Why B2B marketers are putting growth and retention at risk by ignoring distressed buyers

Why B2B marketers are putting growth and retention at risk by ignoring distressed buyers

This has been a year of turmoil, but for certain industries, the opportunity has never been greater. Technology is an obvious one – as an enabler for the remote, contactless world we are all now living and working in, businesses that build and sell tech should be in a prime position to help enterprise customers. They are crying out for support and prepared to put their money where their mouth is. You only have to look at the results of the likes of Zoom and Microsoft to see the last year has put a real focus on acquiring technology to deliver new ways of operating.

Yet at the same time, data suggests that not all suppliers, or more specifically their sales and marketing functions, are getting it right. In fact, as we head towards 2021, prospects are increasingly feeling let down by the sales and marketing approaches of potential partners, with 42% of enterprises finding it more difficult to make buying decisions, according to the latest Customer Buying Index from Momentum.

That percentage of respondents has been considered ‘distressed buyers’ by the Index, and they are wrestling with a number of issues. Firstly, there is the challenge of shrinking budgets – technology may be critical to continuity and success, but restricted revenues and cash flow means many buyers are having to be more selective in what they invest in.

The new business approach

Then there is the challenge of business in a post-covid ‘virtual first’ world. Gone are the in-person meetings, demonstrations, and fact-finding events; instead there are Zooms, phone calls and endless webinars. Everyone is having to navigate this new approach to business; but ultimately it is making it much harder to generate the connections that can be critical to securing deals – 94% of those distressed buyers said that informal meetings, such as lunches and events, with vendors are important when building relationships.

Not being in the office seems to be having an impact on vendors as well – almost two fifths of enterprise said sales teams are more disconnected and struggling to speak to the same number of people as they did pre-pandemic. Little wonder then that more than half of the customers surveyed complained that potential suppliers do not even share information efficiently across their own teams.

Furthermore, suppliers were marked down in proactivity, frequency of communications and business insights. It all points to sales and marketing teams failing to make the most of the reduced number of interactions they have, and ultimately putting business growth and customer retention at risk.

From volume to customised value

What then can sales and marketing teams do to arrest this slump and avoid losing customers and prospects? It starts by moving away from volume.

Historically there has perhaps been a presumption that digital marketing tools mean being able to reach a huge number of contacts simultaneously, with the minimum of personalisation. Eventually, something will stick, and a more detailed conversation can begin.

There is a danger that this attitude has carried into this new virtual-first world, particularly if marketers have been reinvesting certain marketing budgets (such as events) into digital channels.

If face-to-face meetings have stopped, but digital communications have increased, it is little wonder that distressed buyers have the sense that they are on the receiving end of a monologue, rather than engaged in a dialogue.

That is why vendors need to reconsider their volume-based tactics. Buyers are not anti-digital; in fact, very much the opposite. One study from McKinsey states that “B2B decision makers globally say that online and remote selling is as effective as in-person engagement, or even more so.”

What sales and marketing teams need to be doing, however, is making sure each interaction adds value. That covers everything, from personalising the approach itself, to investing in the content and ensuring it delivers true, differentiated insight that articulates a clear vision, and allows the prospect to be able to engage in a manner that goes beyond filling in a form.

You can only do this if there is alignment between sales and marketing and both functions are taking the time to understand customer needs and pain points. Moreover, they are then taking this knowledge to make the clear link between their solution and the prospect’s problem.

This might seem like basic, bread-and-butter customer insights, but as the Index shows, it clearly is not being followed as a matter of course. Or if it is, it does not bring the level of customisation that buyers, whether distressed or not, are looking for.

This does not mean making sure you get someone’s name right, but that the content they are receiving is tailored to both the business concerns and their role.

In B2B buying terms, that also means considering the number of decision-makers, buying influencers and stakeholders that are involved in purchasing cycles. It is a complex process and demonstrates exactly why marketers need to be relentless in their pursuit of delivering value.

Ultimately, it is the job of marketing and sales to facilitate the buying process. A huge part of this is enabling customers to get everyone internally on board and be confident in the purchasing decisions being made.

Success in a virtual-first reality

As businesses gear up for an unknown future, being able to secure growth and retain customers is front of mind. But our virtual-first reality means that the old approaches need to be upended. With buyers increasingly distressed, a customised approach that focuses on building relationships is critical. Marketers must not sacrifice value for volume – the likelihood of success through the latter is only going to continue to diminish, and with it opportunities for future prosperity.