Modern Marketing Blog

Cross Channel Marketing | June 25, 2013

Relationship era wins for B2B marketers

RS Components is the leading distributor of electronic, electrical & industrial components. A valued Responsys client, we caught up with their eCommerce marketing expert Harriet Mitchell ahead of her talk at Interact 2013 London.

Q: Interact 2013 is about coming together to move marketing forward. One of the themes we’ll be focusing on is why business to business (B2B) marketers need to put the customer relationship back at the centre of their marketing strategy. How can marketers start doing this?

A: For a business such as RS Components, the development of relationships with our customers is crucial. With a product offer in excess of 550,000 and customers ranging from buyers to engineers, we must tailor our marketing to the needs of the customers. A key consideration, especially in the email marketing space, is the customer’s lifecycle stage. In order to increase the relevancy of communications, it is important to understand how to build engagement with customers from the moment they register to the moment they begin to show lapsing behaviour.

Q: What are the barriers to making this shift in a business to business marketing context?

A: In the B2B environment the complexity of customer ‘types’ can cause barriers to relationship building. At RS, we segment our customers into 4 distinct types. These range from buyers to end users and have varying degrees of product knowledge and interest. It is important that the information B2B marketers send to their customers is relevant to the recipient. For example, sending a technology innovation blog article to a buyer is not likely to encourage engagement; while an electronic engineer may not be concerned about a ‘flexible pricing’ campaign.

Q: Are CMOs on board with this strategy?

A: The theme of relevancy seems to be driving most marketing strategies forward at the moment. There has been a noticeable shift in many organisations away from ‘mass-marketing’ to ‘relationship building’. In my experience CMOs are definitely on-board with this strategy.

Q: How does the relationship with brands differ in a B2B context?

A: The mere fact that B2B customers are driven from a business need rather than a personal one means that relationship building is layered with extra considerations. For example, ‘impulse’ purchases are rare, we must be sure to predict the need of the customer and communicate accordingly. That said customers in the B2B context are also consumers and it is important to remember this. They are familiar with B2C marketing techniques and have come to expect a level of relevancy which is common in the retail world. It is about understanding what works firstly for your business model, but more importantly for your customers.

Q: Can you give a couple of examples of companies that manage customer relationships well?

A: Banks and telecoms companies show how customer service management can help to build relationships and loyalty. Vodafone has shown how focussing their communications based on customer lifecycle stage can move a customer from an occasional user to a brand advocate.

Q: What can Interact 2013 attendees expect to take away from your presentation?

A: Some real life examples of how relevancy and automation can have a positive impact on marketing ROI in spite of the complexity of global B2B business.

Check out our stellar line-up of keynote and customer speakers for Interact 2013: and be sure to follow #MKTG13 on Twitter to join the conversation about moving marketing forward.

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