The world of B2B marketing has been changing rapidly as the digital empowerment of buyers is changing their behaviors. Today, B2B buyers are behaving more like your average B2C consumers in that their buying behaviors tend to be emotional, interdependent, and mutable.
There is a greater desire among these same digital buyers for a certain degree of anonymity as they traverse their way through their journey until they are ready to purchase.
The long and winding road of B2B buyers
The digital empowerment of B2B buyers has also had an impact on the demand funnel. The traditional sales funnel approach to managing the customer journey no longer fits. These days, customers are completely in control of their own journey and they know it. Their journey is dynamic and nonlinear. Savvy experience leaders are realizing that as the complexity of the B2B buyers’ journey changes, so must their marketing efforts.
A quick glance at the latest statistics makes it very clear that B2B buyers are taking cues in workplace purchasing from their personal experiences as consumers. The early part of their journey is done digitally in relative anonymity.
Today’s buyers are seeking and digesting, on average, more than 10 sources of information across many channels. Additionally, the buying process has become far more complex with an average of 6.8 decision makers —each person most likely coming from different roles and departments with varying objectives, undoubtedly making the selection process much more difficult.
Infographic: The consumerization of B2B buyers
Expanding the marketing mindset
All of these changes in B2B consumers’ habits are creating enormous challenges for marketers. While not insurmountable, there is a definite call for rapid assessment and adaptation in order to successfully engage with customers to drive business growth.
Realizing challenges and recognizing trends is one thing, but determining the path forward is another. As marketers, we must realize and accept that we need to do things differently and approach marketing a new way. Marketers have to expand their mindset from their individual roles and scope within their organization.
B2B marketers need to orchestrate the entire buying experience from the first moment that customers become aware of products and services to purchasing and all the way to brand advocacy. This means that the customer experience (CX) is carefully orchestrated not only within the marketing interactions, but throughout the entire buying journey.
Content must be prepared and curated for each buying persona so that it is relevant and delivered in a timely manner. This requires careful content and execution planning based on target personas for each of the phases in the buying journey.
The customer journey isn’t limited to traditional marketing channels only. Often, it spans across the entire organization. In order to help orchestrate the overall customer experience, marketers must look to breaking down the internal walls and silos between teams.
Marketing and sales: Transforming the B2B buying process together
Marketers can exercise their leadership and collaboration skills to reach out to other customer facing organizations like sales, service, commerce, and sometimes, even the back-office to lead the customer experience orchestration efforts. First to understand the customer journey that touches these teams and, second, to agree on the best approach to deliver seamless and consistent customer experiences across business units.
A mentality that brands need to understand is that B2B marketing is a team sport. This effort requires a higher level of horsepower in terms of a marketing automation platform, a CRM, and advanced analytics. Organizations will have to adopt and embrace machine learning and artificial intelligence to gain the deeper insights to drive the best customer experiences.
Fortunately, machine learning platform providers are making it much easier for marketers to leverage machine learning in solving specific business problems. There are pre-packaged machine learning applications such as like lead conversion propensity, customer churn, and product recommendations to name a few.
At the end of the day, technology is just a tool. You still need a new approach and a business strategy to engage this complex and dynamic B2B customer.
One strategy that many marketers are finding success with is account-based marketing (ABM). This approach involves designing and executing highly targeted, personalized marketing initiatives to drive business growth – more to come on that topic!