The B2B Buyer’s Journey – what is it, and why is it important?
Whenever somebody makes a purchase, a buyer’s journey is undertaken. Simply put, the buyer’s journey is the pathway that is taken by the buyer before the decision to purchase is made. This process, no matter who you are remains pretty much the same, even when it comes to a business to business purchase.
A B2B buyer’s journey does, however, have its own unique difference. A B2C customer is more often than not a singular person. B2B selling involves trading with an entire team of people. When selling to an entire group of people, you can, of course, come across certain bumps in the road. Different people all have varying levels of input, and this makes the process of decision making a whole lot longer and sometimes far more tedious.
One thing that should not be taken for granted is the fact that almost 70% of the journey a buyer takes is completed before the buyer even reaches out to sales.
Firstly it is important to note how the business to consumer process works. The B2C buying process is faster, and so the overall buying decision of the consumer occurs more quickly. 60% of the time, the purchase is made on impulse rather than a drawn-out decision-making process being made.
Recognising the importance of the B2B journey is essential to the success of any business, as B2B should be the most important element of the advertising strategy. For the marketing strategy to be successful, some identifications need to be made. The first identification being that the right ad is put out to the correct demographic.
Getting the right marketing strategy is obviously the heart of every successful business. Businesses often fail to realise the importance of business to business marketing, though. Undertaking market research for your target demographic will always help you along your way, not just with marketing, but also on your business to business buyer’s journey.
In summary, a buyer’s journey is the path any buyer takes when making a purchase. You may be fooled into thinking this journey ends with the purchase; of course, it doesn’t. As all consumers know, aftersales and aftercare also play a huge part. In fact, the journey somewhat strolls hand in hand with the order management process.
How can sales use marketing to align the journey?
Over the last ten years, marketing has taken a different path from the ways of old. The modern approach to marketing has you working side by side with the sales department. Although this was once a thing of nightmares, it can now introduce marketing harmony and success into your business.
Businesses have, in fact, reported significant results when it comes to the amalgamation of the two teams. Statistics have shown that if a certain demographic are hit by marketing before the outbound process of sales even takes place, by the time the sales call is made, the lead is almost 1.5 times more likely to respond.
This is down to basic psychology, and it works by simply creating a familiarity with the brand. By the time your sales reps have become involved, the buyer already has a minor association with the name. All in all, this helps the buying journey, especially B2B. Making any influence on a business via a marketing campaign will always be highly beneficial.
Unbelievably though, there are businesses out there that are unable to seal harmony between sales and marketing. The lack of which has disastrous consequences. It is estimated that in the United States, businesses waste up to one trillion dollars due to this misalignment.
Here are a few ways that you can discover that harmony and help align sales and marketing in order to speed up the B2B buyer’s journey.
This is by far, one of the most important stages when it comes to a harmonious alignment between the two teams. Shared outreach sees the initial marketing strategy hitting the desired demographic and making and appropriate impact on them. If sales follow exactly the same outreach procedure, the success of their campaign will obviously be higher. Suddenly the sales campaign has gone from a cold communication, to more or less a follow-up.
On the other side of things, sales can communicate with marketing exactly what their goal is. The sales team should be helping to design the outreach campaign in order to make the best possible impact on the mind of the B2B buying team.
Targeting the same audience goes pretty much hand in hand with shared outreach, but there are some noticeable differences. Targeting falls primarily on the heads of B2B marketers but requires the faith of the sales team.
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Overall marketing influences 25% of all sales. That is 1 in every 4 sales your business makes is thanks to marketing. If the correct people are targeted, and the data research is done correctly, your marketing team will have the right campaign hitting the right people. The great thing when this is done correctly, you are sure to see around a 10% climb in that initial figure.
Just by taking these two steps on board and allowing harmony to build between sales and marketing, you will see huge spikes in the success of your business ROI, and the buyer’s journey also becomes a far smoother and quicker process. Unfortunately today, there are far too many businesses teetering on the crest of a wave, ready to fall into the ocean. Ultimately, they are in this position due to the lack of sales and marketing alignment.
What are the buyer journey stages?
The buyer’s journey may seem like quite a simple thing; in fact, it can be quite a detailed and intricate process. At its heart though the B2B buyer’s journey consists of three stages.
The awareness stage
The awareness stage of the process is where we begin. It can be broken down into three sub-stages; these are shown below:
One of the most obvious stages of the buyer’s journey is the identification of need. Your potential customer, at some point, will address that they have a need that requires fulfilment. The prospect, however, may not be aware of the existence of your company.
The potential customer will turn to digital means in order to find a solution to meet their needs. The majority of B2B audiences will, of course, turn to a search engine to find what they want. This is where the digital presence of your business is essential for lead generation. Buyers rarely look at the product initially, they will, in fact, be looking directly at the business. The reputation will always be examined before the product.
The customer will research until they have reached the vendor that best suits their requirements. When arriving at this stage of the B2B buyer’s journey, there will be a requirement from your business to hold more than advertisement or communication in order to push them to the next stage of the journey.
The consideration stage
After the stage of awareness, the B2B buyer’s journey moves on to, in its essence, the investigation stage of the process. The customer will now have less than a handful of potential vendors in their consideration. At this point, the potential customer will return to Google in order to carry out further research. Your business will now be looked at more closely in order for the customer to be able to make the final decision. Their decision will ultimately come down to which vendor looks the best. There may come a stage during the narrowing process, where the vendor reaches out to the sales team in order to make their decision easier. At this point, your sales team should be lead nurturing.
