To understand the B2B buyer’s journey is to understand the process a potential customer goes through when making a purchase decision. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that this ability to put yourself in your customer’s shoes is key to success.
However, the B2B buyer’s journey has been disrupted over the past years. Every stage has been streamlined and, contrary to popular belief, it hasn’t become any less complicated. With the shifting sands of technology, buyers are now more inscrutable, conducting their own research online, defining their solution strategy, and shortlisting potential vendors before ever reaching out to a salesperson.
On one hand, while this shift will lead to confusion for the unprepared, opportunities are rife for the ready. Read on to better equip yourself with the necessary know-how and take charge of these changing times.
What Is the B2B Buyer’s Journey?
Overall, the path of the buyer’s journey hasn’t changed much structurally. You’ll still find the same three stages that map out how a buyer treads along their purchasing journey:
The first stage is all about the unknowing buyer realizing that they’re affected by a problem. This is when they notice and understand their problem through guidance and educational materials as opposed to searching for an immediate solution.
You could think of it as analogous to someone experiencing an illness. What they’re looking for after noticing their symptoms is information (often via the internet as a first step) to recognize and define their illness. Forms of content B2B buyers often consult here include blog posts, informational articles, videos, and infographics.
Knowing that they’re plagued with a problem, the next logical step is to find a potential solution. Buyers in this stage are actively on the lookout for a way to resolve their issues. They’re no longer googling their symptoms online; they’re now looking for a specific treatment for their illness.
Content for this stage should be more focused and targeted. Buyers should be given information that will help them define the right solution strategy and, ultimately, the type of product or service that will be most appropriate. As you’ll need to communicate the merits of your solution, whitepapers, e-books, and even case studies all play a crucial role at this point.
By now, potential buyers would have considerably narrowed down solutions to a manageable list where comparisons will be made. They’ve decided to opt for treatment and are now considering which specific hospital to go to. This is the final push where buyers will decide once and for all whether to purchase a solution or not.
Here, marketers should focus on understanding their competition, solidifying their unique selling position, and following up with any active leads. Content marketing here should include demos to showcase the best of your solution, case studies to provide social proof, and free consultations to directly liaise with the leads.
How Has the Journey Changed and What New Challenges Do Businesses Face?
While the journey as seen above still retains its core structure, recent events have stressed the importance of anticipating and adapting to newfound trends. Here are some key changes to note:
Information asymmetry just isn’t as asymmetrical anymore. With the power of the internet and search engines, the informational playing field has leveled the ground between buyer and seller. This means that potential customers are more likely to scrutinize and form opinions before you even get the chance to directly persuade.
B2B businesses can adapt to this challenge by doubling down on their content marketing efforts. Why? Simply because over 50% of B2B buyers now use content when vetting businesses. That said, it’s important to ensure that content remains primarily educational as opposed to salesy. Further, focusing on curating thought leadership content has also proven to be effective in creating a more trustworthy relationship.
The Shift Online
With the migration from physical offices to online platforms, don’t be astonished to learn that most purchases, start to finish, are now made entirely online. For the foreseeable future, this new reality seems to be something that’s here to stay as a long-term fixture, with only 20% of B2B buyers expressing a preference for in-person sales.
There is an opportunity here for businesses to stand out. Over 60% of buyers complain that their vendors did not have proper digital channels for this shift, finding existing channels inefficient. In addition, research by Gartner found that close to 33% of CMOs believe that a smooth customer experience is a priority due to the digitization of the buyer’s journey.
Businesses should also optimize their websites to provide the best experience possible for buyers. Adapting it for mobile users, focusing on a user’s experience, and ensuring their site is secure are sure ways to be noticed.
New Content Trends and Preferences
Tastes change according to what goes on in the world, and the B2B space is no exception. In light of this, understanding what your audience prefers to engage with is key to resonating with them.
One trend to note is the rise of the case study. Blending the best of your solution together with a real customer dealing with real problems, they demonstrate the capabilities of your solution while indirectly recommending it to others. Videos in the form of explainers and guides have also seen a surge with over 70% of B2B marketers now incorporating them into their campaigns.
And in terms of direct customer interactions, the shift online has sparked renewed interest in live and video communications in closing deals with leads. This is in stark contrast to in-person sales which have been rapidly declining.
What Must Today’s Marketers Do to Meet Buyers at Each Stage of the Journey?
All this change can seem intimidating to the B2B marketer, especially as nothing is set in stone. That said, preparation is key to success, so here’s how you can be better prepared for each stage of the new buyer’s journey.
Awareness is a two-way street. It isn’t enough to simply create brand awareness. Marketers have to be equally aware of what buyers are thinking and going through. Ideally, you should:
- Ensure that your buyer’s persona is periodically updated. It should be the guiding north star that orients all sales and marketing campaigns.
- Take advantage of social media channels when raising brand awareness.
- Target the right groups and understand that B2B customers often come as a flock.
- Conduct a content audit on past campaigns to see where you were successful and to identify areas for improvement.
In this age of the consumer armed with internet-found knowledge, concealing key information is detrimental to success. Marketers must aim to support the buyer on their journey regardless of whether they convert.
- Curate high-quality, credible, and useful content such as whitepapers and e-books.
- Focus on curating thought leadership content to establish credibility.
- Consider implementing virtual or hybrid events to interact with potential customers.
- Update your website to provide as smooth a browsing experience as possible.
- Ensure that your website and digital content are optimized for Google’s ranking.
The decision stage is where push comes to shove for the marketer. A good strategy understands both the uniqueness of your product and your competitors.
- Understand the flipside (i.e., the objection) of your solution and why buyers may choose another option.
- Clearly establish why your solution is ideal and draw comparisons with other competitors.
- Train your sales team to bring out the best in their product when interacting with leads.
Your First Step
The B2B buyer’s journey is a complex process that doesn’t seem to be getting any simpler. It may seem intimidating to adapt, but seminal opportunities are ripe for the picking for the prepared.
At Brighttail, we leverage our extensive expertise to provide our clients with the latest and most up-to-date insights and strategies. To ensure your finger is kept on the pulse of these changing times, get in touch with us today!