We all know that self-educated buyers are holding sales reps at arm’s length until they’re quite far along the path to purchase. The fact that buyers are now in control causes no end of frustration in B2B organizations. But there’s no sense wringing your hands and trying to reassume control. The key is to focus on the experience your prospective buyers have of your organization as they narrow down their solution options.
B2B Buyers are Consumers Too
B2B marketers need to remember first and foremost that prospective buyers are people and consumers. That means the trends that impact all of us in our daily lives are also affecting prospects in the same ways. The world moves faster in general. We all have access to information at our fingertips through a range of digital devices. We can more easily tap into our friends’ and peers’ opinions and experiences. (All of which leads to the Zero Moment of Truth, coined by Google; check out this terrific post by Velocity Partners in the UK about how ZMOT impacts B2B.
We’re spoiled by the experiences we have with leading brands like Amazon and Zappos. And we don’t distinguish between the experiences we have as B2C versus B2B buyers. Consumer companies have raised the bar high, and B2B marketers need to satisfy high expectations as buyers make their B2B purchases.
Christine Crandell who speaks and writes about the B2B buyer’s journey, outlines six characteristics of what she calls Buyer 3.0. These buyers:
- View the buying experience is a precursor of their customer experience.
- Are outcome-driven and expect to receive meaningful value at every step.
- Thoroughly research potential purchases and alternatives long before contacting sellers.
- Consider any inconsistencies in their buying “experience” as a warning sign that future expectations will not be met.
- Use multiple social channels to interact with and expect sellers to be able to follow the conversation across channels.
- Proactively share their product and buying experiences with their social community.
In other words, the buying journey is just as important as the ultimate purchase. As Tony Zambito of Buyerology says, “Buyers not only want to ‘feel good’ about the business experiences they undergo, but now also have a higher expectations they will take away knowledge they did not have before.”
Shaping the Buying Experience
Marketers tend to get wrapped up in their inside-out perspectives, thinking about what type of collateral to produce or campaigns to run. What they need to keep in mind is that buyers are seeking information, and as long as it’s the right information at the right time – and is easy to access – they largely don’t care how it’s delivered or in what format. According to Caroline Morris with the marketing research organization Sky IQ, " They [consumers] don't differentiate in terms such as channels or devices like marketers do, they are just engaging."
B2B buyers also expect their interactions with your company to be seamless every step of the way. If there’s any discontinuity between the information marketers present and the conversations sales reps spark up, confusion ensues and the prospect is likely to bail. After all, these are busy people who don’t have time to piece it all together on your behalf. As Christine Crandell points out, this disconnect can raise a red flag for potential buyers, making them question just what their experience would be as your customers.
The key is for all relevant stakeholders within an organization to collaborate and make sure they’re working in tandem to offer buyers a unified experience.
Marketers can spearhead efforts to get everyone who interacts with customers on the same page with the storyline, messages, and content being shared with prospective buyers. This can be done through a combination of sales playbooks, trainings, and ongoing internal communications. And don’t forget to touch base regularly with your sales team to see how the content and messaging is resonating with prospects once they’re interacting with your sales reps.
Photo credit: blinkingidiot
About the author: Stephanie Tilton is a content marketing consultant who helps B2B companies craft content that nurtures leads and advances the buying cycle. You can follow her on Twitter or read more of her posts on Savvy B2B.