In the past five years the internet has led to a radical change in the international B2B market. Seventy per cent of the B2B buyer journey now takes place online and anonymously. The traditional sales organisation is losing its grip on the market. Additionally, a new generation of buyers has emerged with a strong online focus and who approach the ‘game’ differently.
Companies that do not develop an adequate online strategy on time will lose out to the smart start-ups and competitors that do respond to that change in time. Here are four reasons why the shift to online marketing is critical to B2B companies.
1. Leads are now online and anonymous
Before coming into actual contact with a company, a potential customer has already taken a considerable online journey, an online journey that takes place anonymously. Leads do not enter into dialogue with a company directly but first they do research, collect knowledge, make choices and define a short list of suppliers. There is no one-on-one contact in this process. At this point, your potential customer only sees companies that present themselves online as a knowledge organisation. Moreover, there is often so much knowledge available online, that to a certain degree, the buyer themselves becomes an expert.
2. New generation of buyers
This trend is intensified by the drop in the age of B2B buyers. In 2015, 46% of professional buyers were between 18 and 35 years old: so-called ‘Millenials’. Moreover, 68% of the staff influencing purchasing decisions is under 45 years of age. In the near future, this group’s influence will only increase more.
Professional buyers say they use smartphones and tablets extensively in their work. Among Millenials, the number is 84%, for Generation X it’s 76% and in the 52+ age group, 60% also says that a mobile device is indispensable for their work. They use their smartphone or tablet to find and consult business-related content.
3. The smartphone is increasingly important in B2B
The B2B-related use of smartphones has tripled in the last 2 years and is almost on a par with desktop. Nevertheless, companies are slow to realise that their marketing strategy must be equally strong on all devices. In reality, companies that are not visible online or cannot be found online – on all devices! – no longer play a role in the selection process of the potential customer.
4. B2B companies are becoming disconnected from international leads
At many internationally operating B2B companies, the marketing & sales organisation is still not geared to creating and maintaining contact with international leads/customers using online channels and a B2B copywriter. Supplying information to customers and contact with customers were often conveniently organised at a distance – in the distribution channel or by local dealers.
However, international leads are looking for information about products and services beyond their own national borders. They do not usually find this information at one single distributor, or – in many cases – on the producer’s site either. How easy is it for international prospects to see and find your company? And does your website supply the appropriate answers to the questions that international prospects are asking in their buyer journey? If it doesn’t, your sales department is losing out on serious potential customers, without even noticing.