Navigating the B2B Buyer’s Journey

In a previous post, I talked about using conventional B2C tactics with a B2B audience and touched on the changing expectations of B2B customers. The merging of B2B and B2C in the minds of our customers, highlighted in Demand Gen Report’s 2021 B2B Buyers Report,1 means that our audiences are expecting a more polished, personalized (and more self-serve) user experience (UX).

However, the B2B path to purchase is still quite different than B2C in most cases. It can be long, complex, and non-linear. The procurement process can also vary greatly between customers. There is no one-size-fits-all marketing or selling formula.

77% of B2B buyers state that their latest purchase was very complex and/or difficult.

Source: 2019 research by Gartner, Inc.2

This is where marketing and selling to an organization as a whole breaks down. You need to acknowledge and speak to all individuals involved in the decision making for each project. While, as a group, they all have the same goal—solve issue ABC—each person will have their own priorities based on their role in the process. Just identifying all the stakeholders can be a challenge in of itself.

According to a McKinsey & Company study,3 Covid-19 pushed companies to do their research online more than ever. Their findings were that, “Only about 20 percent of B2B buyers say they hope to return to in-person sales…” even in industries that are known to be very field-sales oriented like “…pharma and medical products.” Decision makers “prefer remote human interactions or digital self-serve” when they are considering a purchase.

Using the combined insights from the three reports referenced above, you can see that this is where your brand can have the largest impact. To stand out from the crowd, information needs to be:

  • self-serve
  • easy-to-find
  • complete
  • easy-to-understand
  • personalized (content relevant to each role)

Most B2B buyers look for information on a supplier’s website first. If that information isn’t characterized by most, if not all, of the qualities in the list above, your product might not even make it to the shortlist for serious consideration.

If your brand is consistent and always offers high quality, relevant content that resonates with your target audience, you are much more likely to be top of mind both at work and at home. Further, a brand that makes an organization’s complex procurement process easier will get you major bonus points!

To further complicate this process, there can be multiple companies and/or divisions of companies that have a stake in the product or service being considered. The diagram below by Gartner©2 shows us an example of a B2B buyer’s journey. I can speak from experience that this level of complexity is far more common that you would ever hope to encounter!

More than ever, we need to have the right content readily available for every person involved in decision-making processes. And, it all needs to be on target without the advantage of having someone there in person to explain every detail. Marketing and sales are no longer in a sequential process. Their cooperation and alignment (and killer content) are crucial components in the future success of any B2B business.

What changes have you seen in B2B purchasing behaviour since the beginning of the pandemic? Do you think they will be long-lasting? Please share in the comments below!

Sources:
1DemandGenReport.com, 2021 B2B Buyers Survey: As Buying Committees Expand, Unique Patterns Emerge Among Different Stakeholders, June 2021.
2Gartner, Inc., 5 Ways the Future of B2B Buying Will Rewrite the Rules of Effective Selling, October 2020.
3McKinsey & Company, How COVID-19 has changed B2B sales forever, October 2020.

Stay tuned for a follow up post on the various roles involved in B2B procurement and their priorities.

Unlike wild bears, feeding the content creator is encouraged! 🙂

© 2021 Tracey Copeland, Rolling Sands Consulting.

Published by traceycopeland

Marketer, Creator, Coach | Brand Communications | Strategic Planning | Talented Leader of Diverse, Cross-functional Teams ― Tracey is an award-winning marketing and communications specialist with a passion for helping others define and reach their goals.

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