The only thing constant is change.
Heraclitus probably wasn’t referring to B2B buyer behavior when he said that, but he nailed it.
B2B brands have upped their marketing game and demand generation marketing technology to meet the demands of modern B2B buyers, but their buying behavior continues to change and grow more complex. Of course, this makes the jobs of B2B marketers more complex.
If you want a front-row seat to the shifts in B2B buying behavior, look no further than the latest DemandGen Report B2B Buyers Survey. The report uncovers key trends and changes in buying behavior over the past decade and notably shows that B2B buying journeys don’t fit neatly into a funnel.
While many organizations have armed themselves with martech tools, data appending services, more content, and an increased budget, the ability to recognize and adapt to change is perhaps what is most valuable for demand generation success. With adaptability in mind, below are a few tips on how organizations can succeed in the ever changing B2B buyer landscape.
1. Document the Buyer’s Journey
Fifty-five percent of the respondents to this year’s DemandGen Report survey stated that their purchase timeline had increased or significantly increased as compared to last year.
The only way to truly understand what the buyer’s B2B purchase path looks like is to document it using various sources including your data and qualitative feedback from your customers. However, this is something that many B2B organizations don’t do.
A B2B organization recently told me, “we have our funnel laid out in Pardot and Salesforce. That is what we use for our buyer’s journey.” Operationalizing the funnel is not uncommon and can be useful. However, it doesn’t reflect the reality of what B2B buyers do when making a purchase. Do you think your buyers ever declare themselves at the MQL stage of their buying process?
A documented buyer’s journey includes the following demand generation marketing strategy:
- Key buying milestones
- The actions your buyer takes within each milestone
- Personas involved in each purchase milestone
- The timeframe for each milestone
Without defining the above, you do not have a vision into the buying process and will likely fail to connect with your buyer at some point in their buying journey.
2. Revisit Your Personas
Most modern B2B organizations have defined buyer personas. However, these personas often become less valuable over time because they are not updated with new information and changes.
As mentioned above, knowing what role each persona plays in the purchase journey is essential as it enables you to speak directly to them and their role, i.e., relevance plus context. In fact, 55 percent of survey respondents in the DemandGen Report said seeing content that is relevant to their role and objectives is one of the top criteria they use when visiting a potential vendor’s website.
If you do not refresh your personas with regularity, they will quickly outlive their usefulness and you will have a hard time developing the right content for the B2B buyer journey, which leads to the next point.
3. Develop Better Content
Content marketing continues to be a top priority for marketers and reports like this, while useful, are often used by marketers as a proof point for investing in more content development.
However, B2B buyers don’t need more content. They need better content. They need content that helps them qualify and quantify their needs and enables them to make informed buying decisions.
This content should map to their journey and create an ongoing dialogue between your brand and your buyers through the entire process. Sixty-five percent of survey respondents indicated the following as the leading reasons they selected the winning vendor:
- “demonstrated a stronger knowledge of the solution and the business landscape”
- “demonstrated a stronger knowledge of our company and our needs”
Your content must demonstrate that you understand your buyers’ needs, the business landscape, and your solution’s role throughout the B2B buyer journey. The amount of content is not important, relevance and value of content are critical.
4. Enable Your Sales Reps
Buyers are demanding more from B2B sales reps. Sales reps not only need to know your products inside and out, they also need to be subject matter experts on industry trends, market changes, and business objectives for your buyers.
When sales reps can shift from purely sales to, as one colleague put it, “a buyer’s concierge”, they can guide buyers through the B2B buyer journey as a trusted advisor. Your sales reps need to fully understand buyer personas, including their objectives, goals, and pain points to make this shift. The more buyer information marketing can gather, organize and present to sales, the more successful they will be.
The challenge? As this blog post points out and the B2B DemandGen Report confirms, the B2B buyer journey changes as the world does. Smart marketers plan for and track those changes.
B2B buying will continue to evolve. A martech stack with Pardot and Salesforce as a foundation is helpful, but critical thinking, strategizing, and planning for change requires you. Defining and documenting a buyer-centric demand generation strategy is essential for growth; changing it as your buyers’ purchase behavior changes is essential for success.