As the business landscape changes, B2B companies need to adapt to the new buyer and market demands. Some of these needs are inspired by tech advancements. Others stem from shifts in customer behavior. Implementing a chatbot for B2B is a result of both.
Whereas in the past, sales reps were crucial in closing B2B sales, today, buyers are becoming more and more independent. According to research by Forrester, 68% of B2B buyers prefer to collect information online independently rather than interacting with a sales rep. For example, when looking for software products, the first place of reference is independent review sites such as G2 Crowd or Capterra.
For B2B companies, this behavioral shift presents a new challenge of engaging large volumes of website visitors in a personalized way. After any review site, your website is often the next point of contact for B2B buyers researching their options. Hence, a lot rides on that first impression which needs to be personal despite the lack of people involved on your end.
By enabling a chatbot for B2B to answer questions and distribute tailored content based on real-time preferences, you have a chance to keep up with the demands without putting a strain on your team.
In this article, we explore the role of chatbots in meeting the evolving demands of B2B buyers and the best way to leverage them.
The New B2B Buyer
According to the Forrester study cited above, numerous demographic, technological, and behavioral changes gave rise to a new type of B2B buyer. Today, the preferences of typical B2B buyers are shaped by their preferences in everyday life. In other words, by their usual B2C needs and experiences.
The expectations of the new B2B buyer differ from the more traditional B2B consumer in four crucial aspects:
1. Brand experience - Modern B2B consumers expect business-to-business brand experiences they come across in their professional lives to show the same level of consistency and sophistication as those in their personal lives.
2. Sales interactions - B2B consumers do not engage with sales reps at the beginning of their journey. They prefer to do so later on, after having gathered some information on their own. However, when they do get in touch, they expect the reps to understand their goals and pain points. They expect their expertise and consultancy to help solve their problems efficiently.
3. Purchase influence - Purchase influence has become a common practice in B2C as consumers often refer to independent review sights when making their decisions. Now, more and more B2B buyers seek opinions and input from their peers and other users/customers before making a purchase or activating a long-term subscription.
4. Post-sale engagement. Speaking of subscriptions! As the economy becomes more and more subscription-centric, B2B buyers start to raise expectations and demands of long-term benefits such as personalized engagement and support post-purchase. B2B marketers need to embrace proven B2C loyalty marketing practices to prevent customer churn.
How Can a Chatbot for B2B Help Capture The New Buyer Type?
Since B2B consumers are more in control of their journey than ever, you need to change how you engage them every step of the way in order to succeed.
Chatbots can help you do just that.
Here are five examples of how chatbots for B2B can set you on the right course.
1. Tie your Brand to Customer Experience
Customer experience defines your brand whether you work B2C or B2B. In the end, in the customers’ eyes, your brand won’t be so much identified by its choice of copy or price of the product. Its perception and value will be shaped by the sum of their experiences throughout their journey.
Betting on experience has its challenges as well as perks.
Relying on personal experiences to shape your brand image takes some of the power from your hands. In other words, the shaping and planning of your messaging and communication only take you halfway, the other half is created over and over again by the subjective experience of the receiver.
On the other hand, it also makes it harder for your competitors to contradict the compelling experiences of your customers. If the customers’ image of your brand is based on their personal experience, rather than a marketing claim of an image you are trying to project, they won’t be so easily swayed.
So, how do you go about building experiences that compel?
Conversations are one of the most innate of human experiences, in business and in personal lives. However, the fast-paced international business landscapes make it extremely hard to rely on live chat for all interactions.
Chatbots can help you actively shape experiences through real-time conversations. They provide a channel to showcase brand personality as well as enable you to stay agile in the face of customer demands. The instantaneous nature of chatbot automation allows for quick reactions in one-on-one dealings.
2. Help Your Brand Resonate Emotionally
When it comes to B2C consumers, emotion is widely accepted and exploited as a major decision influencer. B2B buyers have traditionally been perceived as more logical, rational, and data-driven.
However, they are not as emotion-free. They never were.
Emotion in B2B branding is becoming more and more explored and important.
Decisions - such as what software or supplier to use - can make or break careers as well as shape the future of businesses contracting the given product or service.
It’s not even a particularly new “discovery.” A Google, Gartner, and Motista study (from 2013!) surveyed 3000 B2B buyers across multiple industries. The most impactful finding? B2B buyers turned out to be more emotionally connected to the brands than B2C consumers. While an average B2C brand showed an emotional connection between 10%-40% of their customers, most B2B brands had emotional connections with over 50% of their clients.
A more recent study (2018) from Gyro and The Financial Times confirmed the importance of emotions in B2B buying. They went so far as to identify the most effective forms of emotional capital B2B brands should invest in: confidence, optimism, and the potential to trust them.
