The World has seen very few years like 2020. Not only did we see highly unpredictable events but also the world as we knew back in 2019 has changed. This dramatic change has affected all walks of life and the functioning of Businesses in particular. Here we are going to address the B2B Buyer’s Journey and how the pandemic has changed the Buying Process.
Let me tell them that they are committing a blunder as it requires much more than awareness, consideration, and conversion campaigns. It’s beyond storytelling and it has to be omnichannel and Digital-first moves now.
We all are aware of the fact that the B2B buying process is complex and requires many strategies and experimentation when comparing it to B2C selling. Marketers often confuse B2B buying and they land up creating the same 3 Stage funnel as they do for B2C selling. Below is an image that shows the difference between B2B and B2C Buyer’s Journey
With the increasing ubiquity of the Internet and the rise of Marketing Automation Tools, Customer relationship Management and Omni-Channel Marketing Softwares. These have transformed and also reestablished the relationship between Buyers, Marketers, and Salespeople. The B2B Buyer’s Journey now has become more complex than anyone could expect.
According to Search Engine Land’s data, Today Google receives 79,000 searches per second while 15% of these searches have never happened before. This gives testimony to the fact that Buyers now have various ways through which they can research the options available in the market and also educate them regarding the market options before even making purchases. Forrester’s research says that 90% of the Buyer’s journey is complete before a prospect reaches out to the salespeople.
But reaching the salespeople by its own prospective Buyers requires a lot of back-work and hard-hit and tried Strategies to work. While viewing the Buyer’s Journey from the Buyer’s perspective, then this process has primarily 6 stages which are ought to be considered by Marketers and Salespeople.
B2B Buyer’s Journey Process
- Problem Identification: This is the first and foremost process through which every prospective buyer goes through. While conducting our research we found that generating leads and eventual sales were the main problem that any sort of Business encountered. If not the main, then also Lead Generation was considered among the top problems. There are various solutions in the market claiming that they provide leads and prospective buyers, but one has to understand that leads do mean just numbers that match your Audience personas, rather leads mean interested prospective buyers who have either contacted your Business or have engaged with your Business earlier. Getting just a pile from a database with numbers is a no-brainer.
So if you’re an agency that sells services or software or any sort of product to Businesses then ask yourselves, does your product or service actually provides a solution to a problem that your prospective Buyer encounters. If Yes, then let’s move ahead with step Two.
- Solution Exploration: Now that you have found that your product actually solves a problem that is in demand by the Businesses. Then comes Solution Exploration, it is where you have to decide how to market and position yourself among your competitors as well as in front of your Buyers. According to Gartner’s CSO report, only 17% of the Buyers were willing to meet in person with the Sales representative and preferred educating themselves about the supplier’s service via digital mediums and channels. Here your Website-primarily and you’re Social and search ubiquity plays an important role, plan out your content marketing strategy with our Social Media Content creation Guide. These statistics enlighten us and urges us to adopt digital selling strategies rather than conducting in-house meets and sales. Though this does not mean complete abandonment of the sales process and be fully digital, I suggest that the bend and weightage should be more towards digital selling.
Supplier’s wesbite, Content Creation, Case Studies, testimonials and product demos will play an important role in B2B selling. This new way out for selling has also given rise to various marketing automation tools, Business CRM softwares and Omni-channel marketing tools. Leverage them for more effecient sales and marketing performance.
- Requirement Building: This is an area where which most marketers neglect and it’s also the least discussed aspect. Here I would suggest designing and structuring your website products and services in such a way that your competitors don’t. Always keep a FAQ section on your website where you can answers the most frequently asked questions by your Clients, or even add the questions which you think will confuse your Buyers. Display a quick chat or easy call to action button for buyers to contact you.
Still, after many years of work, I personally find this the hardest. It’s like solving the problems of your Buyers without allowing them to spend a penny. Try to Reach out to them. Try them to try your service or product. For Saas-based startups and companies, it’s best to give a free product trial so that buyers can experience your Product. For service-based companies try to reach out to them via email or in-person meetings.
If you’re able to align their Business Requirements with your service, then half the battle is won. Tell them why your product or service is better than your competitors. Tell them about your USP. If this doesn’t suffice then offer them something they can’t refuse. This does not mean lowering prices and working below your company standards. Keep your bar and keep trying, even if you lose few leads.
