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In the 1992 movie Glengarry Glen Ross, a group of salespeople fixated on a stack of leads from the marketing department that they argued would change their fortunes. They claimed repeatedly that it was all about “the leads.”
Historically, B2B marketing organizations have used sophisticated technology to qualify and quantify leads. They nurture them, track them, and retarget them. Many even create lifecycles around their leads.
But in the end, it’s not about the leads. Ultimately, it’s about “the sales.” And this is why eCommerce is so critical to today’s B2B marketers.
Every B2B company that sells online uses a content management system (CMS) to create and maintain its product catalog. But a CMS does not complete the purchase loop, and hence struggles to produce a quantifiable Return on Investment (ROI). In contrast, eCommerce owns the last mile to the customer and creates transactions that definitively monetize leads – which is why CMS heavyweight Adobe acquired eCommerce vendor Magento in May for $1.68 billion.
B2B marketers now realize that it is both possible and advantageous to integrate content and commerce. In fact, leading B2B marketers are urgently “content-enabling commerce” and “commerce-enabling content” because:
1. Amazon is controlling the front-end experience by being the product search engine of choice.
While Google has a commanding lead in the general search space, Amazon leads Google 49% to 36% in the product search space. Moreover, Amazon holds an important early lead in the fast-growing voice-controlled speaker market (Amazon holds 69% market share to Google’s 25%). To stay relevant, B2B companies must have a comprehensive Amazon strategy, attract incremental B2B buyers to their own web properties (win the home games), and leverage key partners to earn new customers at large on the Web (win the away games).
2. Where B2B buyers start their research aligns with where they make their final purchase.
According to the Forrester/Internet Retailer Q1 2017 B2B Buy-Side Online Survey, the top reason why B2B buyers start their research at a site is because that site offers “broad selection.” To win in this world, B2B sellers must become either a differentiated market maker or market taker. B2B sellers with limited assortments that want to operate as “market makers,” or destination sites, must expand their catalogs quickly — either organically or with an “own site” marketplace. Niche B2B sellers must become savvy “market takers” and achieve sales ubiquity via 3rd party partner sites.
3. It’s a sophisticated buying journey now versus a simple marketing funnel.
For too many years, we assumed that the B2B buying process was a linear funnel where awareness generated consideration which led to preference and ultimately drove a purchase. But B2B buyers follow more complex buyer “journeys” now. To succeed today, B2B marketers must create hyper-personalized experiences and practice opportunistic commerce.
Great content is a great start to great commerce. And acquiring “leads” is where the process begins. But as today’s B2B marketers know, leads are just a means to the end of generating revenue. The real prize is converting those leads into sales. And as many are now discovering, eCommerce is the best tool for making that hope a reality.
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B2B ecommerce is characterized by rapid change, and change is even more prevalent in the realm of distributors. Margins on distributed items continue to get squeezed, making it hard to justify increasing ecommerce investments. Yet, your customers demand more from your ecommerce offering: Better user-experience, more robust data, and a broader product offering. How do you respond to such challenges and grow your market share even as you counter Amazon’s expanding B2B ecommerce business?