliers should extend invitations to user or customer communities, remind customers about their options for connecting with live help, and send reminders when updates or maintenance are required.
Computer manufacturer Lenovo delivers a comprehensive array of post-purchase options to customers who have registered their new products. The email message contains links to live help as well as social media channels, and includes purchase options from service upgrades to accessories.
How is your B2B business delivering relevant messaging to prospects and customers?