Introduction

The customer experience is continuously shifting. Amidst the waves of digital transformation and workforce innovation, both amplified by the coronavirus pandemic, B2B companies are faced with a future-defining decision: sink or swim. To sink is to continue like nothing in even the last 5 years has changed. Whereas to swim is to adapt, embrace digitization, and transform the way you approach the customer experience.

Buyer enablement, customer success, revenue acceleration – in the digital age, this all relies on so much more than random acts of marketing and unsolicited sales calls. And today’s frictionless digital experiences have completely redefined what your customers expect to experience as they progress throughout the increasingly complex stages of the customer journey.

To lead the customer-first revolution, B2B organizations require a solution that enables a customer-first approach. Enter: Conversational Marketing.

In this research report, you’ll discover how today’s customer experience has evolved, how your customer expectations have grown, and how businesses like yours are accelerating revenue and achieving a customer-first approach with Conversational Marketing.

Methodology

To further understand the state of Conversational Marketing in B2B, Drift and Heinz Marketing conducted a survey in July 2020. The following data comes from 538 B2B professionals across multiple experience levels, company sizes, and industries.

Respondent Breakdown

Key Findings

Traditional digital B2B experiences are noisy, chaotic, and poor for the customer.

Today’s digital B2B landscape is increasingly noisy, chaotic, and highly irrelevant for today’s savvy digital customers. 53% of respondents feel frustrated by receiving too many irrelevant ads and emails from B2B companies; 36% feel they can’t get answers to simple questions; and 35% say that services typically feel impersonal.

And these frustrations continue to grow. Since 2019, our data shows that:

  • Frustrations with unresponsive brands on social or email grew 5.7x.
  • Frustrations with services feeling impersonal grew 2x.
  • Frustrations with having to deal with poor quality online forms grew 1.6x.
  • Frustrations with a lack of service outside of normal operating hours grew 1.4x.
  • The number of people who have not experienced any of these frustrations fell by nearly half in the past year.

For B2B businesses to succeed in this network of increasing complexity and chaos, sellers and marketers must do all that they can to remove friction from and add clarity to the customer experience. Gartner says it best: “With more information, options, and people involved in a buying process, buyers are paralyzed when trying to move forward.” And now, more than ever, “sales [and marketing] teams must affirm customers’ confidence in their decisions to drive account growth.”

Immediacy isn’t just an advantage – it’s a necessity.

33% of consumers would recommend a brand that provides a quick, yet ineffective response (Nielsen-McKinsey via HBR). As buyers grow ever-busier, the need for speed and immediacy across communication channels becomes paramount, demonstrating to your buyers that they’re not just another blip on the screen, but that they are truly valued and important.

When our survey asked about expectations in response times, the results helped further confirm these trends.

46% of respondents reported that they expect a response within 5 seconds or less when using a chatbot; 43% expect the same using online live chat; and 33% when using a phone or video call. In fact, this need for immediacy grew across the board averaging an increase of 25%. And expectations even rose 33% over the last year for inherently sluggish web forms.

Immediacy isn’t just an advantage – it’s a core necessity for buyers and customers to want to continue communicating and engaging with your business.

Expertise, resolution, and ease of use are top priorities for users of Conversational Marketing solutions.

For 49% of respondents, the most important factor in having a positive experience with a Conversational Marketing solution is getting quick, detailed, and expert answers to their questions. 36% also believe it’s important to get complaints and issues resolved quickly; and 29% say it’s important the solution is friendly, approachable, and easy to communicate with.

As we discovered above, the need for immediacy to deliver positive experiences is also seen here in both response times and issue resolution. And according to PWC, 60% of consumers said they’d stop doing business with a brand if the service they received was not friendly. Therefore, it’s crucial to offer quick, friendly, and knowledgeable responses as you converse with your buyers.

Inaccurate information and slow response times stop the customer journey in its tracks.

Poor experiences with Conversational Marketing solutions are not only bad for your buyers, but also disastrous for your business.

59% of respondents would stop using a Conversational Marketing solution if it provided inaccurate information or didn’t answer their question adequately  – a trend that grew by 45% since 2019. And 51% would stop engaging if the solution was too slow to respond, further echoing that growing need for immediacy.

It takes 12 positive customer experiences to make up for just a single negative experience. And with those kinds of odds, ensuring your Conversational Marketing capabilities are tried, tested, and refined is vital to your long-term success.

Conversational Marketing solutions play vital roles throughout the customer journey

While it’s no surprise that a majority of respondents (71%) use Conversational Marketing solutions to get questions answered and issues resolved, these solutions fulfill other roles too. 56% of respondents use them to access content and resources; 44% to book meetings; and 41% to make actual purchases.

In fact, between 2019 and 2020, using a Conversational Marketing solution to schedule a meeting, purchase an item, or add yourself to a mailing list more than doubled. 

Employee engagement will make or break your customer experience

Lacking the right internal resources to effectively upkeep and manage your Conversational Marketing solution can leave negative impressions of your company on your customers. And when your employees – especially those who are customer-facing – are reluctant to engage with these solutions, they put the entire customer experience (and by association, the entire health of the pipeline) at risk.

Respondents report that their sales team typically lacks the willingness or enthusiasm to either engage in conversations (40%) or to follow-up with leads (39%) via their Conversational Marketing solution. And this lack of employee engagement can be dire for an organization.

According to Gartner, the business performance of organizations with high employee engagement outpaces their competitors with higher average revenue growth, net profit margin, and customer satisfaction.

The Implications of Our Research

In an age when buyers have greater access to resources, content, and data than they ever have before; when digitization of products and services is becoming a business imperative; and when the future of work is shifting to be entirely remote; B2B organizations must transform the way they capture interest, engage buyers, and convert demand to accommodate the new customer journey and the new customer experience that comes with it.

It’s easier than ever for B2B companies to launch multi-channel campaigns – mass emails, digital ads, paid media, purchased contacts – the list goes on. But at the same time, garnering the attention of qualified buyers and converting that interest into a loyal customer base has also never been more challenging. And today, what separates the leaders from the laggards isn’t the number of emails you send or the amount of digital ad space you purchase. What separates the leaders from the laggards is the customer experience.

And with the help of Conversational Marketing, B2B organizations are enabled to transform their own customer experience to start more meaningful conversations, engage more of the right buyers at-scale, affirm decision-making and priorities, and accelerate revenue with confidence through immediacy, accuracy, and empathy.

You can continue reading the 2020 State of Conversational Marketing report here.

The 2020 State of Conversational Marketing

Access the full report including detailed findings on the future of Conversational Marketing now.