B2B customers have changed – now it’s the marketer’s turn

There’ve been two stories recently that everyone in B2B marketing should take note of – especially B2B agencies.

The first is Accenture’s bold statement saying it will be ‘the biggest Customer Experience company in the world’. And the second comes from Adland. Nils Leonard and crew are setting up ‘a new kind of Agency’ (heard that one before?)

But neither has anything to do with B2B marketing. Or have they?

Both stories combined tell us that seismic change is afoot in the marketing industry and is already hitting the world of B2B, and that this change is ultimately led by the customer.

The inconvenient truth is that customers have a sceptical lens with which to view anything that looks or smells like ‘marketing veneer’, which means they’ve become particularly adept at filtering out advertising or ‘comms’.

Accenture’s move tells us that big brands (not necessarily the marketing function) have realised the inefficacy of just doing ‘comms’ and the urgent need to look at the Customer Experience, in all its forms. Nils Leonard’s Uncommon is a move that says the creative industry needs to help in other and more important areas than just the marketing communications task.

This is relevant in B2B because the end customers obviously care more about the product and the experience than they do about the latest piece of communications. The marketing industry needs to focus on what’s actually valuable, interesting and useful to the customer.

And this means changing a few big things:

  • Expanding our thinking (and remit) to go beyond communications (we cannot continue to just do ‘one of the P’s – promotion).
  • Look more laterally at the marketing problems we’re presented with (the answer doesn’t have to be ‘do a campaign’).
  • Focusing marketing effort far more on what adds value to the customer
  • Taking on and fixing customer experience – from initial contact through to onboarding and then ongoing customer management. In many businesses this will drive the numbers far more than acquisition programmes. Marketing needs to own this.

This is not a new idea: McKinsey forewarned us three years ago.

But have we made progress?

Ultimately this more holistic approach will add more value to customers, which in turn will add far more value to the businesses we work for.

If we don’t change, I’ve a feeling Accenture will be quite happy to take on the task for us…