Top B2B Digital Channels at Industrial Companies

While industrials understand the importance of developing digital B2B communication channels, few have the tools and expertise to flourish in the digital realm. Their deficiencies have particularly come to light at the beginning of the pandemic when businesses were forced to limit their face-to-face interactions and go digital. The recent McKinsey survey showed that while many B2B respondents thought they would be able to meet with customers in person by the end of 2022, few expected those interactions to be the norm moving forward.

With that said, we believe that now is the right time for industrials to put digitization of communication channels at the forefront of their agendas and adopt a strategic approach to developing digital initiatives.

In this article, we’ll provide some guidelines that may help industrials make their digital communication successful.

What Are Digital Communication Channels?

Digital communication channels refer to electronic means of communication that include various online tools, which customers use to interact with the company. In this article, we’ll be talking about the use of digital communication channels to create an integrated, targeted, and quantifiable approach to acquire and retain customers while building a stronger relationship with them.

How To Make Digital B2B Communication Channels Successful

While industrials added some basic forms of communication to their marketing mix, such as a website and email, few take full advantage of other means of communication, say, social media networking or live video. To facilitate customer acquisition, retention, and loyalty, it’s imperative to explore new ways of attracting and communicating with the customer. In this increasingly digitized environment, there’s no other best way to do it but digital.

We propose adhering to the following general guidelines when trying to improve your digital communication channels.

Provide Information Digitally

Since B2B ecommerce customers are increasingly using digital information channels to research companies before committing themselves to purchase, it’s important to make comprehensive product and company information readily available online. If previously it was the salespeople who initiated all the communication, following the “push” logic, now it’s the other way around and it’s the customers who start the ball rolling. If companies don’t upload the necessary information, chances are they will never be discovered. Since the first gateway to business is the company's website, it makes perfect sense to start there.

The website’s design, usability, and accessibility are the company’s outward expression of its digital potential. Yet, from our experience, not many industrials take full advantage of that first and foremost digital channel and provide at least basic ordering functions or tracking capabilities. Many B2B companies still use their website as nothing more than a business card with a handful of press releases and an outdated product brochure.

The most important step is to understand that the status quo needs to change. The best way to do so is to map the customer journey and model the website in such a way so that the structure and content of information presented in digital form reflect the pathway the customer takes to complete the purchase. Companies need to think through all the possible customer touchpoints and customer-related shopping scenarios from initial attempts to research the company to after-sales support and regular product maintenance. Instead of showing the company’s organization chart or history, industrials should cater to the customer’s needs first by trying to foresee their questions and provide the expected answers. Special care should be taken to make the information easily accessible from any device, be it a smartphone or desktop. Additionally, companies should invest in search engine optimization to improve the website’s search rankings and help customers discover the company.

Offer Digital Support to Sales Staff

In order to succeed in digital reality and better identify customers’ preferences, sales teams should be equipped with the relevant digital tools and trained to use innovative software like tracking technologies and algorithms. Such software can show the customers’ preferred means of communication, that is, the exact channels via which customers arrive – the valuable data that can be employed later to target these particular channels. Using digital tools, sales managers can also see how much time customers spend on the company’s pages, which products they view, and what they end up buying – the information that yet again can be used for analytical purposes and translated into actionable insights and sales.

Exchange Information Systematically

Digital solutions help optimize the business processes and contribute to the integration of marketing and sales into other business areas, which makes the exchange of information between departments more efficient and, above all, accurate. Digital channels enable the systematic exchange of customer feedback across internal communication channels and may be employed by different teams to create a more customer-driven sales experience that supports sales goals and the overall company’s agenda. Keeping communication channels open will help avoid functional silos and ensure everyone on the team is on the same page.

A flexible B2B ecommerce platform can serve as a centralization hub for the information collected within the company and obtained from third parties, such as suppliers or logistics companies. The transition from one channel to the other often fails because different parties have their own infrastructure and the B2B ecommerce platform doesn’t support the necessary integrations. In this case, re-platforming might be necessary to ensure that the company seamlessly integrates with other services or extends to incorporate additional ecommerce modules.

How to Build a Successful Digital Transformation Roadmap for Industrial Companies

Managing digital channels is often compared to conducting an orchestra, where each instrument needs to be played perfectly to achieve an overall harmony.

To ensure that all information stays consistent wherever it travels, businesses need to bet on the new technology and invest in changing solutions if older ones cannot answer to the new market demands.

Employ Social Media

Companies need to have the courage to explore the possibilities of social media marketing, which doesn’t necessarily mean having a targeted campaign on Facebook or Twitter, but also refers to supporting discussions on professional platforms or within specialized communities. Firms that employ social media channels gain direct access to real people who can be leveraged as knowledgeable points of contact for pitching and targeting.

Those who craft B2B social media campaigns should consider employee branding, showcasing companies’ videos, conducting webinars and product FAQs sessions, and participating in virtual conferences and live streams organized by industry experts or other partners. LinkedIn, for example, provides the most in-depth B2B targeting, so it should be used extensively by marketing teams to promote business awareness, look for qualified leads, or address buyers’ most common pain points.

Conclusion

Digitization and automation of business processes can truly transform entire ecosystems. By improving the overall website experience, utilizing the innovative B2B ecommerce platform, and supporting integrations with internal and third-party systems, businesses can remove unnecessary manual touchpoints, minimize time and money spent on administrative issues, and instead concentrate on opportunities that bring both profits and customer satisfaction.

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Marina Vorontsova
Technical author and eCommerce advocate