John Deere touts customer service as a focal point of marketing campaigns
"Companies are putting in place robust, ongoing communication streams that are triggered based on the relationship between the customer and the marketer," she says. "People have been drooling over triggered email and talking about it for years, but thanks to marketing automation, it is starting to hit its stride."
New tools have been rolling out to help marketers strengthen and measure their retention and CRM efforts over the customer's entire lifecycle. In June, email services firm StrongMail launched Lifecycle Marketing, which allows email marketers to design, automate and track their triggered email marketing programs.
The same month, Adobe launched the Adobe Digital Enterprise Platform for Customer Experience Management, which draws on its own internal retention efforts. The platform allows companies to build multichannel digital interactions for social and mobile customers, connecting marketing and IT with customers. At the same time, Adobe introduced six Customer Experience Solutions for b-to-b use, meant to correspond with six points during the customer lifecycle.
"More and more, b-to-b companies are moving away from a reactive, sales request-driven approach to customer marketing toward a fact-based approach," says Megan Heuer, service director of marketing operations strategies for SiriusDecisions, a b-to-b sales and marketing consultancy. "An insight-driven process means companies know specifically what opportunity resides in their customer accounts, and the likely challenges they'll have in winning it."
Technology is being used in other ways to boost enterprise success. For Mitsubishi Electric Cooling & Heating, distributors and contractors who sell the company's products are the primary target of its b-to-b retention efforts, and technology is a key tool.
"In the last year or two, our focus has shifted to how do we disseminate the massive amount of information we have to our sales channel in the most concise and up-to-date way possible?" says Gabriel Weiss, program manager of interactive and emerging technologies at Mitsubishi Electric Cooling & Heating. "We use technology to promote and sell our technology."
Among such new technologies are Microsoft Tag quick response codes included in the company's brochures and product literature. When a distributor or end user scans a barcode with a smartphone, it takes him to informational websites and YouTube videos featuring customer testimonials. The videos are meant not only to interest the end user in the product, but to showcase the distributors as knowledgeable thought leaders, Weiss says.
Mitsubishi also recently rolled out an enterprise-based iPad program for contractors not available to the general public, offering in-home selling materials, videos, presentations and other tools.
"We try to provide our customers — the contractors who are actually in the home — as many tools to support them from a selling or education standpoint as possible," explains Weiss. "We support them as often, with as much stuff as we can."The end of b-to-b as we know it? As advancing technology has allowed the physical workspace to become virtually unnecessary, distinctions between b-to-b and b-to-c marketing have come into question. Segal raised some eyebrows late last year when he declared "the death of b-to-b" at a marketing conference in Berlin.
"The individual is carrying their own computing power on their person and has transcended the firm as the principal organization element in b-to-b communication," Segal says.
With work-life and home-life boundaries in flux, Segal contends, it has become more important than ever to appeal to clients in inspirational and emotional ways — as humans, rather than as organizations.
Segal mentions a print ad Gyro created for John Deere, featuring a lumberjack looking across a vast forest and the tagline, "We work for the guys who look down on the clouds."
"Ninety percent of business decision making is emotional, and yet if we were to comb through the archives of b-to-b marketing communications anywhere, most are rational in their flavor and character," says Segal. "We need to appreciate how to touch the human emotion, especially when speaking to b-to-b customers."