Most ‘inspirational’ customer experience cases focus on business-to-consumer companies.
We talk about Airbnb, Uber, Apple or my personal favourite, Lexus (yes, I’m biased, but still).
By comparison, stories on experience innovation in B2B often focus on streamlining processes or introducing new digital elements. These are essential activities. But it makes you wonder if there is a next level that remains unexplored. Especially considering that the business market is bigger than that for consumers. Not to mention that the commercial stakes are often a lot higher.
So I jotted down three B2B experience power-ups that seem to be under-explored. But that I find can make a serious difference to your business.
I hope you like them.
Power-up #1: Make B2B experiences more emotional
Up to 70% of economic decisions in B2B are driven by emotional factors.
At least that’s what you find if you review the marketing literature. If you talk to some of my friends in neuroscience and psychology, the real number is (a lot) higher.
But B2B customer, sales and marketing conversations don’t seem to match this reality.
You may get the odd conversation that “Our company is the safe bet”. Or “Our people have a favour factor”. But most commercial attention seems to go to the rational side of the conversation. The features. The technical prowess of the business. The price.
All of these rational topics matter, but there’s more.
Sure, especially in a formal purchasing process, you need to answer every question and match every requirement. Tick every box. Preferably with a price that doesn’t give the customer a heart attack.
But unless you are in a commodity market, the RFP hoops are often a qualification race. A challenge to see if you have what it takes. When choosing between the final two, stakeholder emotions can flare high. Making the right emotional move, can make the difference between success and failure.
Which is why it’s worth considering the emotional side of B2B experiences.
The rational parts are usually under control. But conversations on customer feelings, aspirations and social status don’t always come naturally. If they happen at all. This while, as we saw above, they can make or break that next deal.
Suggested Power-Up #1: Give more attention to client emotions when designing products, making proposals, or creating B2B experiences. Understand and address your customer’s commercial and personal hopes, fears, ambitions and worries. Put emotion on the agenda of your next strategy session. You’ll be surprised where the conversation will lead you.
Power-up #2: Make B2B experiences memorable
In our post-Covid world, ‘real’ customer contact has become precious.
Since the pandemic, I’ve sold and run complete projects with customers I never met in person. Like you, I’ve learned that online tools let us cover most topics remotely. So buyers and sellers don’t really need to ‘meet in person’ anymore.
In time, this can become problematic. Especially for vendors.
By going 100% remote, we eliminate the opportunity to bond. To impress the client. To share human experiences. Gradually, this reduces products and services to their functional components. At first, we get commercial efficiency. Over time, we risk commoditization.
Top retailers have solved this problem years ago.
Faced with the reality of online sales, they realised that a physical visit by a customer to a retail store was a ‘gift’. A precious opportunity to communicate the brand’s values and connect in a more personal, human way.
Which is why Nike, Adidas, Louis Vuitton, Apple and many more built physical retail cathedrals which are as much about giving their customers a branded memory as they are about selling. A memory that will last throughout all the remote contacts.
So it’s worth making B2B experiences more memorable.
Most B2B headquarters I ever visited feature nondescript meeting rooms serving mediocre coffee and security badges that don’t work. Most client visits comprise PowerPoint presentations and faulty beamers. Tell me I’m wrong.
Suggested Power-Up #2: If you only meet a client ‘in person’ once or twice a year, make it matter. Make the experience memorable, so the client takes home more than your samples. Make your meeting space as immersive as a Nike flagship store. Make your client visit memorable beyond the PowerPoint. A friend of mine even knows how to make those online meetings more engaging.
Power-up #3: Make the experience more meaningful
We all know that there is more to life than making money.
Morally, we have a responsibility to the planet. To supply chain workers who slave in faraway factories. To minorities in society. To future generations.
Personally, we owe it to ourselves to live our lives to the fullest. Be who we truly are. Together with those we care about.
But our thoughts and words don’t always turn into actions.
Almost every company on the planet uses natural resources it does not replace. Too often, pursuing a good price equates looking away from tricky labour or sourcing practices. We insufficiently work on diversity, inclusion and (to be selfish) that elusive work/life balance.
Which is why it’s worth to include meaning as a design parameter in your next B2B experience.
It won’t make a massive difference. Let’s face it, even the best of us can only make a small dent in the complex world we live in. But every dent matters. And if enough of us try to make a difference, the planet will recover, workers will get fair pay, the disenfranchised will get a voice and hey, we may get to enjoy the sunset a little more.
Suggested Power-Up #3: When next discussing a B2B experience project, spend some on making it more ‘meaningful’. Can you include elements of sustainability? Inclusion? Fairness? Fun? Make a minor difference to someone somewhere? Perhaps even help your customers do the same? In my experience, kindness doesn’t have to cost you precious profit. In fact, it may even get you better business results.
I know it may not be easy to do as I suggest. You have resource constraints and KPIs. Your time to think is limited to the gaps between those 30 minute meetings. Your to-do list is long enough.
But if you can, consider them.
Sometimes it’s less about doing things right. But more about doing the right things.
Want to level up your B2B experience?
Then let’s have virtual coffee. We can have a general chat or brainstorm about ways to be more emotional, memorable or meaningful. Perhaps even transform what you are doing today.
Even if the conversation goes nowhere, I’m sure it will be interesting for both of us. Which feels like a good idea in itself.
Alain Thys is an experience architect who helps organisations drive profit and transformation through experience.