The B2B sales cycle today looks more like a sales maze, with different channels, social chatter, online reviews, and so on impacting the buyer's final decision. You - the marketer - can control only a fraction of this noise. Yet these factors are having more of an influence on B2B buyers' purchase decisions all the time. On average, the B2B buyer has already made 57% of the purchase decision before ever reaching out to a potential supplier. When a buyer is doing research on your brand, a lack of brand advocates - or worse, a proliferation of detractors - can make the tough task of acquiring new customers even tougher.

Enter the trifecta of marketing, sales, and service. Consider the following scenarios.

Scenario 1

You're a B2B buyer searching for replacement parts for a machine on your manufacturing floor. One company stands out. Apart from a professional-looking site and competitive pricing, it claims to offer expert knowledge and personalized service. You sign up to receive more information.

The next day, your phone rings. It's a sales rep from Company A. He is friendly, but asks you many of the same questions you already answered online. Also, the pricing he quotes you is unexpected. Prices on the site, you learn, don't include shipping and use the lowest bulk price. The follow-up email you receive isn't branded, and you notice a couple of typos.

You place an order anyway. When the product arrives, it looks great, but you have a question about installation. You call customer service, and the rep informs you she actually works for a third-party company and doesn't know anything about the specific product. Her knowledge is limited to order tracking, returns, or reporting quality concerns. She suggests you check the website or contact the original manufacturer of your machinery.

Scenario 2

You're a B2B buyer searching for replacement parts for a machine on your manufacturing floor. One company stands out. Apart from a professional-looking site and competitive pricing, it claims to offer expert knowledge and personalized service. You sign up to receive more information. (Psst, you don't need more coffee. This part is the same as Scenario 1.)

That afternoon, your phone rings. It's a sales rep from Company B. She has more information on the specific part you're interested in and asks some new questions about your existing equipment. She helps you figure out the exact part you need and the total cost, which aligns with what you expect. You place an order right on the phone. You quickly receive a branded confirmation email with links to helpful information about installing and maintaining your equipment.

Your order arrives. You have a specific question about installation that isn't answered online. You call customer service, where a rep answers your question immediately and even walks you through the process in real time so you feel 100% confident you've done it correctly.

Which company are you going to purchase from again? Perhaps more importantly, which company are you going to recommend to your peers or write a positive review for online? Which will you write a negative review for?

As Scenario 1 demonstrates, disruptions or inconsistencies in the customer journey caused by misalignments among marketing, sales, and service approaches can cost companies big when it comes to retention and acquisition.

According to Invesp:

  1. It costs 7x more cash to acquire a new customer than it does to retain a current customer.

  2. Current customers are 51% more willing to try new products.

  3. Current customers spend 31% more than new customers.

When used correctly, a focus on retention and an excellent customer experience is not only prudent on its own, but can become the heart and soul of a B2B company's acquisition strategy as well. The reason? "Customers serve as vital social proof that can help create trust among new leads and prospects" (Kapost).

Take a brand like Apple or Amazon.

Apple is a brand known almost as much for its die-hard brand enthusiasts as it is for its products. Recently, the company took the top spot for three categories in this year's Customer Loyalty Engagement Index compiled by Brand Keys. Every time the company breathes rumor of a new product, it gets mainstream media coverage. People line up for hours - sometimes days - for the latest iPhone, despite a price tag higher than many of its competitors.

When Amazon Prime was first getting off the ground, executives at the company predicted it would take two years to break even on the investment. It shattered that expectation when it recouped costs within three months. On average, Amazon Prime members spend more than non-Prime members - almost twice as much - and while Amazon doesn't release exact numbers, it's estimated that Prime membership stands between 65 and 80 million people. Tactics like Prime Day and free 30-day trials combined with a 73% conversion rate from trial members to paid members make Prime an incredibly powerful tool for Amazon's retention and acquisition strategies.

From marketing, to sales, to customer service, these companies have grown brands that have become synonymous with a consistently superior experience, excellent service, and almost fanatical brand loyalty. For each company, the customer journey has not only meant great retention, but it has also become strength for bringing in new customers as well.

How can you build your own marketing, sales, and service trifecta to deliver successful customer journeys that retain and attract?

  1. Know your brand story and tell it consistently. Make sure all teams across the board are on the same page. If part of your brand promise is expert knowledge, but your service staff doesn't know any technical details around your product, you're going to seem inconsistent, unreliable, or even dishonest.

  1. Map the customer journey and share it across teams. Your marketing, sales, and service teams should have a full picture of the customer journey and know exactly where they fit into it relative to other teams. This will help all your internal players understand where customers have been, where they are heading, and the barriers they may yet encounter. A broad picture of the entire customer journey helps all teams foresee and begin mitigating issues early.

  1. Capture all data and share it across teams. This ensures nothing gets lost in translation from one buyer interaction to the next. If buyers are offering their information, they want to know it's being used to serve them with a personalized experience. If they have to keep correcting or re-entering the same information, they will get frustrated. Consistent data prepares your team to deliver a consistent experience to every potential customer.

Used together to build a seamless customer journey, marketing, sales, and service can be tools for acquiring new customers as well as retaining loyal ones. Check out Journey Builder to get started mapping your own customer journey.