For the past decade, B2B marketers have aspired to achieve the level of personalization now common in B2C marketing, particularly among disruptive direct-to-consumer brands.
Yet, 42% of B2B marketers say their marketing efforts are not fully personalized, although 77% agree that personalization builds better customer relationships. Accordingly, more B2B brands are turning their attention to improving personalized content, with an impressive 82% of B2Bs saying they’ll use artificial intelligence to help personalize customer experiences online in the next three years.
At the same time, while personalization is becoming table stakes for effectively communicating with today’s B2B buyers, the B2B customer journey itself is undergoing rapid transformation—which is being accelerated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
As B2B marketers plan their personalization road maps, they need to be doing so with a new reality in mind: The B2B buyer journey of the future is going to be even more self-directed.
Align, don’t hijack
Today’s B2B customer relationships have been heavily built around a reality that has quickly vanished in the face of COVID-19—and doesn’t show signs of returning anytime soon.
Massive industry events where “getting business done” was a primary focus, along with masterfully crafted in-person meetings and outings intended to establish relationships with prospective clients, have all gone by the wayside. And though some of that face-to-face activity will be renewed over time, much of it might not be.
That’s because buyers were already heading down an increasingly self-guided path, well before COVID-19 struck. Future planning for B2B personalization needs to recognize—more than ever—that marketing and sales teams are even in less control of the buyer journey.