Why Customer Experience Matters Most For B2B Marketers

The biggest mistake that many companies make in their B2B sales and marketing activities is the way they fragment or silo different touchpoints in the customer journey among disparate functional teams. And, worse, the way they make it difficult for those teams to work together. Customer experience matters for B2B marketers. You’d think you would make that easier to bring to life.

You’ve got a product marketing group that develops the content around your products. You’ve got a content team that develops landing and promotional pages. You’ve got a search marketing team that tries to drive people to those pages. You’ve got a social marketing team, ditto. You’ve got a conversion rate optimization squad that tries to generate leads. You’ve got a CRM team that focuses on developing those leads, funneling them to the right salespeople, and turning them into sales. Or you’ve got one very overworked team trying to do all of these at the same time. And who don’t have near enough time to work together.

You’d think that in 2019, this wouldn’t still be true. “Customer experience is queen” and all that. But, since people keep hiring us to help them untangle that knot, it seems that’s not the case.

Don’t get me wrong. I love helping clients sort out these problems. But that’s clearly not the best solution for your customers. Here’s why. And what you can do about it.

Here’s the thing. Your customers, without being mean about it, don’t really care about you. They care about their own needs, their own problems. As the old joke goes, “Your customer doesn’t want a drill. They want a hole.” At best, especially early in your relationship to the customer, you’re a solution to a problem. Over time, with patience, skill, and more luck than any of us want to acknowledge, you can become a trusted partner. But at the start, you exist only to — and only if you — solve a problem.

That’s why most folks start with search. We consistently see sites receiving at least 40% to 60% of their traffic from organic and, to a lesser extent, paid search traffic. The good news is that the customer is telling you what she wants. She’s literally asking for your help. The bad news is that so few sites succeed in answering her question. Isn’t that part of the customer experience?

In fact, it’s the first chance you get to both create a great experience and to develop a relationship. Why aren’t those better connected? What questions do your best customers ask? Is that information shared with your search marketing team? With your product marketing team? With your content team? If not, why not?

When you fail to connect these functions, you risk breaking the steps of the customer journey — and of breaking the customer experience. It’s tough to create a great customer experience or a great customer relationship when you don’t listen to the questions your customer asks and help them move from one step of the journey to the next.

The truth is that you care about customer experience because it literally informs every step in that customer’s journey. You care about search because, for most companies, it represents the first step in that journey. You care about account-based marketing (ABM) because it helps connect you with the specific needs of an individual customer. You care about behavior-based personalization because, well, it does the same thing.

So how can you fix this? It’s simpler than you might think.

Grab your colleagues from another team. Order a pizza or two. Start talking. Start sharing data. Start measuring where you lose your customers along the way. And start working together to fix those breaks.

Customer experience matters for B2B marketers. In fact, I’ve gone so far as to say many times that customer experience is queen. For B2B marketers, it’s especially true. So give homage to the queen. Help your team get to know her. And don’t be surprised when she showers you with riches.

Originally posted on Biznology.

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About Tim Peter

Tim Peter is the President of SoloSegment. An expert in e-commerce and digital marketing strategy, web development, search marketing, and analytics, Tim focuses on the growth of the social, local, mobile web and its impact on both consumer behavior and business results. SoloSegment provides analytics that improve site search conversion and machine learning technologies that improve content effectiveness.

What Marketers Can Learn From Facebook’s Privacy Mess

In my work at SoloSegment and with individual clients, I spend tons of time working at the intersections of marketing, artificial intelligence, data, and privacy. I suspect the same is true for you too. Of course, that means we all spend lots of time working with — and worrying about — the role played by Amazon, Google, Apple, Microsoft, and especially given their recent missteps with regard to data and privacy, Facebook. Which is why Mark Zuckerberg’s recent opinion piece in the Washington Post proved so fascinating. Zuckerberg talked about Facebook’s challenges, and to address these asked for government regulation in a number of areas:

“But if we were starting from scratch, we wouldn’t ask companies to make these judgments alone…From what I’ve learned, I believe we need new regulation in four areas: harmful content, election integrity, privacy and data portability.” [Emphasis added]

Why does Facebook think that’s important? The main reason is because, as Zuckerberg continues:

Lawmakers often tell me we have too much power over speech, and frankly I agree. I’ve come to believe that we shouldn’t make so many important decisions about speech on our own. So we’re creating an independent body so people can appeal our decisions.

Whoo-boy. There’s a lot going on here that needs unpacking. So, let’s dive in.

First, kudos to Facebook for recognizing two facts:

  1. Whether intentionally or not, the social giant has actively contributed to divisive, harmful conduct on the Internet.
  2. They probably shouldn’t be the final arbiter of the solution.

