The history of business-to-business (B2B) marketing is a brief but winding one. Beginning as early as the 1920s, companies created targeted advertising in trade publications, urging other companies to purchase their wares. Mail-order catalogs followed these advertisements; and, eventually, enabled by the internet, today’s demand-generation marketing funnels arrived, ready to absorb website traffic and hopefully leave behind business leads.
Consumerization of B2B
In most respects, the mechanisms through which B2C and B2B marketers operate are one and the same. Data aggregation and analysis is the cornerstone of a sound marketing operation. We amass information, sort and analyze it by signals like purchase behavior, and build, with that data, targeted marketing campaigns across an array of channels. One channel that has become prevalent but still leaves question marks for B2B marketers is mobile. These days, most people have a mini computer in their pocket. Do B2B purchase decisions flow through mobile channels?
It would seem that the rise of smartphone use among consumers has mirrored that of usage among B2B buyers. As far back as 2015, the Demand Generation Report about content preferences found that 86 percent reported accessing content on their smartphones. This change in consumption habits is happening in tandem with the spread of younger generations in the workplace. A 2016 Salesforce survey found that 84 percent of millennials believe their mobile device is essential to their work, compared to 76 percent of Gen-Xers and just 60 percent of Baby Boomers.
Younger, digital-native generations are earning their way into decision-making positions. Marketers must adjust their strategies to meet the preferences of this growing portion of the workforce. And these buying behavior trends and evolving norms aren’t limited to certain generations. According to 2017 research from Boston Consulting Group (BCG), B2B marketing leaders reported that mobile marketing was already driving or influencing 40 percent of their revenues.
Turning researchers into buyers isn’t as simple as pushing content out through mobile channels. According to BCG, “Today’s B2B buyers look for the same digital experience they encounter as consumers.” According to Salesforce’s 2018 “State of the Connected Customer” report, “consumers and business buyers alike seek differentiated experiences based on trust and understanding, and will shop around to find them.” It is up to B2B marketers to offer differentiated mobile experiences that help to build trust and understanding.
Starting and Guiding the Purchase Journey
Mobile experiences should also, per recent research published in the Journal of Marketing, drive buyers to make purchases on non-mobile platforms. “Conversion rates are higher when consumers start on a mobile device and end on a less mobile device,” researchers found. B2B marketers should refocus their attention on creating a buying journey that begins on mobile and ends with a desktop decision, as “Mobile devices play an invaluable role in supporting the final (and often more lucrative) conversions that occur on fixed devices.”
The 2019 Demand Gen Content Preferences report sheds some light on how marketers can approach building these types of mobile customer journeys. Buyers want more “trustworthy content and reliable sources,” such as analyst reports, and recommendations from colleagues and peers. Case studies and webinars are the two most valuable types of content, as buyers will spend more time consuming those formats and are more willing to provide personal information to access those types of content.
Of course, ebooks, white papers and webinars aren’t exactly mobile-friendly formats. But, this knowledge represents an opportunity for progressive B2B marketers, starting with mobile-friendly content that aligns with what prospects and buyers seek at any stage of their buying process. If the goal is to help buyers eventually watch, on their laptops, a webinar that begets a purchase, then the entire marketing journey must keep that in mind, leading mobile researchers to that stage.
The Purpose-built Mobile Experience
It goes without saying that websites must be optimized for mobile browsing. Now, however, marketing content formats such as whitepapers, ebooks, videos, and infographics must be mobile-friendly, and easy to share. Mobile is a unique and important format that’s used at different times of day than desktop devices, and must be treated as such. In the B2B sales cycle, mobile is often critical for the beginning and middle of the shopping experience, and depending on the nature of the purchase, could very well be instrumental in the latter end of the buyer’s journey. Thoroughly understanding your buyers and the journey they take is the starting point to designing a thoughtful, well curated learning and buying experience for your market.
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This article was originally published by MarTech Advisor on March 29, 2019.