Research firm Gartner predicts that by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their transactional relationships with businesses without ever interacting with a real person. That’s less than four years from today! This is becoming increasingly evident in the continuing commodification of B2B enterprise level products and services. In this post, we outline several considerations we believe B2B marketers need to prioritize when setting out a plan for a sound B2B digital strategy based on recent learnings working with a leader in the cyber security space.
Stats aside, personal interactions with solution providers are still important inside the B2B buying process. However, buyers see less and less value in their direct interactions with front line sales, as they have in the past. Today’s smart B2B marketers must adapt their customer sales engagement process to better guide buyers through their purchase cycle through a more self-directed approach.
With this in mind, we undertook the challenge of changing the nature of the B2B digital conversation for cyber-security client BeyondTrust, evolving the customer engagement approach that needed to connect with a traditional IT technical professional audience, while also engaging the strategic professional decision makers at the C-Suite level.
As one of the leading cyber-security companies in the U.S., Phoenix based BeyondTrust specializes in Privileged Access Management (PAM) and Vulnerability Management (VM) product solutions. For reference, PAM helps identify and proactively manage internal threats, while VM addresses potential external cyber-security threats. Both product lines are essential for an enterprise level organization, as such; BeyondTrust’s priority lies in providing a joined solution approach for internal/external threats through their risk management platform.
As initially forecasted in a previous Gartner study back in 2013, the B2B product buying cycle was dramatically changing. Rather than moving sequentially through a linear top-down funnel, buyers actually work through parallel streams to make a final purchase decision.
Explore - Buyers identify a need or opportunity and begin looking for ways to address it, usually via interactions with vendors and self-directed information search on the Internet.
Evaluate - Buyers take a closer look at options uncovered while exploring online, again leaning heavily on self-directed search and peer interactions as well as vendor sales representatives.
Engage - Buyers initiate further contact with providers (or accept proposals from providers) to get help in moving toward a purchase decision.
Experience - Buyers use a solution, increasingly in pilots or proof of concepts, and develop perceptions about its value based on that usage.
With this new B2B sales reality, the role of digital engagement must also change, and be reflected in the approach to B2B digital strategy that supports the needs of the potential customer, while acting in support of the adjusting role that the direct sales agent will play inside the organization.
BeyondTrust wanted to change the nature of its customer relationships from purely transactional based (product selling), to a more consultative environment (solution selling) in the cyber security space. With this in mind, the existing brand strategy and positioning also needed a change.
With the help of a brand strategy partner, the BeyondTrust brand evolved in its visual design elements, along with a tone and voice more reflective of the partner-based relationship it desired with customers. What also drove this more consultative approach was a heightened importance to better connect with the C-Suite level customer base.
With a new brand identity, and an updated visual design language system that included typography, color palette, iconography and photography, we embarked in translating this direction specific for the B2B digital strategy.
A key consideration of any new brand strategy and re-positioning is how it may also change the type of customer you’re interesting in attracting; and how to connect on an emotional level with this different audience in an appropriate manner.
In BeyondTrust’s case, the heightened importance of connecting with the C-Suite customer (i.e. CIO, CSO and CISOs) was paramount. In many ways, this audience thinks (and acts) very differently than the traditional enterprise software customer (IT/technical-minded customer).
Some of the key insights that we’re unearthed about CIO-type executives included:
The importance for them in educating and selling up solutions within the organization; earning them a seat at the table when discussing corporate and business strategy directions.
More interested in the business impact that a solution would have on the organization, rather than the particulars of specific/individual product performance measures.
Sensitive in how they can get better at being proactive vs. reactive around solving for issues within their remit, and how to expand their level of accountability at the strategic planning level.
Appreciating that they alone are not final decision makers, with more than one owner of the problem at hand (each with different levels of accountability), and with that, find ways to open up the variety of funding opportunities from other areas (i.e. CapEx spend).
With the learning about this level of customer audience (while not foregoing the importance of remaining true to our more technical minded IT customer base), translating insights into action become an exercise of determining a web strategy concept direction that was broad enough, yet flexible enough to support a more personalized experience.
Our approach to the overall user experience, content strategy and design direction is based on the following key project principles:
Customer Focused Filtering
Guiding Through The Complexity
Selling By Demonstration
The concept of allowing site visitors to self-select how to explore content is driven by the desire to simplify the complexities of choosing the right solution amongst the BeyondTrust product suite. By providing visitors the ability to navigate solution related content by either: Product, Need, Industry or (User) Role allows a very efficient workflow to getting the information most relevant to the unique needs of each type of customer. Once inside the respective site pages, users are provided curated content that tailored product information, and other related information to aid in their cyber security solution decision-making.
Cyber security is a sophisticated, and sometimes complex space where product and solution selling needs to be done in a manner that is informative and methodical, while in step with offering clarity around the distinct advantages and value of choosing the right solutions for the right problems. With that in mind, the approach to content strategy centered around how to best provide product and solution information that guided the user through purchase cycle stages of Entice, Enter, Engage, Exit and Extend. At each phase of engagement, it is important to provide the right level of information to move the customer along the decision-making path.
As customers with various levels of cyber security expertise need different levels of information, page content structure allowed higher-level information (benefit driven) to be displayed first, while more in-depth content (product feature driven) would be revealed as the user chose to navigate deeper into the page.
As the web strategy steered heavily on becoming a sales driven content hub where visitors can be informed about product and solutions, the sheer amount of content (product, solution, industry news, trends, perspectives etc.) needed to be curated in a manner that didn’t overwhelm the user. A key content direction around selling product is to provide demonstration opportunities. In some scenarios, product demonstration became a call to action element, while additional demonstration opportunities were more self-directed through product video, and animation examples.
BeyondTrust - Selling to a B2B audience through video
As the B2B marketing space continues to evolve, we leave you with a few insights that better prepare organizations to capitalize on the emerging way customers research and select enterprise level products and services that may impact your approach to B2B digital strategy:
User-First Workflows – consider the differences between customer-types and their information needs when developing workflows to access the right information in the right format. Keep the customer journey touchpoints to a minimum, with conversion opportunities along the way.
Balanced Content Types – develop a content strategy based on the content types for each style of customer. Where longer form content is required, seek a design solution that breaks out the content into digestible elements. Allow for quick-skims of key content, while empowering the user to drill into deeper information as required. Keep a balance between content types (text, imagery, video) that showcases product knowledge from a variety of perspectives.
Self-Selected Navigation – allow for customer variances in the way they search for product and solution information, especially if solutions are industry specific. Consider the right ways to filter that may be based on product features, specific user needs, customer role and/or industry sector application. For the power-users, aim to provide time-sensitive user interactions that delivers product information at-a-glance.
Solution Selling – focus on product benefit selling that is supported by product features. Ladder the selling conversation up to the solution level (where applicable) that demonstrates a more robust understanding of the customer needs. Provide social proof (i.e. existing customer recommendations, 3rd party endorsements) of solutioning.
Clear CTA – design pages with contextual call to action opportunities that may be micro or macro conversion points. Keep CTA clear and easy to act upon through a well-defined UI design standards. Maintain consistency throughout all pages, as to not confuse the actions asked of the user.
Interested to learn more about our experience in helping B2B organizations improve performance through branding and digital strategy? Reach out to us.