customer journey

The Customer Journey: 3 Ways to Simplify the B2B Path

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The customer journey is made up of many “moments” and each customer goes in and out of each stage multiple times depending on the problem or issue they are trying to solve. As we know this is not a linear process, nor is it simple. It is complicated, messy and overwhelming for both the buyer and the seller.  Last month, I attended the CEB Sales and Marketing Summit in Las Vegas, Brent Adamson, unveiled new research and provided some frightful insight into the complexity:

  • 57 percent of the buying process is complete before involving sales. (older stat but still holds true)
  • 6.8 stakeholders involved in the average deal (which is up from 5.4 just 18 months ago).
  • 51 percent of decision makers are not willing to advocate. Diverse buying groups settle for lowest common denominator consensus, which is often, “let’s do nothing.”
  • And, after making a B2B purchase, 39 percent of customers report that the process was overwhelming.

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So, where to start? Adamson provided a great framework for breaking down the customer journey. As always, you need customer-centric thinking. Your challenge is to look at some of you customers and break down the “why” and “how” they buy and arrive at each stage   Know everything about your stakeholders and how they work together so you can “prescribe” or recommend ways to fix problem without the lens or products and technology. Here are the three ways to simplify the B2B customer journey.

1. Challenge

We need to understand how buyers think about their business, so we can push their thinking. This means that we first need to educate ourselves on our buyer’s businesses, the complexities of their selling environment, and the pain points they’re trying to solve. It requires you to be seller agnostic.

Sealed Air, is a packaging company known for its brands: Cryovac food packaging, Bubble Wrap cushioning, and Diversey cleaning and hygiene solutions. Bubble Wrap is a household name. It might be cushioning for packages but adults and kids know the hours of fun popping those bubbles! Last year, Sealed Air introduced a flat version of their packing materials to cut down on the cost of shipping.

This new version – had no “pop” and customers were devastated and took to social media to express their outrage: “No life without the pop” and “You have ruined Christmas.” For Sealed Air, understanding alternative uses that might not been a part of the intended design was key.  Popping bubbles was a vital part of the use and customers cared so much that they used social media to express their opinions.

So for Sealed Air, social channels became an important way to connect and engage with customers – even far as, Bubble Wrap took to twitter with its own twitter handle. The twitter conversations are entertaining and you will fine many uses for bubble wrap you never thought possible! Bubble Wrap is not going away – the cushioning family just expanded to include an ecologically friendly solution to reduce carbon footprint.  Phew! Customers can still pop away!

2. Align the customer journey

We need to understand the various stakeholders impacting our deals: who are they, how they connect, and what motivates them to have the conversation in the first place.  It’s not about better connecting stakeholders to us – it’s about better connecting stakeholders to each other. It’s our job to uncover ways to help our buyers navigate the purchasing process internally. Remember, buying groups settle for the lowest common denominator consensus.

This is where really knowing the organization structure of the company and interviewing stakeholders to understand what motivates and drives them to make a decision. And ultimately knowing what is at stake for them. Solutions that help find influencers in the context of past deals within your organization – and the ability of your team to capitalize on those relationships is the first step in building connections among stakeholders. And just as important is to bring in all departments that will be affected by decision (example: purchase of a customer engagement solution): CMO, CSO, CIO and even procurement. Procurement can stall/stop a deal at the end that you thought was a sure thing!

3. Prescribe

We need to understand anticipated and unanticipated hurdles along the buying journey that prevent customers from moving to the next stage and then prescribe methods for overcoming those hurdles.

Adamson said, “We need to re-calibrate our customer understanding to understand not just seller dynamics but buyer dynamics.”   Help uncover areas of improvement your customer might not see but do it through a buyer lens.

The secret to success does starts and end with the customer and whether you are in sales or marketing, the goal is the same: simplification and delighting customers so we can make the buying journey rewarding and as painless as possible.

Help me keep the conversation going, and share your best practices and how you remove the complexity of the journey.  And, test how strong your brand’s customer engagement is. Take a free assessment and receive a personalized report.

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Shalini Mitha
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Shalini Mitha

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