Thus, you should not underestimate emotion in your customer communication.
Chatbots make creating emotional experiences significantly more manageable as they have the capacity to:
- React in real-time to demands and moods
- Provide an informal and approachable setting
- Impart emotion through bot personality
3. Personalize Buyer Experience
Personalization is the go-to strategy and not without reason.
The stats are pretty straightforward. For example:
- Personalized emails are likely to deliver 6x higher transaction rates;
- In an average marketing campaign, lack of customized content causes 83% lower response rates;
- Personalization can reduce acquisition costs by 50%;
- Personalized content encourages repeated purchases in almost 44% of consumers.
Website personalization solutions can help you recognize anonymous visitors as employees of specific companies, making it easier to customize the experience to their needs.
However, that’s only scratching the surface of personalization.
Chatbots can take your capacity to personalize on the go to a whole new level. Firstly, their conversational nature is legendary when it comes to data collection. Automated conversations make data sharing much more pleasant than online forms. They also allow you to leverage the collected data instantly. Hence, if done right, you can stir your lead in the right direction not just based on who they are but also based on their stage in the customer journey.
Secondly, bots provide you with a unique insight into customer behavior. Conversations let you observe how they make choices, what information they demand, which of these choices lead to conversion, etc. The more conversations your leads and customers have with your bot, the more data you have to improve your customer journey and service.
4. Make Relevant Content Easily Accessible
If a buyer can’t find the content they are looking for, they will bounce. They will continue searching until they find it elsewhere.
Providing easy and unfettered access to content buyers require in the early stages of their journey increases the probability they will consider your products or service. There is no need to resort to gating your resources as a good piece of content delivered at the right moment will act as a lead magnet by inspiring the users to act, naturally.
When it comes to content, B2B businesses need to start adopting a customer support self-service mindset.
Chatbots and virtual assistants are just the tools to enable that as they are perfect companions when it comes to real-time content discovery. Without forcing the user to devote time to searching for information, bots can deliver answers, calculate prices, direct them to landing pages, share articles, videos, ebooks, and more, instantaneously.
Better yet, the choice of content helps your bot identify the type of customer or their stage in the customer journey which in turn enables further personalization.
5. Deliver Highly-Qualified Leads
An efficient lead qualification process is essential in lowering acquisition costs and maximizing your conversion and profit. If not set up correctly, or not executed quickly enough, results in missed opportunities as well as the wasted precious time of your agents.
In the past few years, conversational marketing has built quite a reputation in the lead generation domain. Sure, conversations are much more enjoyable than online lead forms. However, that’s not the main reason bots work so well.
Their true power lies in instant lead qualification that results in instant personalization that results in instant action.
Bots give you the freedom to ask a bit more questions than your usual online form.
Well, that is open to interpretation. Perhaps, conversations being interactive and reciprocal make it easier to convey the idea that you're actually trying to help the user instead of making it feel like you’re trying to steal their data.
In any case, chatbots have the capacity to adjust the conversation based on user answers or even score the answers on the go. Based on the answers, the bot can offer different types of content and support. Or it can use the overall score to:
- Transfer the hottest leads to live agents instantly;
- Allow qualified (purchase ready) leads to book a meeting with a sales rep;
- Send unqualified leads or those that are not purchase-ready quite yet on a specific nurture path (e.g. by exporting them to a specific mailing list)
For instance, Landbot’s builder provides multiple features to support lead qualification from its simplest to most complex formats. It allows you to set unique lead variables, create conditions with a conditional logic block, modify data formats and carry out complex calculations with formulas, and more.
One of the most popular of them being the Lead Scoring Block:
When it comes to lead scoring best practices and qualification, chatbots become powerful allies that should not be overlooked.
How to Use Chatbots in Your B2B Strategy
So, what are the practical ways to use chatbots as part of your strategy?
In the customer-facing scenarios, your chatbot for B2B can find applications across all stages of the conversion funnel.
- Awareness stage: Leverage bots in the form of conversational landing pages, click-to-chat social media ads, smart contact forms, interactive banner ads.
- Consideration Stage: Employ chatbots to score & qualify leads, segment them into personalized email lists and offer personalized content.
- Purchase Stage: Use your B2B chatbot to transfer qualified prospects to live agents, book one-on-one meetings, and even manage the final transactions.
- Post-Sale Stage: Take advantage of the bots to provide product or service support in the form of answered FAQs, “concierge” services or use them as a screening system to help your support team to separate the casual issues from the complex ones.
As you can see, a chatbot for B2B is a broad concept that has tens of applications that can aid your business to grow as well as establish a compelling image.
Whether you choose to employ your bot internally, in marketing, or to provide support, you are likely to reap the benefits.
Why not try building your first bot today?