B2B Marketers: Are You Delivering a B2C-Worthy Buying Experience?

B2B Marketers: Are You Delivering a B2C-Worthy Buying Experience?
Stephanie Tilton - Thu May 10, 2012 @ 06:00AM
Comments: 13

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 jumpingjoy.jpgas 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.

Comments: 13

Comments

1. Tony Zambito  |  my website   |   Thu May 10, 2012 @ 08:40AM

Hi Stephanie,

Thanks for the mention. The lines are blurring in terms of experience. Buyers today have altered their expectations based on their B2C experiences. Asking the the question of why it cannot be the same in B2B. A challenge for B2B marketers indeed!

Tony

2. Doug Kessler - B2B marketing  |  my website   |   Thu May 10, 2012 @ 09:14AM

Great post.

I sometimes think of B2C brands as outgoing, gregarious,life-of-the-party types and B2B marketers as the introverts in the corner.

I do agree -- injecting some of the 'likeability'

3. Ryan Skinner   |   Thu May 10, 2012 @ 09:29AM

Glad you liked my take on ZMOT for B2B.

This is a great little call to arms.

"Consider any inconsistencies in their buying “experience” as a warning sign that future expectations will not be met." - That's kind of a frightening thought. I guess we all need to be our own company's toughest customer, and see what the world looks like.

4. Live Support Chat Software  |  my website   |   Tue May 15, 2012 @ 09:49AM

Roles played by advertising agencies and the media are booming as all target audiences for virtually any kind of online advertisement are becoming diluted. Therefore, advertising needs to go one step further and bridge this hurdle by having an interactive dialogue with the potential buyers when they land on the website. In other words, having someone at the website, who can greet potential customers and carry the advertising message further is fast becoming an effective advertising strategy.

5. Nick Stamoulis  |  my website   |   Thu May 17, 2012 @ 08:47AM

B2B marketing doesn't need to be dry. It's important to inject some personality into B2B marketing and content efforts. People want to know who they will be working with. The B2B sales cycle is typically longer than B2C so it's important to be memorable in some way.

6. Stephanie Tilton  |  my website   |   Thu May 17, 2012 @ 08:06PM

@Tony - I continue to watch for your latest insights into the changing B2B buyer-seller interaction.
@Doug - Love the analogy. B2B marketing certainly could use a good shot in the arm, as you say.
@Ryan - Completely agree that Christine Crandell's statement should stop every B2B organization in their tracks.
@ Live Support Chat - I'd say companies need to carry it a step farther and not just be thinking about their advertising messages, but all information they're providing online and how they can ensure a continuous "conversation" with prospective buyers.
@Nick - Completely agree that a company's personality can mean the difference between being remembered and getting lost in the shuffle.

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