For many companies, mobile technology is forcing them to re-imagine the ways B2B marketing functions to support the sales cycle. Simply transplanting the standard paradigm for the customer lifecycle into a mobile environment where buyers are using smartphones to seek out information and connect with businesses isn't likely to succeed. The sales process for mobile buyers is a different beast entirely. As a result, most companies will have to adjust their marketing strategy to evolve to the new mobile realities.
A refresher on the B2B customer lifecycle
Before moving to put a mobile-centric B2B marketing plan in place, it's often necessary to revisit the existing customer lifecycle to understand what may transfer and what needs to be adjusted. Here's a general idea of how many B2B organizations approach the sales funnel (1):
- Identify needs: At this point, the business understands its position in the industry but needs to get a clearer idea about the buying audience. Typically, a company will conduct lead generation campaigns to gather data about prospective clients. The buyer is also working to visualize business pain points, giving companies the opportunity to engage them.
- Information gathering: After a buyer recognizes where any gaps exist in his or her own company, this individual begins thoroughly investing themselves in research to discover the most relevant and effective solutions.
- Request proposals: Once a few options have been discovered, a purchaser will often engage multiple service providers to get a better understanding of how each one can address his or her needs.
- Analyze options, negotiate and choose: By comparing competitors and finding the right option with the greatest value for a given price, a buyer is in position to select a vendor.
- Customize order: After selecting the service provider, the buyer then hammers out the details of the order.
- Evaluate the vendor: Once the transaction is complete, the most delicate part of the relationship begins because the B2B company must prove its worth by ensuring it delivers on the promises it made during the acquisition stages.
How does mobile technology change things?
The research phases of the B2B customer lifecycle is something that can occur at any time and location with the help of mobile technology. Buyers aren't limited according to whether they have access to a computer. With a smartphone and wireless Internet access, there aren't many barriers for purchasers when they want to use the Web to gather information or ask for assistance using email. In fact, it's expected that 80 percent of email users will access their accounts on a mobile device by 2018 (2). Meanwhile, Russell Glass, head of marketing products for LinkedIn, explained nearly half of the social network's traffic comes for people using their mobile device.
Mobile technology also adds complexity to the ways in which vendors develop a marketing strategy. With buyers moving between screens, it can be difficult to both deliver the right message to them given their place in the sales funnel and put in a format that's user friendly.
How businesses can respond
One essential solution is responsive design for an organization's website. There are online tools that allow companies to use templates that closely resemble their organization's traditional website layout, but will adjust in size to fit the buyer's screen, whether he or she uses a smartphone or tablet. The benefit of this approach is twofold: The B2B customer will have a cohesive experience using a user-friendly interface and Google typically rewards websites that are mobile friendly with higher rankings in search results on this type of gadget.
While buyers will likely still need face time with a B2B vendor when they're making a purchase, the earlier stages of the purchasing cycle involve a lot more self-service on the part of the customer. This means companies need to put a special focus on their lead generation and nurturing strategies to keep their brands in buyers' view.