Research Report

In brief

In brief

  • Business customers of industrial companies demand B2C style experiences and interactions but few companies are prepared for the transition.
  • To rise to the challenge, industrial companies must rethink the role of the CMO as a key contributor to growth and competitive advantage.
  • Structural and capability changes are required for industrial CMOs to assume responsibility for front-end, digitally enabled customer experience.


Business customers of industrial companies are ushering in an era of “Industrial Consumerism.” That is, they are demanding the same sorts of multi-channel customer experiences and seamless interactions they enjoy in their business-to-consumer (B2C) lives.

However, few industrial companies are prepared for the transition. To rise to the challenge, industrial companies need to reimagine the role of marketing as a prime contributor to frontline growth and competitive advantage. And to rethink how their Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) can work with their organization to attract, engage and retain their business customers along the entire lifecycle.



The era of the living business

Forward-thinking companies put customers at the center of their thinking and continuously adapt to achieve total customer relevance and sustained growth. They are the "Living Businesses."

There are several things industrial companies can do to get there:

  1. Expand the range of customer propositions by offering products or services, as well as highly satisfying end-to-end experiences and solutions to customer issues.
  2. Replace traditional siloed and sales-led approaches to customer engagement with more responsive and collaborative models.
  3. Create new online experiences and purchase options.

In a digitally enabled Living Business, the customer experience (CX) is everyone’s responsibility. From the sales force to the field service teams, technology provides the tools to strengthen the customer relationship.

In our latest research, we found online experiences and purchase options are increasingly important for today’s business customers.

74%

of industrial buyers research at least half their purchases online

20%

of industrial purchases will occur online by 2025

50%

of sales is expected to be online-induced by 2025

A new role for marketing

Transitioning to a Living Business will affect many areas of the industrial organization, but none more than marketing.

Traditional ways of building customer interest are keeping CMOs one step removed from the direct "relationship selling" activities that characterize the industry.

The emerging era of engagement and relevance enables CMOs to contribute in new ways and—along with their sales and service counterparts—create the experiences their B2B customers demand and deserve. CMOs have the opportunity to take the reins and shape the online marketing strategy. They can identify needed resources and manage the online experience—which is more and more critical—at the beginning of the sales cycle. A CMO-led, front-end focus on CX primes the pump for solution and relationship selling.

By meeting customers’ growing expectations for personalized content, CMOs can help retain revenues that might otherwise be at risk.

Companies that achieve the type of hyper-relevance that B2B customers now expect are 3X more likely to achieve above-average revenue and profit growth.

The marketing transformation: From function to mission

The time is right for CMOs to assume responsibility for front-end, digitally enabled CX and capture new revenue opportunities. Shifting to this role won’t happen overnight. Several structural, mindset and capability changes need to be made first:

Zero out the past

Applying zero based principles will help CMOs rethink the marketing organization. This approach pinpoints the right level of funding to introduce tools, capabilities and experiences to set the company apart.

Reinvent the present

CMOs need to embrace concepts of Living Marketing by making customer-centricity a priority and fully aligning CX across all channels and touchpoints.

Prepare for a high growth future

CMOs will need ecosystem partnerships, build new skills in-house and invest in technologies to create the multi-channel experiences industrial consumers now crave.

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All in for CX

Thanks in large part to the digital disruption that is changing B2B consumer behaviors and expectations, CMOs in the industrial industry have an unprecedented opportunity to contribute to CX in much more meaningful ways and are in a primary role to seize new growth.

Industrial companies also need to create a culture and operating model in which multiple parties—from the CMO to CSO and beyond—work together to optimize customer experiences as a cohesive team. A unified approach to CX will differentiate industrial leaders in the years ahead.

About the Authors

Bernd Hirschle

Managing Director, Lead Customer Insight & Growth – Industrial Equipment


Frederique Schmitt

Managing Director – Digital Transformation


Emma Blackburn

Research Manager – Customer Insight & Growth


Matthias Wahrendorff

Thought Leadership Research Senior Principal – Accenture Research

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