Marketing and selling to B2B customers used to be a lot easier, straightforward, and predictable. As marketers and salespeople, you were in charge.
The emergence of the new B2B buyer - more informed, more connected, and definitely more in control - has upset the applecart. With the new B2B buyer behavior - thoroughly researching the solutions they need and completing up to 90 percent of their buyer’s journey before they even reach out to vendors - not to mention going through a whole new set of buyer’s journey activities - marketers have to reexamine and redo their strategies – fast.
Introducing the new B2B buyer
It’s no surprise that much of the decision making is performed by younger professionals. Their digital savvy enables them to conduct most of their pre-decision research online rather than with a salesperson. Their reliance on social media gives new power to peer recommendations, word of mouth, and the online reputation of the vendors they’re considering.
Today’s B2B buyers are highly educated and risk-averse, preferring to get advice, guidance, information, reassurance, and a feeling of security - rather than hard pitches - from someone they can trust. They work in a networked environment, and value information-sharing, personalization and customization, digital everything, and collaborative - rather than rigid - buying processes and journeys.
Additionally, the pandemic has resulted in new B2B customer expectations as they have become accustomed to a new virtual environment. Such demands include easy access to information, e-commerce options, improved connections via engaging and interactive virtual events - rather than long webinars, and on-demand customer support.
Finally, in an era when customer experience (CX) is a fundamental business value, we see B2B buyers being “consumerized,” taking signals from their experiences as consumers and adopting B2C buying behaviors in which things like emotions play a larger part.
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The new B2B buyer’s new path to purchase
Just as we see the emergence of a new B2B buyer, we’re also witnessing a change in their buying process. Here are at least three B2B buyer stats that marketers ignore at their peril: 57 percent of B2B clients’ decision to buy is made before they even speak to a supplier; 82 percent of such buyers have seen at least five samples of content from the winning vendor; on average, 5.4 people participate in B2B buying decisions.
The B2B purchase funnel: It used to be simple, linear and orderly. Now, with constant access to information, not only can the path to purchase differ with each person, but its orderly sequence may likely be jumbled. The complex process, according to Gartner research, involves a series of steps including: identifying the problem, exploring solutions, determining requirements for the solution, reaching out for recommendations and checking out reviews, selecting the supplier, seeking validation, and getting consensus from stakeholders.
Moreover, the B2B sales process is getting longer - thanks to more time devoted to research and ROI analysis; more complex - with more people involved in the purchase decision process - between one and six people in 79% of companies included in a recent B2B Buyers Survey; and more mobile - attention marketers: 91% of buyers’ searches are now done through their mobile devices.
How to successfully market to the new B2B buyer
Now that you know how the B2B buyer has changed - and his buyer’s journey evolved - how can you attract and convert this important segment, drive sales, and stay ahead of competition?
Here are 10 tips in no particular order:
- Adopt account-based marketing to tightly align sales and marketing and grow revenue faster
- Focus on social media - where most B2B decision makers can be found - to generate leads and promote brands
- Use content marketing to educate and add value for your target audience, as well as achieve credibility, authority, and thought leadership
- Personalize the B2B buying experience - it shows you know who you’re talking to and what their needs are
- Build a community of industry influencers and customers who can advocate for your brand
- Keep not-yet-sales-ready prospects interested with lead nurturing programs across multi-channel touch points
- Make your brand prominent in review sites and in the media - that’s where B2B buyers are searching for vendors
- Use new channels to engage with prospects, including Live Chat and LinkedIn InMail
With a new breed of B2B buyers having different expectations and processes, it’s time to adapt and do more than try to convince them to buy. It’s time to help them buy your strategic solutions that meet their demands.