The Buyer-Experience Becomes a Strategic Driver of Growth As B2B Companies Accelerate their Shift to Digital

New research identifies opportunities and challenges for frontline marketing teams as they become the architects of end-to-end buyer journeys

In the wake of COVID-19, B2B firms are doubling down on buyer experience strategies to fuel growth in a digital-first marketplace, according to a recent survey of marketing professionals conducted by Folloze in partnership with the Demand Gen Report. Overnight, the pandemic raised the bar and put B2B companies on notice that they must deliver the same digitally-rich personalized experiences — the hallmarks of B2C brands such as Starbucks, Airbnb, and Uber — or perish. The research found that marketers expect to play a leading role as digital architects of personalized buyer journeys. At the same time, respondents did not feel empowered to deliver on their mandate, signaling the need for a more agile operating model led by frontline marketing teams.

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“One of the most interesting trends we saw from the survey was around the continued evolution of marketing’s role, and the further convergence of marketing and sales at critical engagement points with buyers”

“One of the most interesting trends we saw from the survey was around the continued evolution of marketing’s role, and the further convergence of marketing and sales at critical engagement points with buyers,” said Andrew Gaffney, Editorial Director for Demand Gen Report. “The data really underscored the emergence of a ‘frontline marketer,’ who no longer just passes leads over the fence, but works actively with SDRs and account teams on educating members of the buying committing and enabling purchases at all stages, whether a buyer wants to self-navigate or requires support with customized and relevant content.”

The COVID-19 Catalyst that Forever Changed Marketing

COVID-19 accelerated digital selling and upended long-held beliefs about the need for in-person meetings and traditional go-to-market motions. Reflecting these buyer-centric trends, the Folloze-Demand Gen Report Research uncovered four significant themes:

1. B2B firms finally take a page from the B2C playbook to fuel growth: In a post-pandemic marketplace, creating connected, contextual, and personalized digital experiences are core to driving growth. With an eye to replicating the success of their B2C marketing counterparts, 99% percent of respondents unanimously cited the importance of personalized content, messaging, and journeys to engage today’s digital-first buyers.

2. Marketing is the only organization that can lead the digital-first mandate: The survey found that 50 percent of marketers believe that a digital-first marketplace will create hybrid GTM models that elevates the marketing function. In this model, marketing will lead and become the architects of digital experiences across the entire buyer journey with support from the direct sales team.

3. An expanded mandate gives rise to the “frontline marketerWhen asked to rank the top three execution challenges associated with buyer engagement, respondents cited delivering a consistent experience (63%), engaging today’s digital-first buyer (57%), and delivering personalization at scale (49%).

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With their new digital-first mandate, marketers must develop a strong execution muscle as they build end-to-end buyer journeys. The research found that only 25 percent of respondents felt they could successfully drive growth — and at scale — across every phase of the buyer journey.

A digital-first GTM model is shining the spotlight on customer-facing – or frontline – marketing teams in the field. These “frontline marketers” know what their buyers want and how to deliver the engaging experiences that build trust and relationships. Yet, successful execution across the entire buyer journey and delivering a predictable pipeline will require a fundamentally new operating model that eliminates organizational silos and empowers frontline marketing teams with agile tools and data-driven best practices.

4. Sales Becomes a High Value Channel: In a digital-first environment where buyers are comfortable with digital self-service and discovery, the sales team becomes one of many channels that marketers will leverage across the entire B2B buyer journey. Within the survey, one-third of respondents said the most significant challenge with their sales counterparts is orchestrating digital campaigns that incorporate the sales team across different stages of the customer lifecycle.

“Marketers have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build the next-gen digital engines of growth,” said Randy Brasche, Vice President of Marketing at Folloze. “At the same time, marketers know they can’t execute against this strategic mandate using the old-school tools and analog go-to-market models of the past. The findings from our B2B buyer research with the Demand Gen Report underscores the need for marketing to fundamentally rethink their teams and empower frontline marketers that know what their buyers want.”

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