Innovation in B2B needs human insight

At a time when all businesses are grappling with digital disruption, the need to innovate, move faster, reduce costs and accelerate growth, what B2B marketers need more than ever before is the ability to truly understand their customer.

But the question remains: how do you truly develop a deeper understanding of the business customer amidst the complexities of the B2B buying journey?

And more importantly: how and why should B2B businesses consider investing not just in tech transformation but also to cultivate the human element of innovation?

Account-based marketing (ABM), artificial intelligence (AI) and data-driven personalisation are seen as some of the key trends (re)shaping the B2B sector. What we also know is that in B2B, marketers may not have always been blessed with the wealth of data seen in B2C, but with digital tools and marketing techniques accumulating big data almost as a by-product, focus is shifting onto having not just any data the right data.

Insightful innovation

Is that enough though? Clearly not, because most brands haven’t quite realised that ultimate promise of creating truly personalised and relevant experiences for their customers. In fact, our over-reliance on big data and algorithms to drive outcomes has often meant that we are abandoning relevance and sometimes even trust with our customers. Now more than ever, human relevance in marketing has never been more valid or indeed more necessary.

Time, then, to not lose sight of the need for rich insights, strategy and creativity.

Insights are the rocket fuel for ideas, and ideas are the lifeblood of any customer-focused business. The trouble is many businesses and brands struggle to understand which of those ideas to support and scale. It is a common problem facing not just B2B but also B2C brands.

The solution lies in investing in the right environment and opportunities to be creative and innovative. This does not require some grand vision but, rather, the skills to examine and connect data with strategic analysis to create actionable insights. With the power of AI to process and analyse data, the quality of these actionable insights can then be applied to create better customer experiences; and they can be used to create more useful and relevant content and increase the chances of successful innovation.

The power of feelings

Really what all of this means is that B2B businesses are not becoming just another algorithm-based business, but that these disruptive changes can be seen in the push towards customer-centric account based marketing. Of course, that also means sales are data-driven, enabled by digital tools and supported by analytics, but the focus remains on really understanding what customers want.

The new battleground is in creating an intelligent customer experience. Where does that come from? It can be found when B2B customers seek partners with the right data and deep expertise to face today’s challenges and business problems. More critically, when they start developing quality insights as a creative process. Now that requires the ability to understand the power of feelings.

Business solutions can and should be rooted in both human relevance and data. It empowers marketers to make real change. According to research gyro carried out earlier this year with the Financial Times Commercial Insight Group, emotions are key to creating successful business relationships.

The Business Feeling Index: The Feelings That Move Business report sought to unearth honest emotions and untapped understandings into what drives the humans making decisions. What it found was business leaders are seeking to derive confident optimism from their partners and the relationships that they forge together.

Confident optimism, according to top decision-makers, comes from both being assured about a company’s expertise, but also about what a partner can do for their business. It is derived from a series of factors including company culture, communication and ability to deal with a crisis. Key to building that sense of confident optimism in decision-makers is proof that businesses are experts in their fields, and will bring insight to the partnership. Some 70% of respondents said thought-leadership, a.k.a. insights, is the most important element.

Today’s B2B customers expect to receive the same personalised experiences they will have come to expect in their everyday life. Just as B2B technology has become more accessible, B2B marketing must now evolve as B2C has, though the challenge remains the same for both – establish an emotional connection with the consumer.

Personalisation is not just desired, it is expected and business leaders must face the need to be more creative and innovative to engage future customers. We cannot stop investing in intuition and human insights to drive growth.

Kate Howe is chief executive of gyro UK

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