I agree wholeheartedly with both points. And good on Facebook for acknowledging their mistakes. Seriously. As, the saying goes, “the first step is admitting you have a problem.”

At the same time, I have a number of issues with the rest of the op-ed due to its potential effects for consumers and competitors alike.

For starters, as Brian Heater and Josh Contine write at TechCrunch:

“The op-ed rings somewhat hollow, though, because there’s plenty that Facebook could do to improve in these four areas without help from the government.”

Yep. Facebook is wise to turn over disputes around its policies to a third party, but why does it need a third party — in this case, the government — to tell them what its policies should be? In part, I suspect, because Zuckerberg and Facebook want to shape whatever form those regulations take.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m not opposed to government regulating customer privacy, election integrity, or use of customer data. I would argue they haven’t done enough in those areas. But I have a huge issue in Facebook driving that discussion.

As the joke goes about where an 800-lb gorilla sits (answer: Anywhere it wants to), Facebook’s size almost certainly guarantees them a seat at the table when it’s time to shape policy in these areas. But, ignoring that reality for a moment, given their past actions, do you really think Facebook has demonstrated it’s the right company to shape regulations around customer data and privacy? Yes, we’d hope they can provide plenty of lessons for others. The question is whether or not they’ve learned those lessons themselves. Offering them a role in the process feels a lot like letting the fox guard the henhouse after that fox has already helped himself to an all you can eat chicken buffet.

Facebook has continually failed to demonstrate that they’re a trustworthy advocate for consumers or competition. And please don’t misunderstand. I don’t think they’re actively evil. They’re simply untrustworthy in the same way a small child is untrustworthy. After all, you wouldn’t let your three year-old play with matches or sharp knives, would you? Of course not. Except in this case, the “three year-old child” is a $55 billion company, which makes it hard to make them sit in in the corner.

Still, the evidence is compelling for why that’s necessary. As recently as early February, TechCrunch reported this about Facebook:

“Since 2016, Facebook has been paying users ages 13 to 35 up to $20 per month plus referral fees to sell their privacy by installing the iOS or Android “Facebook Research” app. Facebook even asked users to screenshot their Amazon order history page…[Update 11:20pm PT: Facebook now tells TechCrunch it will shut down the iOS version of its Research app in the wake of our report. The rest of this article has been updated to reflect this development.] Facebook’s Research program will continue to run on Android.” [emphasis added]

Remember, these are often the accounts of minors. The company also appears to have shared data about users’ health without their consent and stored “hundreds of millions of user passwords…in plaintext.” We talk about these privacy breeches in a recent podcast.

Um, wow.

They also bought Instagram and WhatsApp when faced with competition that they couldn’t defeat. And, frankly, flat-out copied SnapChat’s most innovative features such as Instagram (and later Facebook) Stories when they could.

Is this the kind of company you can trust guiding regulations that will affect your privacy and personal data as an individual, to say nothing of the environment your company must compete in?

Remember, data is an increasingly valuable commodity in today’s business and marketing landscape. Would Facebook’s proposed solutions really protect consumers? Or would they simply pull up the ladder behind themselves now that they’ve scaled that solution and already have access to, oh, I dunno, more data than just about anyone?

Again, beware three year-olds with sharp knives.

(By the way, I’m scrupulously avoiding the topic of government regulation of “harmful content.” My thoughts are summarized best here.)

So, what should you do about all of this? Basically, there are two things you should focus on:

  1. Don’t wait for regulation to do the right thing by your customers. The worst excuse you could make for treating your customers badly is “well, technically, it was legal.“ GDPR exists because marketers did not treat customer data or customer privacy with the attention and respect it deserved. Facebook simply exhibits the worst of these tendencies But they’re hardly alone in acting less than perfectly in this regard. Don’t be “that guy.”
  2. Continue to pay attention to what’s happening with data privacy regulations. And then try to do better. This story has a long way to go. Between Facebook, Google, next year’s US elections, GDPR, the beginnings of the California Consumer Privacy Act, and other efforts around the world, we’re not done with this yet. You owe it to your customers — and your business — to stay informed.

Again, Facebook deserves credit for recognizing that there’s an issue in the way that it — and plenty of other marketers and businesses — treat customer data and privacy. And government undoubtedly has a role in helping to protect consumers’ best interest. However just because both of those statements are true, doesn’t mean that Mark Zuckerberg’s proposed solution is the right way to get there.

Instead, look out for your customers both because it keeps you on the right side of the law and because it’s the right thing to do. Better self-regulation is a strong first step towards doing what’s right by customers. And strong self-regulation practices will likely reduce the impact any government oversight will have on your business. Plus, I don’t know about you, but I find that customers generally prefer companies that treat them with respect.

