Businesses that sell to other businesses (B2B) are having trouble keeping up in the digital and mobile age. That’s according to a couple of eMarketer articles. The reasons for it are varied, but it may be mostly because they’ve been slow to acknowledge a change in culture.
B2B purchases are not like consumer purchases. I can walk into a store and buy the printer I want because, well, I want it. But if a business needs a printer, someone needs to research the options, evaluate which is best for the company, then make the recommendation to the stakeholders, who then make a recommendation to be approved by management, and then finally the purchase goes to accounting for payment. That’s a generalisation of course. Each business will have its own internal processes, but the basic truth is the same: businesses buy via committee, and usually require multiple approvals (except perhaps very small businesses where the same person wears multiple hats).
But the B2B buyer has changed in the last decade. Where they were once at the mercy of vendors, they can now do their research before ever contacting a sales person. In fact, studies show upwards of 80% of B2B purchases are researched online before someone contacts a company for a quote, demonstration, or trial. And B2B buyers aren’t just searching from their laptop. They are using their mobile devices, checking the social media feeds of companies, getting on email lists, or discussing options in LinkedIn groups.
B2B companies just aren’t adjusting to this mobile, multiple digital channel world according to eMarketer.
Integrating digital communications
In a survey of UK and US B2B professionals, only 28% said they had a formal strategy in place for digital communications. That includes everything such as their social media, emails, websites, online advertising, blogs, SMS messaging, and even video. About 39% were using some kind of informal procedures, but over a third weren’t even trying to integrate. Yet.
A B2B buyer is also a consumer. Though a company has more policies, rules, and procedures they need to go through before making a purchase, the B2B buyer is using their consumer techniques to do research. And the messaging they are getting from B2B companies is inconsistent at best. A social media post may say one thing using a certain tone or branding. But their emails and videos are saying or look like something else.
It provides for a confusing environment for any shopper, let alone one that needs to provide the rationale for purchasing from company A over company B.
The eMarketer article mentioned 64% of B2B companies realised that an integrated approach would provide a better customer experience. It would also help provide consistent messaging and a stronger brand.
Another article on eMarketer talks about how “B2B marketers continue to miss the mobile mark.” Only 51% of B2B marketers in the world say their company even had a budget for mobile marketing at all. And those that did were mixed in terms of the results with less than 10% saying their mobile initiatives were “very effective”.
It may be that their efforts have been misplaced, or at least were incomplete. Half of the respondents mentioned in the eMarketer article said their priority was to get their mobile web pages to load fast. A good goal, but there is something to be said about content too, and channel as well. Mobile is about more than just a web site. But when 75% of B2Bs only give 10% or less of their marketing budget to mobile you can’t probably expect more than that. The good news is that B2B’s reported they planned on increasing their mobile budgets in the coming year.
SMS for mobile and a digital channel
One way for businesses to get started in mobile is to use SMS. It’s a popular digital channel in the consumer market. And that’s the experience the B2B buyer is bringing to their research as a buyer for their business.
SMS messaging can help build relationships between vendors (B2B companies) and buyers. Many business purchases are contractual and it will be worth it in time to develop that relationship with the buyers in the time before the sale, and the years that follow.
With a low cost of entry, SMS is also good for a business’s ROI. The eMarketer article mentioned that the returns businesses saw from mobile investing were not very good. Over 72% said less than 10% of revenue was generated from mobile. But the ROI on SMS messaging is often very high, so they could see a much higher return than with other digital channels.
Mobile and digital channels are not going to go away. In fact their usage will certainly increase. Businesses need to “hit the mobile mark” and strengthen their use of digital channels for better communication and profits. If you’re in one of the businesses that hasn’t yet started a mobile strategy, or hasn’t had much in the way of returns, take a look at what SMS can do for you. You’ll probably be surprised how simple it can be.