There are many articles on the internet that talk about the b2b buyer’s journey and ways about how one can master the B2B Buying process. But none tackles the issue of the changed b2b Marketing dynamics over the past 10 years which has changed completely the way Buyers, Marketers and Salespeople Interact. Today I would address this changed pattern in the b2b buying cycle and also how can companies align themselves for the future.
This post will help Marketers and Salespeople understand the changing dynamics and how can they use technology software and tools to make their efforts before efficient.
What caused the change?
B2B Buyer’s Journey is in flux mainly due to two factors. The Ubiquity of the internet has pushed our Buyers Online and the advances in technology which has produced Marketing Automation Tools, Customer relationship management, and other technologies.
Now with the Internet, Social Media, and Mobile, Buyers have new ways to search, compare and even educate themselves about the options available in the market. Forrester’s research says that 90% of the buyer’s journey is complete before a prospect reaches out to a salesperson.
Both Marketers and salespeople are now leveraging new technologies. Marketers rely on marketing automation tools, Data Management Software, and others to gain insights into the trends, buying behavior, and the future. Whereas the salespeople use customer relationship management software to optimize their selling process.
All of these advances have changed the way buyers, marketers and salespeople interact.
The b2b Buying process
When considering the b2b buying process there are two key players – the Buyers and Vendors. The majority of the buyers say that their relationship with the vendors is good. But this majority is only 84% and there is massive room for improvement.
Factors that impact the vendor-buyer relationship.
This dichotomy of worsening and improving relationships can be precisely addressed by learning three things
- What Buyers want from their vendors?
- Why Buyers engage with certain companies and not with others?
- What separates great companies from also-rans?
All the above-mentioned factors precisely indicate that what Buyers really want is knowledge. Therefore its your duty to make your customer smart via education and give them an edge over their competition.
B2B Buying is a team Game
The Internet is everywhere, this gives buyers the option to search online, explore social media, consult peers, work with colleagues, both inside and outside of their company. Research tells us that there are a number of players in the b2b buying decision. There are not only players but also strong departments like Information technology, finance, human resources, and marketing which are inside the company to influence decisions.
The thing to note here is that Marketers and salespeople cannot stay content with approaching the key decision-maker. They must reach the broader buying group, which means targeting their message at scale to every part of the company that can yield any influence.
Content Marketing and Social Media
It’s neither about You nor about Your Company, It is about your Content.
Let me ask you something – Who doesn’t want to be smart?
Who doesn’t want Information or Knowledge?
Just like us, our buyers crave information. But the information we distribute is not always the information which our buyers want. Research indicates that there is no complete alignment in what is the most useful and effective content in the buying process.
As Buyers now perform their Online search, they eventually crave technical details about the products and how they work. Buyers prefer Product information, Product features, It’s functioning, and demos.
Marketers prefer case studies as their top priority, whereas salespeople keep Peer testimonials on the top.
Other pieces of content like thought leadership articles, educational content, and E-books all generate massive downloads throughout the b2b buying funnel.
This implies that Marketers must have their message present throughout the full funnel, from awareness and thought leadership in the upper funnel to datasheets and demos in the lower funnel. This is exactly how a b2b marketing company assembles a complete marketing program.
Now having learned about the type of content that influences buying decisions. It’s highly important to also understand the influential content channels, that vary at different buying stages.
The preferred content Varies by stage. But research tells us that Social media and Information sharing across the buyers’ organization figured as the top content channels. This fact reveals that B2B buying is a team sport.
Relationship Between Salespeople and Marketers
Marketing departments and Sales departments are often contentious and they are not in alignment. Marketing people have always argued that the sales team could better follow up a lead. Whereas the Salespeople argued that Marketing team could have given them more qualified leads.
This dichotomy has many reasons. Firstly the very idea that Digital Marketing is easy and generating leads is often a click away by running Digital Ads. This might get you leads but not the conversions which you expect.
Last year in 2019-2020 the B2B Advertising Budget was around 7 billion USD which gave a hundred thousand dollars leads in number. This looked massive on paper but unfortunately, their conversions rates were less than even 1%.
Leads were generated by the Marketers and the salespeople followed them. Leading to an uninterested and unqualified buyer.
So How would one solve this issue?
The answer lies in lead Nurturing. Lead Nurturing for the past 10 years or even more was a sales domain. But now it’s a bailiwick of the Marketing people. The idea that increasing the number of salespeople would directly impact the company’s top-line revenue is now a sham. It’s the opposite now. You have to spend more on marketing.
With regards to How Lead Nurturing is done. There is again a dis-alignment between the Salespeople and Marketers.
Prior to this digital transformation, leads were mainly nurtured via Emails. But now, since the Buyer has moved Online, lead nurturing happens in the Digital World my Marketers through a 4 step process of – Engage, entertain, educate and try to sell prospects.
This is way to nurture leads is not limited to email but through Multi-channel marketing like Social and Display Advertising, Search, Video, and Mobile Ads.
Research tells us that Marketers have a much broader definition of Lead Nurturing than Salespeople. And it is shown that Organisations that have a strong sales and marketing alignment are the ones where the Salespeople also have a broader or similar view of lead nurturing.
The most successful organizations are also the ones where this fact of Marketers adding value to the Sales process has been adopted. This is also a missed opportunity to improve the marketing and sales alignment.
Technology helps alignment
The complete sales and marketing process is now Online, where the companies are adopting Customer relationship management software. This helps both the marketers and salespeople to have a common dashboard where they can see the buying journey. Thereby bringing the two departments closer and in consensus as to how these technologies can improve the buying process and optimize conversions.
As mentioned in the first paragraph, that the B2B Buying journey is in flux due to technological advances and shifts made by the Buyer to the Online World. This helps us analyze the changing patterns and how to adapt and optimize the buying process.
There are few key takeaways here
- Strategize Content Marketing with the mission to provide information to the Buyer thereby making them Smart.
- Strive to reach the whole buying team rather than just the decision maker.
- Deliver a full range of content, ranging from product information and thought leadership to Case-studies.
- Utilise Social Media throughout the buying process.
- Leverage Technologies to align the Marketing and Sales department.
This article has taken inspiration from various sources all overall the internet. My main sources include