Facebook has provided a roadmap for what not to do. Learn from their lessons. In the long run, your customers — and your bottom line — will thank you for it.

Originally posted on Biznology

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About Tim Peter

Tim Peter is the President of SoloSegment. An expert in e-commerce and digital marketing strategy, web development, search marketing, and analytics, Tim focuses on the growth of the social, local, mobile web and its impact on both consumer behavior and business results. SoloSegment provides analytics that improve site search conversion and machine learning technologies that improve content effectiveness.

Are You Considering Behavior-Based Personalization?

If you are like most marketers, you’ve probably been salivating over personalizing your website for years. It has always seemed like a good idea, but it’s never seemed possible.

At first, you thought, “If Amazon can do it, we can do it!” But then your IT folks told you the way Amazon does it. Amazon has so many products and so many purchases in its history–and so many repeat visitors–that it is relatively simple to guess what people want. But your site isn’t like Amazon.

Then you thought, “Well, if we know something about our visitors, we can use that to personalize.” But no one wanted to register on your site, so you didn’t know who they were. And privacy regulations came along, and you weren’t sure you wanted to know anything.

Does that mean that you have to give up the dream? No!

You actually can personalize using your visitors’ behavior. With the right technology, you can watch what visitors do on your site. With a bit more technology, you can find the patterns that lead them to success. And with one last dollop of tech, you can use that data to suggest successful paths to others on that same journey.

That’s the beauty of behavior-based personalization. It doesn’t require registrations. It’s GDPR-compliant, because it doesn’t require any personally-identifiable information. It doesn’t require a a slew of products or  return visitors. Or heavy traffic.

If you’ve been waiting for the easy way to add personalization to your site, it’s time to check out behavior-based personalization.

Originally posted on Biznology

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About Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in internet marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, a leading digital media marketing consultancy based in New York City. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm.

SearchChat Podcast: Customer Intent is New Again

Alternatively: Chicken Soup for the Customer’s Soul

It’s time to start thinking about the value of intent based marketing differently. The idea itself isn’t new, but now the data is finally there for people to solve their business problems.

What is your customer experience like if you could walk into a diner feeling under the weather, and are immediately offered chicken soup? Online companies don’t have to lose that personal touch. 

You can improve your buyer’s journey by optimizing results to find specific answers to specific questions. But those are hard to predict. Rather than optimizing the result, how can you optimize the experience — the full journey, whatever it might look like? 

These are questions that need answers. Because the reality is: you compete with all the experiences your customers have everywhere online. When a customer goes to Amazon and has a great search experience, they ask — why doesn’t everyone work this way? Your competition isn’t just other B2B companies, it’s Amazon too. High standards and a poor experience will send visitors looking somewhere else — anywhere else.

The data you gain from having a better site search lets you optimize the rest of the experience. Websites can be intelligent when this data is put to work. Do people who buy chicken soup also usually buy herbal tea? Desserts? Your data knows, and your site can make suggestions. Want to make it happen right away? Check out our technology solutions.

0:00 Intro

1:20 Intent based marketing is new again

11:45 Your competition is the whole internet

16:48 Search is intent, fundamentally

19:05 How do you utilize data to improve the customer journey?

29:05 Outro

SearchChat is available on

Search Chat is SoloSegment’s podcast dedicated to all things search AI and content marketing related. Who is SoloSegment? We’re a technology company focused on site search analytics and AI driven content discovery to improve search results, increase customer satisfaction and unlock revenue for your company.

Avatar

About Tim Peter

Tim Peter is the President of SoloSegment. An expert in e-commerce and digital marketing strategy, web development, search marketing, and analytics, Tim focuses on the growth of the social, local, mobile web and its impact on both consumer behavior and business results. SoloSegment provides analytics that improve site search conversion and machine learning technologies that improve content effectiveness.

Meet Intent-Based Content Recommendation

The new personalized approach to B2B content recommendation

Understanding customer intent is one of the most powerful marketing tools available to professionals. The right intent data will allow you to effectively connect potential customers to the content that is going to help them achieve their goal. So where do you find intent data? It exists in the systems you use today. Introducing “behavioral personalization,” a strategy to offer intent-based content recommendation. If you know where to look and you have the ability to mobilize that data you can use it to progress journeys, convert more business and win more often.

Intent: Let your customers tell you

We often talk about website search as being the most common personalized experience. Website visitors identify their need, and if the search engine works well it delivers the content that answers their question. It’s the simplest, most direct method of personalizing the customer experience. Personalization isn’t the only thing that search does. It is also the first inklings of the data you need to drive effective content recommendation.

The search box on any website fulfills not only the search term input function, but also gathers meaningful data about customer intent. This is the real source of search’s power. There are lots of topics that a searcher can query. Many of those also give you insight into why they’re asking those questions. Successfully deciphering intent can not only lead to better search results, but more importantly can lead to more conversions.

