B2B CMO Insights on Omnichannel Buyer Empowerment

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By Jennifer Hollingsworth, Digital Marketing & Sales Enablement Manager

Estimated Reading Time: 10 minutes


B2B marketing leaders are realigning strategies to meet the rapid changes of digital transformation, customer needs, and AI advancements. Key trends indicate a move towards “sales-free,” self-service buying, which demands personalization and customer empowerment akin to B2C experiences. Industry experts featured on our podcast highlight the shift from product selling to delivering customer-desired outcomes, fostering a ‘business-to-human’ approach. To stay competitive, B2B marketers need to create cohesive narratives across all channels, focus on building customer relationships, and tear down interdepartmental barriers. Successful B2B leaders will innovate and treat customers as collaborative partners, ensuring a consistent, value-driven journey.

In the fast-paced world of B2B marketing, adapting to change is not just a buzzword—it’s an operational mandate. Our podcast, The B2B Engagement, over the past year featured some unique perspectives of B2B marketing leaders navigating through this transformative era of digital customer engagement with agility and strategic acumen. From Cordula Knüppel at Ericsson discussing effective value storytelling to Andy DeLaO at GE HealthCare outlining a shift to a patient outcome-focused approach, each conversation dove into the heart of overcoming modern business challenges.

For B2B CMOs and marketing leaders, these insights are not theoretical explorations but tactical frameworks ready for application. The strategic discussions ranged from harnessing AI for personalized marketing to fostering a unified sales and marketing revenue team, all for greater customer-centricity.

Digital Transformation and Integration

Digital engagement often bubbles to the surface in these conversations as a common challenge among B2B marketing leaders right now. And it is an evolving and ever-pressing challenge to solve. What started as a gradual generational shift in buyers accelerated at light speed during the COVID-19 pandemic and never slowed with our continuous technological advancement. Gartner predicts that 80% of B2B buying will take place in digital channels by 2025. That is next year! Already, 33% of buyers want a “sales-free” buying experience. Adopters of digital customer engagement are seeing tangible success with an average top-line revenue increase of 70%. This means we all need to act now to digitally empower buyers with a consistent, omnichannel experience – or our revenue growth will continue to suffer.

The first step is to understand your customer behaviors and decision-making processes in the present and future digital world. The emphasis is on “your” because personalization is key when we move from traditional, in-person engagement to the remote and virtual. What are your buyers’ expectations and needs? And, since in-person never will disappear entirely, how do you seamlessly navigate between the two for and with your customers in a way that perpetuates forward motion in the buying journey?

Embrace this paradigm and understand that your B2B customers expect a B2C-like experience, says Andy DeLaO, GE HealthCare CMO. They research and educate themselves, preferring an asynchronous, self-paced approach to their buying journey.

Therefore, recognize the inherent self-interest in decision-making and use it to form customer-centric, consultative engagements. Provide content and tools that allow customers to educate themselves and make informed decisions, counsels Aaron Graham, Senior Vice President of Marketing & Sales at SES. Build digital channels that facilitate interactive discussions and self-guided exploration at the customer’s pace, adding depth and value to the sales process.

To address the concern of time-consuming personalized marketing, B2B marketers, like Cordula Knüppel, Western Europe Senior Director of Marketing and Communications at Ericsson, should look to AI and automation technologies. These tools can help to quickly adapt core messages to different target personas’ needs, leading to more effective and efficient communications, she said. These insights underline the transformation of B2B marketing towards greater personalization, customer-centricity, and the strategic use of technology to manage the complexity of modern marketing landscapes.

Shifting from a Product-Centric to a Customer-Centric Approach

TE Connectivity has adapted by reorienting its marketing to focus on value propositions and differentiation rather than product features. The company, Dalila Babou, Global Marketing Director, said, has also looked to provide a consistent message through an omnichannel buyer empowerment experience. This strategy ensures that customers receive a coherent and comprehensive value story across all touchpoints.

Marketing teams should work together with sales, product management, and other customer-facing functions to deliver a unified approach that goes beyond traditional product promotion, focusing on enriching the customer experience at every interaction. Babou emphasized the importance of embracing change as a necessary step for organizational success and the collective responsibility of various functions within the company to add value to the customer. She also highlighted the shift from exclusively product-focused marketing to encompassing a broader, value-driven and customer-centric strategy that leverages both traditional and digital channels for growth opportunities.

Building Trust with Empathy and Relevance

We have been seeing this challenge in moving away from product and feature selling into building authentic, outcome-based relationships – which creates trust and removes the need to “sell” from the equation – for years, and it remains a barrier to business growth with today’s customers. IBM CMO and VP Scott Baker calls this a human-centered marketing strategy. For DeLaO, being in healthcare marketing makes this an even higher priority; what matters to GE HealthCare customers is the patient and the outcomes they can provide to each patient. This means a double layer of customer-centricity wherein the product features and technology are irrelevant unless they provide the desired results and value for the patient.

To implement this strategy refocus, DeLaO conducted wide and deep listening sessions within his organization to understand the problems, challenges, and expectations of employees and customers. The transformation emphasized understanding customer problems, experiences, and desired outcomes rather than selling products. Engaging with patient stories and outcomes became central to the strategy. With this, he successfully guided the organization to market to interests and experiences rather than techs and specs.

