A recent report from the accountancy firm PWC paints a challenging picture for business-to-business (B2B) telecoms marketers in 2019. “Revenues across the B2B segment of the telecom industry are slowly declining,” says the report. “The needs and desires of buyers are not being fulfilled.”
Furthermore, it says: “New competitors are circling, with capabilities that many telcos can’t easily match.”
Against this backdrop, what can you do to make sure your brand stands out? Here are five strategic pillars you could consider, all based on thinking carefully about your customers and their experiences.
Understand your top-spending customers
Most marketers will be aware of the Pareto principle, which states that 80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients. In 2019, successful marketing begins by understanding who these clients are, and how you can nurture them.
Identifying your top accounts is easy but understanding how you can serve them better might require more work. It’s an essential task, though. If you are missing data to provide an accurate customer profile, then don’t be afraid to engage with these clients, for example through email surveys.
The chances are they will be glad to offer you the information you need to give them a better service. They are paying plenty for what you offer, after all. Importantly, the objective of this exercise should not be to sell more (although that’s always an option, of course). It should be to keep them loyal.
After all, losing one of your top 20% of clients could be a significant blow for your business. And there are plenty of competitors out there willing to take those clients off your hands.
Top up the funnel but plug the leaks, too
Telecoms marketers rightly spend much time and effort worrying about how to acquire new customers. Driving customer acquisition is a key function in any marketing activity, but the highly competitive telecoms industry it is important to make sure you are not losing prospects as they progress down the sales funnel.
Hence, you should review every aspect of the customer journey in any campaign. This isn’t just about open rates for an email, but also about whether people are downloading your white paper or requesting a call. A thorough review of campaign data will reveal where you are losing customers and will allow you to pinpoint areas for improvement, which you can rapidly plug with A/B testing techniques.
Stand out from the competition
Standing out from the competition is arguably the most obvious and most difficult challenge facing B2B telecoms marketers today. In a market where products, pricing and delivery are often almost identical, it is hard to find a point of differentiation that will allow your brand to stay top of mind with your customers.
One place to start is with the customer’s buying process. Research by Gartner shows that B2B buyers now only spend around 17% of their time meeting with potential suppliers. This means they are increasingly dependent on the availability of offline and, particularly, online material to guide purchase decisions.
B2B buyers spend more time researching online than in any other part of the purchase process. If you can make your brand and your sales literature stand out online then you will go a long way to attracting attention.
Compete with value
It is very difficult indeed not to get sucked into a race to the bottom when selling B2B telecoms equipment and services. Customers pitch vendors against each other with the express intention of encouraging competitive pricing, and it is rare for a client to sign a deal without extracting some form of discount.
You can’t discount forever, though. And in the long run, winning business on the basis of lowest cost will hurt your bottom line and your brand. For this reason, it is important to compete on value. The good news is that you can control the perception of value from your very first customer touchpoint.
Seeding your online content and sales literature with client lists, case studies and testimonials will not only inspire confidence in your brand but also deliver the subtle message that your offering is worth paying for.
Adapt your marketing to your markets
No two businesses are the same, and so in B2B marketing it is important to tailor your message to your audience. As well as speaking directly to your top customers (see above), you should look carefully at the markets you want to grow in and design campaigns for them specifically.
In mature markets, it might pay to adopt an account-based marketing approach, segmenting your audience, integrating messaging across channels, delivering relevant content and engaging over time. This may seem like a chore, but with digital marketing tools you can achieve significant customisation with relatively little effort and cost.
It’s important to remember that if you treat everyone the same with your marketing, then no-one will feel special.
In this age of rapidly evolving customer tastes and digital platforms, it’s easy to believe you should focus attention on the latest social media fad or mobile technology. There’s certainly no harm in keeping an eye on these trends but bear in mind that many of the most tried-and-tested channels for marketing are still the most cost effective. Take the humble email, for example.
Dismissed by many as far too primitive, email marketing is in fact 40 times more effective as a marketing tool than social media, and closes sales three times faster. That’s a significant return for something that does not require exorbitant media buying budgets or in-depth knowledge of new technology platforms.
In B2B, email still reigns supreme because it remains one of the main channels for business communication, despite the growth of newer platforms incorporating voice, video and instant messaging. This dominance underscores what is perhaps one of the ultimate truths about B2B telecoms marketing in 2019: although times are changing, what works with customers has largely stayed the same.