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What Are the Barriers to Optimizing the B2B Customer Experience?

September 11th, 2019 Andrew Warren-Payne

This post is the latest in our series on B2B marketing optimization and how to take your marketing efforts to the next level.

Our previous post on the theme of B2B marketing optimization made the case that marketers should optimize for the entire customer journey – not just the part that happens before the handover to sales.

Taking such an approach can drive optimization in a direction that focuses not just the metrics of a single department, or even on the metrics of a single company. Instead, the approach can change to one that puts the customer first.

Why the speed of technological change makes a focus on the customer essential

Editor of chiefmartec.com Scott Brinker has described a conundrum that is present within businesses today – namely that while technology changes at an exponential rate, organizations change logarithmically. This phenomenon has been dubbed Martec’s Law.

What this means is that although marketing is improving all of the time, the gap between expectations and practice keeps on getting wider.

Brinker suggests that one solution to this issue is that marketers need to “ruthlessly prioritize” what changes they need to make.

If companies don’t change in this fashion, there is a risk they will join the rapidly growing cohort of companies that are disappearing.

In terms of the theme of optimization, focusing on the customer and their experience provides a lens by which we can ruthlessly prioritize any efforts.

A survey of more than 12,000 marketers by Adobe and Econsultancy found that companies with a “very advanced” level of customer experience were almost three times more likely to have exceeded their business goals “by a significant margin”. So it comes as no surprise that the same report notes that the top priority for B2B marketers in 2019 was optimizing the customer experience.

That being said, there are a number of likely hurdles that B2B marketing leaders will have to overcome to make sure they can effectively optimize the customer experience across the entire buying journey.

Indeed, a customer experience study by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services found that about half of marketers are struggling to use technology to create experiences that are the same as face-to-face interactions.

Four key barriers that marketing leaders need to remove

1. Siloed incentives and targets

The standard revenue model for B2B organizations typically divides up targets based on the various stages of the customer journey.

For example, the most commonly used metric for marketers according to a study by Demand Gen Report is the MQL. After this, a sales development team might then be targeted on new opportunities or meetings booked, while more senior sales team members are then actually targeted on the number and value of closed deals. Customer success teams might then focus on renewal volume and value.

These are all worthwhile metrics to optimize for. However, in the absence of joint incentives, each team might work separately to game the figures they personally are responsible for in a given month, quarter or year. Marketing might chase MQLs that are unlikely to result in sales; sales development team members might book meetings that aren’t qualified; salespeople looking for a bonus might ignore a swathe of opportunities in pursuit of deals they can close quickly before the month-end; customer success teams only reach out a few weeks before renewal. Put together, this can lead to a disconnected experience, which ill-thought-through attempts at optimization might actually exacerbate.

Backing this point up is the fact that, according to the Harvard Business Review study, having a siloed organizational structure is the most commonly-cited barrier to more customized customer interactions.

As such, B2B marketing leaders need to get buy-in and joint ownership for shared objectives from the very top.

2. Poor relationships with sales and customer success teams

Siloed incentives and targets are often both caused by and a cause of ineffective relationships between teams responsible for revenue. When teams are also split physically, nurturing and improving relationships can be a further struggle.

So how can relationships be improved? In our post on making your marketing team more agile, one of the discussed approaches was to adopt the eight-step change model proposed by John Kotter.

After creating a sense of urgency, the second step is to build a coalition of people that can help drive through change in different departments. Look to identify colleagues in different teams that are open to optimizing the whole customer journey and can evangelize on your behalf in their own teams.

3. Disconnected data and ineffective technology

When it comes to optimizing the entire customer journey, another common challenge comes down to disconnected data.

If it cannot be ascertained which efforts earlier in the customer journey impacted on the deals that closed or the renewals won, a holistic approach to optimization becomes difficult to develop.

Even if data on each customer touchpoint is captured, if your technology systems such as marketing automation and CRM do not bring this together, identifying the opportunities for optimization can become at the best case tedious, and in the worst case it can lead to the wrong conclusions.

Overhauling a technology stack can be a daunting process, so instead, marketing leaders should look for areas that can bring rapid improvement. Identifying a small number of data fields such as the lead source or marketing campaign IDs that can be included within CRM systems, or sales opportunity stages and values that can be passed back to marketing automation platforms, can help greatly in choosing priorities for optimization. ON24 Connect provides an easy way to pass data from webinars into both CRM systems and marketing automation platforms.

You might find out what campaigns and content really drove results, and which need to be either optimized or revisited.

4. A lack of accurate customer insight

Even if you have shared targets, great relationships and a marketing technology stack that captures every single possible data point, it’s still possible that the customer intelligence you have is limited, or captured only in the heads of those that have direct contact with them.

Make sure that you are speaking with both your customers and also the prospects that chose not to buy. Webinars are of course one way to do this, but there are other methods too. Surveys, phone calls, interviews, or even just a meeting for coffee can help to identify which parts of the customer journey were lacking – and as a result, find out what can be optimized further.

For further information about how you can use technology to improve the B2B customer experience, download the HBR report to understand how you can best reach your next generation of customers in today’s always evolving digital age.