IBM started to transform its approach to marketing by treating it as “business-to-human” and focusing on personalized customer experiences that are authentic and empathetic. Baker is helping to create relevant customer segmentation that recognizes the unique problems and challenges they face in their specific businesses, including their professional and personal lives. Then, IBM uses this understanding to build trust and become a trusted advisor before pitching products or solutions. Instead of pushing products, IBM now focuses on forming memorable and valuable relationships where genuine connection surpasses immediate sales.

Implementing a business-to-human marketing strategy requires addressing the first challenge of digital and personalized engagement. B2H marketers should provide the tools and resources customers need to self-educate in a way that is empathetic to their journey, avoiding hard-sell tactics and respecting their pace and preferences. Baker also discussed the importance of being consistent with messaging across the organization, creating cohesive customer experiences, and aligning marketing activities with authentic customer needs rather than company agendas.

Adapting Messaging to the Buyer’s Journey

Having established the importance of a B2H approach that caters to the modern customer’s need for digital, personalized engagement, we must examine the pivotal role of brand message consistency. The digital age, with its multitude of channels and touchpoints, demands a marketing strategy that not only respects the autonomy of the customer but also amplifies a consistent brand message. This consistency becomes the backbone of trustworthy and cohesive customer experiences.

With multiple channels and touchpoints, Knüppel has had to consider how to optimally use different venues or digital channels to reach diverse audiences, ensuring that the brand’s messages resonate with prospects at the right time and place.

The right message at the right time for the right person is a mantra in marketing. However, developing a cohesive and effective brand message that resonates across a dispersed, multinational organization and translates into meaningful action for varying audiences (customers, investors, employees) is a shared challenge among many of the marketing leaders on the podcast.

Graham emphasized taking a holistic view of brand building within B2B technology companies and strategically positioning SES’s philosophy of helping customers achieve their ambitions. The company’s brand promise is, “Take your story anywhere.” It reflects SES’ commitment to enabling customers and their clients to achieve more, even in unexpected ways, through the facilitation of stable infrastructure and connectivity globally.

Adapting to a Changing Buyer Landscape through Alignment and Storytelling

Thus, understand the importance and strategic role of your brand in B2B marketing as a unifying force. Your brand should inform and align the entire organization around who you are, your operations, and the company’s values. It’s crucial to transition from seeing the brand as merely visual elements to leveraging it as a foundational promise that guides interactions clearly and uniformly across all stakeholders. Position your brand not as the hero but as the facilitator or guide for your customers to shine. In your storytelling, showcase the customer innovations made possible through your products or services and emphasize the outcomes of those innovations. Then, create an omnichannel distribution strategy that aligns with your customers’ expectations and sustains your brand integrity through every interaction.

As we navigate the intricacies of these evolving marketing strategies, we recognize that at the heart of modern B2B marketing lies a narrative. This approach insists on personalization at scale. Customers should feel understood and guided towards solutions without a sales pitch. And we must consider the increasingly convoluted composition of buying committees with disparate considerations, all seeking reassurance of their collective choice.

The robust storytelling methods that uplift the value proposition must now be reframed to address this more complex audience, even more so in the digital arena. Babou talked about a buying process that involves more stakeholders than in the past, requiring marketing efforts to educate and convert entire committees, not just a single decision-maker.

CMOs should invest time in understanding and managing stakeholders’ varying levels of marketing comprehension. Plotting a tailored educational strategy for different teams within the organization can foster a unified approach to going to market, Knüppel said.

Break down silos between the sales and marketing departments to streamline communication and objectives, said DeLaO. Sales and marketing should function as one cohesive team aimed at understanding and addressing each stakeholder’s unique interests within the buying center.

Acknowledge that buying decisions in B2B settings are not purely logical but emotional and often made at a subconscious level, Baker reminded us. Truly engage multifaceted buying teams, ensuring that every touchpoint – whether digital or in-person – reinforces the consensus necessary for conversion.

Emphasis on Learning and Adaptability

To conclude, our conversations with leading B2B marketing leaders and executives uncovered a tapestry of challenges and transformative strategies that are shaping digital customer engagement. Amid a landscape marked by shifts to digital mediums, generational changes in buying behavior, and the compounding complexities of group decision-making processes, these leaders articulated innovative solutions and actionable insights that are steering their companies toward success.

From Ericsson to GE Healthcare, SES to IBM, and TE Connectivity, the shared narrative is one of adaptation and customer-centric evolution. B2B marketers are shifting from a transactional mindset to one that values human connections and outcomes to thrive in this digital-forward marketplace. Strategies such as embracing AI for personalized engagement, tearing down the silos between sales and marketing, and prioritizing stakeholder self-discovery have emerged as critical alterations.

The takeaway for CMOs is clear: the brands that are leading in this new era treat their customers not just as buyers but as partners in progress. These companies understand that their brand message must be more than consistent — it must resonate on a human level across every channel. They know that empowering customers with the tools for self-education and promoting an omnichannel strategy are not mere tactics but foundational pillars of growth in a world where B2B customers’ expectations mirror the B2C experience.

Successful B2B marketing hinges on the ability to innovate, empathize, and engage with a nuanced understanding of each customer’s journey. It is here that the brands of tomorrow are laying their cornerstones today — ensuring that, at every interaction, their message not only reaches the right ears but strikes a chord that resonates long after the conversation has ended.

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