The B2B Buying Journey of Decision Makers

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nlike consumers, businesses tend to buy what they need, when they need it, rather than on a whim. What this means is that B2B companies must take a strategic, “always on” approach to marketing rather than running short-term campaigns. By mapping the journey of customers, businesses are able to provide the right material, with the right problem-solving messaging, at the right place, and at the right time. This approach ultimately leads to optimised marketing budgets, increased ROI, and arguably more importantly, a strong and trustworthy brand that followers rave about.

To better understand what works – and what doesn’t – for decision makers in Enterprise and Small-Medium sized businesses, we recently spoke with Dean Salakas, CEO at The Party People and Robin van Bergen, Director of Infrastructure & Operations. In this article, we take a look at critical areas of consideration when mapping the customer buying journey including related insights from Robin and Dean.

Segmentation

The most critical part of mapping the journey of a customer is to understand the target audience and to categorise it into easily manageable groups. While personas are highly effective in B2C marketing, and in some cases B2B marketing too, as a general rule, since businesses don’t buy based on an individual’s personal motivations, but rather on need – regardless of age, gender, or personal interests – segmentation is a more effective method of distinction.

Segmentation comes down to two main things – common problems, and intent to buy. For example, smaller businesses are typically motivated by cash flow and the procurement process is fairly unstructured, whereas larger businesses face challenges of operational inefficiencies and have structured procedures for procurement. Of these businesses, some are more innovative so will typically adopt solutions to their problems more readily than their more conservative counterparts who share similar problems. A simple segmentation of this example would be small businesses with high intent, small businesses with low intent, large businesses with high intent, and large businesses with low intent.

The key to effective segmentation is finding the sweet spot between simplicity and complexity – not too simple that the messaging becomes generic, and not too complex that it becomes unmanageable. Problems can be grouped by industry, job title, decision-makers vs influencers, size, and maturity (technologically, culturally, operationally, etc.).

Content & Messaging

“I typically don’t engage with promoted content unless it’s on a topic that I’m already considering implementing and unless it provides clear and tangible business outcomes which are relevant to me. There is a lot of technical content out there which only communicates what it is, not what it does and the value it delivers. That being said, I do actively keep up to date with emerging technology and business trends as they’re published” answered Robin when we asked him what he thought about current content trends.

This was similar to the response from Dean who added that

“a brand that communicates which customers are best suited to a solution – and more importantly, which aren’t – and why, come across as significantly more trustworthy than others that claim to be the right fit for every business. I don’t have a lot of spare time to waste, so a brand that gets to the point quickly really appeals to me. If I do engage with content, and it turns out to be bad, I find it quite damaging for that brand.” says Dean.

In order to satisfy the "always on" approach, marketers must offer up a constant stream of valuable content that focusses on emerging trends for prospects with low intent to buy, and valuable content that shows tangible business benefits including either case studies or scenarios and without technical jargon for prospects with high intent to buy.

Promotional Channels

“When we’ve identified a need in the business, we typically start the process of research and planning internally and independently. We ideally want unbias, vendor-agnostic and industry relevant advice, so we first turn to our trusted network for suggestions once we have a rough scope. I’m part of a closed WhatsApp group of CEOs in the retail space that is really active and which I can get first-hand accounts of real experiences and recommendations. It’s only after this point that we will go to market and approach vendors or service providers or start engaging with relevant promoted content. I’ll add though that unsolicited marketing, like InMails or cold calls can be a put-off. I find they detract from the credibility of a brand if they are poorly crafted and I’ve had no prior contact with the company.” says Dean.

In fact, studies have shown that over 90% of C-level executives don’t respond to cold calls or email blasts and the majority agree that cold calling damages a brand.

Typically, by the time a prospect is engaging with your content, they have already identified a need and done some homework of their own. This is why inbound content marketing works so well – only those who are genuinely interested in what you are selling will engage with it so the leads you get will be top notch.

Building credibility through the steady distribution of cutting-edge content with all of the latest trends, while engaging micro-influencers to help promote your content and provide credibility, will ensure that prospects not yet ready to buy will be sure to have you top of mind when they eventually are.

Both Dean and Robin stated that the publications they frequent the most are news sites, industry-specific publications (email updates included) and LinkedIn. Webinars and breakfast/lunch events that showcase emerging trends are also of interest.

Score & Nurture

As mentioned above, not every prospect will be ready to buy at the same time. It’s a crowded market though, so having a database of your target audience is like pure gold. It’s very easy to lose subscribers, so ensure that each segment is scored appropriately depending on their activity so that you can ensure you’re sending the most relevant and valuable materials to them to keep them engaged and so that you can prioritise your sales efforts. Activities to track and score include page visits, email opens, content they’re mostly engaging with, frequency, social interactions, etc.Make sure that you’re prepared and ready for the moment that your prospects come knocking.

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