Simple Intent: The Keywords

Let’s consider two searches.

“Product X Value”

“Product Pricing”

It’s obvious that these searches will yield different results. If you deliver a results page with relevant content it will help the searcher move forward in their journey. But what’s more important than the topic they’re interested in is what the topic tells you about their intent.

That first term probably indicates someone who is in the interest phase of the process. They’ve gotten beyond the top of funnel messages and are going deeper. Not only are they going to need the right content to answer the question, they may be ready for messages that move them into consideration.

Nosing around pricing content is a clear indicator of someone who is considering a purchase. This is where journey progression becomes even more important. Answer the question effectively and they’re doing business with you.

Both these search terms give actional information about the intent of the visitor. They provide signals about what you should be serving them at this stage of the buying process.

Complex Intent: All that other data

Intentions that are apparent in search term data can also be found elsewhere. One of the most effective places to look for how intent manifests itself in your data is in your web analytics system.

The patterns in visitor journey data can illustrate intent very clearly. If someone is spending a lot of time with content that is in the consideration stage of your journey, that’s an obvious signal. But what if the signal is not readily apparent in the data?

This is where advanced data science tools can be brought to the challenge of understanding what the visitor is trying to achieve. For one of our clients, we’re beginning to use unsupervised machine learning techniques to interrogate tens of thousands of visitor journeys each month.

These methods help us construct models that show patterns of visitor behavior that are associated with intent. Once you can identify the snippets of behavior that are more closely associated with goals, you can understand what behavior signals intent for those goals. Knowing this you can recommend content at just the right moment to help drive visitors to those patterns.

The value of intent-based content recommendation

The value of intent-based content recommendation can be directly measured. Reduced exits and bounces that increase top of funnel progression are the first signals you’re onto something. You also likely have some conversions associated with specific tasks, such as downloads and contact forms, that can be directly measured.

Of course, what you really want to measure are the purchase conversions. In a B2B world making those connections can be difficult, especially if channel or field sales are a big part of your sales engine. However, you’ve been dealing with this challenge for long time. Instrument the tasks and activities that lead to contacts and monitor the activity. All things being equal, if you can reduce the top of funnel abandons (i.e. exits and bounces) you’re going to see more come out at the other end of the funnel.

Want to get started? We might be able to help. Connect with an expert right now.

Steve Zakur

About Steve Zakur

Stephen Zakur is CEO of SoloSegment. SoloSegment provides analytics that improve site search conversion and machine learning technologies that improve content effectiveness.

SearchChat Podcast: Can You Personalize Without Creepy Data?

Is the dream of the visitor journey dying? How do we make journeys more functional without using data people don’t want us to have?

Marketers are starting to learn they can’t just orchestrate a visitor journey from start to finish. It’s all about improving the journeys people actually make. They’re complex, not straightforward. Steve and I discuss how visitor journeys are a big data problem. Machine learning allows you not to have to manually deal with that data. It makes Big Data little.

Data can be put to work automatically to make the journey better — and it doesn’t have to be a ton of data. We often start with search data, and it works great since it connects people directly with the thing they want. “Behavioral personalization” means personalization but without all the creepy data. Instead, it’s personalization that customers are asking for. This matters in a post-GDPR world.

Google’s policy is to get right up to the creepy line without crossing it.  Most people don’t know that smart TVs are cheap because they are tracking your data.  How long will models built on creepy data survive?

The three laws of robotics initially were just about making sure robots don’t kill humans. Now we’re thinking much further beyond that — how to create ethical artificial intelligence for business. Interested in the podcast and behavioral personalization options? Check out SoloSegment’s technology solutions.

Tune in and discover more!

00m 00s — Intro and overview

2m 00s Visitor journeys are changing

7m 05s AI for developing visitor journeys

11m 05s Behavioral personalization

15m 25s Creepy Data

19m 30s 3 Laws of Robotics — how do we create ethical AI?

22m 45s Is it just “legal,” or is it good for customers?

29m 35s Outro

SearchChat is available on

Search Chat is SoloSegment’s podcast dedicated to all things search AI and content marketing related. Who is SoloSegment? We’re a technology company focused on site search analytics and AI driven content discovery to improve search results, increase customer satisfaction and unlock revenue for your company.

Originally published on Biznology

Avatar

About Tim Peter

Tim Peter is the President of SoloSegment. An expert in e-commerce and digital marketing strategy, web development, search marketing, and analytics, Tim focuses on the growth of the social, local, mobile web and its impact on both consumer behavior and business results. SoloSegment provides analytics that improve site search conversion and machine learning technologies that improve content effectiveness.