As digital marketers, we make tons of decisions every day. We carefully identify targets to develop segments. We match products to prospects and decide which channels and platforms to use to reach them. We are continually adapting to support dynamic business goals and increasingly investing in martech to execute. We focus on driving value by building customer journeys to foster relationships. However, our interactions in those relationships — from channel strategy to messaging — can be very different depending on how we define them.
But the very definition of our channels might be changing too. Just ask Steve Lucas, former Marketo CEO and current Adobe senior vice president of digital experience. While marketing sectors have so far neatly organized under either B2B or B2C, Lucas says Adobe is embracing a new channel strategy dubbed B2E, or business to everyone.
“It’s really business-to-everyone”
“We often have a divergence in terms of how we approach marketing from B2B and B2C,” Lucas told Marketing Land. “The reality is that the divergence makes it difficult to connect the individual profile that we build to the account.” He believes this leads to flaws in how we think about — and engage with — our customers from a marketing perspective.
“We need to take the behaviors and characteristics of the individual people that comprise buying teams to orchestrate experiences for all of those people on the team,” he said.” Unique, specialized and acute experiences that manage to help each customer conclude that the product is the right one.”
Lucas pointed to Amazon as he described the forces driving the need for change in how they define their customers, to stop bucketing people together at the account-level. Instead of marketing to businesses, Adobe is using a personalized, conversational chatbot approach to deliver these experiences. The messaging can be tailored to the different individuals who compose enterprise buying teams, The solution also leverages real-time engagement metrics and sales results to align content to each buyer.
But B2B and B2C designations exist for a reason. We don’t necessarily speak to consumers on either side within the same context. “There needs to be an overarching message to the consumer audience at some point,” said Natasha Humphrey, strategic digital marketing consultant at SmartSearch Marketing. “You can’t eliminate B2B or B2C and go straight to B2E because you need to speak to your audience at a high level during any customer journey.”
But according to Lucas, it is time for a shift. “We’ve reached an inflection point relative to how we engage, how we serve our customers,” says Lucas. “If you think of it in the context of how we actually do it, everything is predicated on CRM.”
The shift to customer-centric marketing
Lucas is right, of course, that CRM software is a fundamental component of today’s businesses. Decisions about many of the engagement tools in our martech stacks are based on their CRM integration capabilities. However, CRM is a sales tool, not a marketing tool. It never was intended to be a vehicle for delivering unique customer experiences.
Lucas said the CRM-driven approach forces marketers to make decisions, limiting us to grouping people into segments. “Essentially, CRM is not customer-centric,” says Lucas. “CXM (customer experience management) flips that upside down.” The difference is, according to Lucas, that CXM is a customer-first approach to marketing to the individual people involved in any type of buying decision.
“CXM breaks from traditional approaches by presenting an entirely new way to deliver customer experience management,” says Lucas. “It helps us understand how people are receiving their messaging, creating opportunities to fine-tune and deliver optimized experiences for the customers.”
The concept of delivering personalized customer experiences isn’t groundbreaking, and the task of executing a business-to-everyone strategy could pose a legitimate challenge to marketers. Humphrey points to the need for solid infrastructure and a seamless martech stack as key success factors for tackling this approach. “The infrastructure needs to be a collaborative effort for marketing to define the strategy, then work with operations and IT to execute,” she said. “That works when those teams work well together. It’s 100% collaboration.”
Despite the need to create experiences through positive interactions with consumers, supporting highly-personalized campaigns looks daunting. Solutions emerging in the martech space to address these needs and help us meet our customers’ expectations are a hopeful indicator that as experiences evolve and revenue becomes increasingly dependent on digital, operationally marketing teams will be able to continue to adapt.