best practices: Merck Surface Solutions
Digital consulting at Merck
In recent years, it has become clear that customers no longer want to wait for sales to visit them; customers want to find the right solution themselves. Merck has therefore integrated a tool called "Cosmetic Blend Selector" into their website, which allows customers to find the right solution for them without waiting for a sales representative. This tool is linked to the webshop. It also supports the company's own sales staff (e.g. at trade fairs) by combining analogue and digital options.
The aim of the Cosmetic Blend Selector is, on the one hand, to generate leads and, on the other hand, to accompany customers in their product development and help them to bring their products to market quickly and cheaply.
From the tool, the customer can view the availability and the price, request a quotation, order a sample or buy the pigment directly. The tool thus shortens the sales cycle enormously and enables individual advice digitally as well.
B2B customer contact in times of digitalisation
Digitalisation is not just a big term, no, digitalisation also forces companies to constantly adapt their sales strategy in order not to be squeezed out of the market. The rule is: Whoever is fast wins! The big challenge is to find the right solution for your company and to implement it internally or with external support.
Merck, founded in 1668, has already had to go through many a structural change. The constant adaptation and realignment of marketing and sales strategies has not done any harm. Even today, the DAX-listed company is recording a steady increase in sales, most recently by 12.3 %.
What does Merck KGaA do differently from other traditional companies to still be so successful? A simple explanation would be that they simply move with the times! But, as we all know, there is no such thing as simple in B2B.
A key to success: Know your customer and the customer journey
In B2B, it can take up to three years from the initial awareness phase to the purchase. The reasons for this are manifold. In contrast to B2C products, B2B products are often very complex and require explanation, the costs are high (e.g. due to a high number of units) and when purchasing, companies usually decide on a long-term cooperation.
The customer journey can be divided into four steps:
In order to constantly optimise the customer journey, it is helpful to repeatedly answer the following questions:
- Who is your client?
- What is the customer's expectation?
- What are your client's problems?
- How and where do we address him?
- And at what point in the customer journey are they when we address them?
Opportunities and challenges in the marketing of products requiring explanation, using the example of Merck Surface Solutions
Merck is represented in three sectors: Health Care, Life Science and Electronics. All three pursue different Go2Market approaches. Under the label SurfaceSolutions sells Merck, pigments, colors and effects. The Cosmetic Blend product line is used in very different products such as cars, food, cosmetics, interior design, packaging, electronics and many more.
The challenges at Surface Solution are that marketing and sales processes in the pigment business are very special and complex. In addition, the effects appear differently on the website and digitally than they do in real life. This makes online consulting more difficult. That's why Merck strives to provide customers with the best possible advice online and access to the necessary information at the right time.
Focus on the consideration phase
The awareness phase is already very well covered at Merck. The greatest potential to generate leads to customers lies in the consideration phase. The question that arises in this phase is: How can we digitally help our customers with their purchase decision?
On the one hand, Merck pursues classic marketing and sales approaches:
- Classic direct sales via own field sales force
- Differentiation through innovation and application know-how
- Strong presence at trade fairs
- Strong focus on brochures and demo tools, but very difficult to keep up to date
But these are complemented by new and innovative solutions:
- Digital counselling tool
Surface Solution has now introduced the Cosmetic Blend Selector in response to changing customer behaviour and new customer expectations caused by digitalisation.
CONCLUSION: Digital consulting is the future in the marketing of products that require explanation
New digital solutions offer the opportunity to increase efficiency, for example in terms of reach, speed and cost. They offer added value for marketing, sales and customers. Today, customers are happy about intelligent, digital solutions that also save them time and costs.
In order to successfully market products in need of explanation, B2B companies should
- Focus on the relevant marketing channels within the customer journey
- Generate phase- and persona-specific communication and offers
- Put more focus on the consideration phase
- Linking the internal infrastructure with the marketing channels
- look for innovative marketing and sales solutions on the market