The decision stage
This is the final stage and where the possible customer has completed all necessary research, gained the support required for purchase, and now they are ready to make a purchase. This is the point that the sales nurturing will convert into a conversion. The decision stage of the process does not end; however, with the purchase. As mentioned earlier, the B2B buyer’s journey goes hand in hand with the order management process. The customer should be taken care of well after the initial purchase. The provision of aftercare service is also a vital part of this process. A happy customer will often provide recommendations. These recommendations will often be an important link in the businesses advertising chain.
One thing that is important to remember is the sheer length of the B2B buying cycle. It will always be a lot longer than the B2C cycle. The average purchase time within the B2B buying cycle can range between 6-12 months.
What content should be used at each stage of the buyer’s journey?
Now that the stages of the journey have been clarified, we are now going to look at the tools you will utilise, in other words, the types of content to use at each stage of the journey.
The awareness stage
Social Media Video Marketing
One of the most popular methods of creating awareness and buzz around your business and product is social media video. Over the last 10 years, social media video has seen consumers lap up advertisements faster than ever before. Now, firstly we should recognise that written content is not dead, far from it, video marketing is just another way you can reach the right audience. Videos are one of those formats that are easy to consume and should the campaign be well-executed, the video will often stay with the viewer for a long while.
Much like blog posts, visual media is a great way to offer how-to or question and answer videos, and these can be a great place to start as they step away from generic advertisement. You can actually use video is very smart ways; you don’t even need to advertise your brand directly, you could, in fact, just create a web series that subtly promotes your business. One of the smartest things in video advertisement at the moment has come from YouTube. Youtube has designed an algorithm that will now detect speech keywords instead of keywords in the description.
This is still to this day one of the most effective forms of awareness, the blog post. The blog post is, of course, an accessible media format that anybody can find with a simple search. Blog posts can and will be useful in all three of the stages of the buyer’s journey. When it comes to creating a blog post for your awareness stage, you should go into some preparation. The first step is making a list of all possible questions that may be asked before the purchase of a product. This way, you are already solving a ton of pain points at the beginning of the awareness stage.
An infographic is exactly as it sounds, a piece of information-carrying graphic. Infographics can, in fact, be highly informative, extremely engaging and they will generally contain vital information on the current topic in an aesthetically pleasing and fun way. Infographics are possibly one of the easiest things to consume. A prospective customer, for instance, could pull the information they require from an infographic in a matter of seconds. Another great thing about infographics is their simplicity of sharing. An infographic can be shared across social media with ease.
The consideration stage
eBooks and white papers are a great resource for the consideration stage. Especially as a direct follow up to the awareness stage. eBooks are a great source of further education that can be needed in order for a potential customer to gain more information on your company. As a resource, they are invaluable as they can provide tons of detailed information and help to showcase the expertise of your business. When creating an eBook, it is necessary to put as much information as possible into it and you should also look to include contact information and checklists.
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Although videos were a large section of the awareness stage, taking a different kind of video into account for the consideration stage is equally as important. These videos should be more about your product or service and how it can fulfil the needs of the customer. Whilst the awareness video was about building awareness, and this video should be about your company saying “Look what we can offer you” The most important thing to remember with video is authenticity, it has to come across as genuine.
The blog post will appear in every section of the stages, and this is simply down to their importance to each stage. Using different blog posts at each stage is really going to be vital. At the consideration stage, a potential customer will want to learn more about their problem-solving options. This basically means it is up to your business to come up with some engaging content that will place your brand in the best possible light. You should also take into account that these stages are only guidelines, and more often than not, buyers will skip stages.
The decision stage
One thing a lot of businesses will ask for nowadays is evidence of satisfactory fulfilment. One of the best ways to deliver this is via a case study. Case studies should be put together and cover a few different bases. Having case studies on hand is your way of being able to say “We are not all talk”. A good case study will serve you well during the decision stage.
Yes, of course, we have mentioned blog posts before, but utilising the right kind of blog posts for each stage is essential. Blog posts at this stage should only serve to add extra credibility to your company. A decision stage blog post should be all about how amazing the business is and why the business is the best at delivering the right results.
There are, in fact, many different forms of content to use at each different stage of the process. This is just a small selection and playing to your own strengths and taking into account the demographic, is always going to be best for your business.
Ideally, the final decision on the best type of content will always lie with you. It should never matter what any other business is doing, and the focus should solely be on your own content and how it will benefit your business at each stage.
The business should ideally be testing new methods and tactics at all times, and this will help the business find exactly what works for them. The first step you should take is creating a content marketing strategy. Going into these things, half-cocked can often be more detrimental, rather than beneficial.
What questions should be answered throughout the journey of the buyer?
When it comes to the B2B buyer’s journey, there are certain questions that will need answering, below are a few of those questions.
- What was the business looking for help with?
- What else can be done to help the potential customer at that very stage?
- Is there a specific time frame they are looking at?
- Are they looking for a solution now?
- When do they need to achieve their goal?
- Are they the decision-makers?
- How can this process be made simpler?
- Have they gone through this process before?
The key to making this process as smooth as possible is able to preempt these questions and many more. The more questions we are able to answer before they occur, the smoother the B2B buyer’s journey will be.
Over the course of this article, we have looked at the importance of the buyer’s journey on the business and some of the things that it sits hand in hand with. The B2B buyer’s journey at its core may actually be something of quite an intricate nature, but following some of the processes above can see the process flow with simplicity.
The process will always require care, dedication and in some cases, an orchestrated unification of departments within your business. One thing that must be said is this, understanding the B2B buyer’s journey is quintessential when it comes to the success of your business and the future of it.