Back in 2014, Gartner predicted that customer experience would be the new marketing battlefield. In their research study, they found that 89% of marketers expect customer experience to be their primary differentiation by 2017.
The belief that UX is not relevant in the B2B space, mattering only for B2C marketers, is the dominating misperception driving the ineffectiveness among B2B leaders. The reality is that the lines between B2B and B2C marketing have been blurring for some time now, and that digital disruption has exponentially accelerated the convergence of the two.
The sobering implication is that user expectations on optimal brand experiences transcend industries, sectors and countries. As McKinsey and Company CX experts and research analysts shared, customers have set a high bar with experience expectations and are migrating those to B2B. As a result, adopting a customer-centric mindset is just as critical in B2B especially with increasing challenges for B2B marketers to grow brand awareness, customer retention and market share. Additionally, shifting to this customer experience-driven marketing model can prove to be a key competitive advantage as 88% of B2B marketers rate themselves as ineffective at delivering consistent customer experience according to a 2016 B2B Customer Experience Benchmark Report from Kapost.
So for marketing leaders who want to develop a customer experience marketing strategy for 2017 and improve performance results, here are three key actions you should take to get started:
1. Build UX capabilities: User experience as a strategic capability is still an emerging and evolving discipline. Not to be confused with information architecture (IA), user interfaces (UI) or usability, user experience encompasses all aspects of a customer’s interaction with the company, its services and its products. Given the depth and breadth of user experience, it should not be surprising that the discipline is composed of multiple skillsets: strategic planning, customer research and analytical insights, communications development, and multi-channel marketing.
Despite the lore of finding these multi-faceted unicorns, they do exist and you can build your UX capabilities by either hiring them in-house or outsourcing to agencies.
2. Develop target audience personas: Creating meaningful personas is not an easy process. That said, it does not need to be overwhelmingly complex either. Initiate the persona development process in a phased approach, understanding that it will be an iterative process. A common trap that clients get into is relying on customer profiles as substitutes for personas. The problem is that profiles are often based on demographic information such as age or internally defined characteristics (e.g. customer profile x represents 50% of your sales), and are not usually actionable from a strategic perspective.
Personas will and should have demographic or business contribution elements, but should be grounded in customer needs and motivations. As a result, personas should be grounded in research, ideally primary research complemented by industry or secondary research.
For marketers who have existing personas, validate and refine them through quantitative research or by user testing. Regardless of your persona development phase, make sure that you have clearly defined objectives so that personas are actionable. For example, if your website experience is a critical touchpoint for your target audience, employ personas to optimize site messages, content and experiences based on their needs.
3. Map out the customer journey of your personas: User experience is an extension of your brand identity and positioning. You can’t have a bad user experience and say that innovation and service are pillars of your value proposition. Once you truly embrace this belief, you will understand that customer journey mapping is an enterprise exercise, and should not be limited to the marketing team. “Good customer journey development” looks like cross-functional teams with intimate customer knowledge collaborating to piece together key brand experience touch-points, which serve as customer journey priorities for optimization. In this process, participants take on a truly customer-centric mindset and should be functionally agnostic. As a result of this collective mapping, the team should be able to identify opportunities for experience differentiation.
Persona development and customer journey mapping go hand in hand. Similar to persona development, it’s important to understand that journey mapping is an iterative process that should be revisited and refined over time with changes to your products and services. More importantly, it’s critical for teams to take ownership and accountability for experience delivery, knowing that optimal brand experiences necessitate organizational and operational alignment and coordination.