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Insider’s Guide To The Challenges Of On-Demand B2B Marketing

Category: B2B News

ondemandThere is no question about it: The dawn of on-demand marketing is here. It has been touted for several years, and finally, it is already right round the corner. It is a new world out there for businesses, and they should be ready to tackle it out and survive.

New technologies are already radically changing and personalizing the consumer experience everywhere and in real time. Businesses should know it is never too early to prepare.

We are seeing digital marketing entering a more challenging territory. Building on the huge increase in consumer power that has been brought on by today’s digital age, marketing is geared toward being on demand that is responsive and relevant to the consumer’s need for marketing that really cuts through the noise with its pinpoint delivery. This article details the main B2B marketing challenges.

What has been speeding up on-demand marketing is the symbiotic evolution of technology as well as consumer expectations. Already, search technologies of today have made product information and details ubiquitous; social media prod consumers to share information, compare products, rate experiences, and recommend products and services; and mobile devices provide an additional “wherever” dimension to the landscape. Managers encounter this empowerment regularly when, for instance, travelers rely on their smartphone apps to provide a full slate of airline services or cable customers want video programming any time on any device.

Interestingly, all this demand is beginning to seem common and routine. Most leaders in the marketing industry know how to think through and adapt to customer-search needs, so it is no wonder that optimizing search positioning has emerged as one of the most outstanding media outlays. Companies have escalated their publishing and monitoring activities and projects on social channels, hoping to create as well as establish positive experiences customers will hopefully share. Companies are now “engineering” advocacy by establishing automatic, easy ways for the public to post favorable company reviews or to describe their loyalty to and engagement with brands.

We are just getting started. As digital capabilities rise, consumer demands will multiply in four areas:

  1. Interaction now and anytime: Consumers will now want to interact with companies anywhere at any time.
  2. New marketing needs: Consumers will prefer to do truly new things and activities as disparate kinds of information (from data on physical activity financial accounts to) are deployed more efficiently in various ways that create add-on value for them.
  3. Targeted and personalized needs: Consumers will now expect all data or information stored about them to be precisely targeted to their needs and wants or utilized to personalize and tweak what they experience.
  4. Easy interactions: Consumers now expect, in fact demand, all business interactions to be easy.

Interaction now and anytime

Companies have gotten a foretaste of the desire of customers for ubiquity and more urgency. Bank balances becoming low? Send the customer a message alert on her cell phone. An inquiry about fees is asked on a bank’s Twitter account? Post an immediate reply. The immediacy of smartphone apps today made brick-and-mortar contact unnecessary especially those among young consumers, who utilize a good range of mobile services to handle their accounts and rarely physically interact with the brand.

Or how about this example of one European beverage company that did a beta test of beer coasters that have been embedded with NFC technology? A club patron thinking of a new brew can tap the coaster using his or her cell phone and get a history of the brew, bars where this brew is served, upcoming events or promotions, and a list of the patron’s friends who have given the brew a thumbs-up.

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In this marketing environment, a company’s “publishing” goes deeper in virtualized media. Digital information tools and technologies, integrating information on all consumer interactions across the decision journey, will give businesses new insights into on how to influence people into using their products and services, while at the same time using new personalized experiences for them.

New marketing needs

This one of the main B2B marketing challenges. Most first-wave digital technologies helped consumers access things they did already such as finding information, banking, and shopping. However, in this dawn of on-demand marketing, new interface possibilities, robust programming, and data-access could make digital interactions always an opportunity to deliver something unprecedented.

Take for instance the new smartphone app of Commonwealth Bank of Australia, which transforms the house-hunting experience for customers. A prospective home buyer starts by taking a photo of a house he or she favors. Using image-recognition software program as well as location-based technologies, the smartphone app then identifies the house and provides the property price, taxes, along with other pertinent information. The app then links the buyer’s personal financial data and (plus additional links to lender databases) evaluates whether the buyer can be preapproved by the bank for a mortgage (and, if yes, in what amount). This almost instantaneous series of consumer interactions drastically cuts through the hassle of searching for real-estate agents’ sites for properties and then linking with the mortgate brokers or agents for financing, which could take a week.