- Supplier Selection: After moving stages and stages ahead, you will never know that how important any piece of content can help you stand out among your competitors. So it’s important to treat all pieces of Content as a Business asset and always work for quality rather than Quantity.
Enough of theory jabbing, let me come straight to the point,
Question: How and Why will a Business select you?
Answer: By establishing Authencity and leadership in your industry. This may not be true for startups, as in their case they will have to give weightage to their USP(Unique selling proposition) more rather than focus on establishing leadership. Which I belive, is a long term process.
So Peer to Peer testimonials, Customer case studies, Previous project portfolio, Content Marketing via Blogs, and service demos can help you stand out among your competitors.
- Solution Validation: Next step in line is solution validation, which is done primarily by Business Development Representatives and Sales representatives. Here you will have to align your services or products with the Business problems you ought to tackle. White papers and industry-specific case studies can help the Business understand how your company can solve their problem too.
- Consensus Creation: In the Business world, there is rarely one decision-maker, and the fate of whether you will get a Business or not is decided by the group of people who exert influence. Focus here on not only targetting the Business heads but also domain heads like Finance, HR, Marketing, and Technology. This has been stated by a Gartners report of the Changed relationship between Buyers, salespeople, and Marketers.
Well, the above stages may or may not work simultaneously but these may happen definitely and mostly behind the scenes. Also its not as easy as it looks, its even more complex. The below diagram given by Gartner summarizes how complex a B2B Buyer’s journey can be.
B2B selling is a hard Nut to crack. It involves a lot of experimenting and failures at the start, but once you get the knack of it and understand the dynamics, you will be able to succeed.
While I wish to conclude but my heart doesn’t want and I would enjoy helping and guiding my readers with few more tips, so here are few facts which a marketer should consider when they are selling to Businesses.
B2B Buyer’s Journey Facts
- Buyers really like their vendors more than you think and it’s high time that Marketers and Salespeople think of their Buyers, not as only prospective Leads or Clients. Marketers and Salespeople should focus on establishing healthy and better relationships. Though 84% of Buyers have described their relationship as “Good”, there is still room for improvement.
2. Buyers are thirsting for Knowledge and advice from “Subject Matter Experts”, “Valuable consulting and hacks or even tools” that would rank high in the Buyer’s opinion.
3. When a Business or Buyer makes a purchase decision regarding a product or service, the influence of additional third-party groups in companies like Finance, HR, and IT plays an important role in the Buying Process.
Content Marketing and Social Media
4. Leverage Content and Social Media: It is very true that buyers need information and thoughts from subject matter experts. But this information has a lot of stake for the selling Company. Therefore in delivering and distributing the content, there is a dichotomy between Buyers, Marketers, and Salespeople.
Marketers lean towards extensive use of Case Studies, While Salespeople believe in peer-testimonials. Whereas Buyers crave Product Information and Product Demo to help them make purchase decisions.
Influential Content varies at different stages of Buying Process, but Social Media is at the heart of every Business Consideration and implementation.
5. Relationship Between Salespeople and Marketers
Lead Nurturing has changed, Once the Sole Domain of the Salespeople has now become the area of Marketers since the Buyer has moved Online. Both Sales and Marketing agree that Lead Nurturing involves relationship Building, but there are divergent views between them as to what constitutes lead Nurturing. Marketers tend to give a broad view regarding lead nurturing such as segmenting audiences, synchronizing messages, and using a variety of online tactics such as automated email messages, social and, search Advertisements.
There are key Takeaways
- Rethink of establishing better relationships with your Buyers.
- The focus of targeting not only the company heads but also additional influential groups in the companies like Finance, HR, and IT
- Buyers crave Product Information and Product Demo to help them make purchase decisions. Curate Content Marketing according to buyer’s wishes for better lead nurturing.
- Use Second Tier Social media apart from BIG-3 (Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube) for better Brand visibility and engagement, since 2nd tier platforms have greater Organic reach and engagement potential.
- Consider re-establishing the relationship between Marketers and Salespeople for better lead Nurturing and eventually conversions.