The mortgage app gives us an idea how the digital environment is integrating disparate sources of information for many new domains, at low cost and at scale. The challenge for businesses these days is to move further from today’s interfaces and consumer interactions and to realize that in order to survive in the future, today’s marketing require a rethinking of aspects of pricing, delivery, packaging, and products.

Targeted and personalized needs

A number of online marketers are already using features in mobile devices such as cameras and touch screens to enable consumers to see what accessories or apparel may actually look like or appear when worn. Web retailer Warby Parker, for instance, offers tons of customized views of eyeglasses that are overlaid on a Webcam photo of the consumer.

In the future, there will be more intensified demands for customized and more personalized experiences. A click, phone tap, or a stylus jot will immediately personalize offers, using data captured on Facebook “likes” for example on income, recent travel, what friends like or are doing, and much more. With each consumer interaction, the consumer will be establishing new information footprints and streams that will complement existing digital portraits, refining their potential impact. Facebook will soon be able to mine the largest database of photographs in the world, linking people to their activities. Smartphones at present have rich data on any place where one has traveled with one in his or her pocket. This is just the beginning, and the security, privacy, and general trust implications are unprecedented. However, consumers consistently have a desire to give more data when businesses use captured information to truly provide helpful feedback to provide services, recommendations, and customization tools rather than just push to consumers what might seem to be intrusive or at the very least creepy messaging.

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Easy interactions

The quest for simplicity prompted Amazon to establish a subscriber model for delivering repeat-buy items that are bulky (such as diapers) and Starbucks to create a tap-and-go approach when it comes to mobile payments. Yet many consumer interactions remain fragmented and complex: to name just some, organizing, finding, and redeeming online coupons; converting weekly meal plans into web-based delivery orders; tracking your yearly or monthly cash flow; and keeping it up with health-insurance bills and reimbursements.

Changing consumer behavior partnered with evolving digital technologies should make it easier for companies to redesign many complex experiences. For example, businesses that offer inherently complicated services or products could overlay a game interface on some Web pages, to allow consumers play at evaluating different options and prices. Visual-recognition technology for instance could allow consumers to scan receipts, statements, health-care bills, and appointments into one big integrated calendar as well as cash-management system. Already, there are start-ups in expense, sales-force management, and travel that are experimenting with various approaches that streamline processes and make consumer interactions more inviting—with the help of touch and swipe to make modifications, gestures to set up large displays, and data in mobile phones to recognize customers and automatically customize interfaces.

Better interactions during the customer’s decision journey

Today, a lot of businesses have accomplished in defining and addressing customer interactions across some channels. However, what they need to be designing is the entire story of how consumers encounter a brand and the possible steps they take in order to evaluate, purchase, and relate to the brand across the decision journey. Customer research or marketing cannot do this alone.

To win over on-demand consumers, businesses must know them, their expectations, and what works with them, and finally, having the ability to reach these consumers with the right type of interaction. Data lie at the center of efforts to establish that understanding—data to define as well as contextualize trends, data to evaluate the effectiveness of investments and activities at major points in the decision journey, and data to realize why and how people move along those journeys.

To meet that potential, businesses need three distinct data lenses:

Telescope. A clear bird’s eye view of the overall trends in your brand, market, and category is essential. Digital sources that monitor what consumers are looking for (search), what they are saying (social monitoring), and what they are doing (tracking mobile, online, and in-store activities) are rivers of input that provide constant signals of possible opportunity or warning signs of trouble. Many businesses are drowning in various reports from vendors providing these information tools, but only few have clarity on which things or issues they need to look for, who needs to know what, among others.

Binoculars. Against this landscape of market activity, few organizations have an integrated, complete picture of how they use their money, which interactions do actually happen, and what their final outcomes are. Many direct-sales companies (such as banks, retailers, travel services) measure the performance of their company spending through analyses that narrowly look at what customers do after confronting an email, advertisement, or a search link.

Microscope. Trust is important, and personalization can tell customers that they matter to the company. They expect, nay demand, a brand to be a great steward and user of data or information about them and, increasingly, have high demands and expectations for what a company should know.

By Louie Andre

B2B & SaaS market analyst and senior writer for FinancesOnline. He is most interested in project management solutions, believing all businesses are a work in progress. No stranger to small business hiccups and drama, having been involved in a few internet startups. Prior to his for-profit ventures, he has had managed corporate communications for a Kansas City-based Children International unit.

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