Buyer Experience Innovation: Why BtoB CEOs Must Make It Their Top Priority

Published: October 26, 2010

Compounding these challenges is the rapid transformation underway in the buyer-seller relationship brought on by the advent of digital marketing and social media technology. For many BtoB CEOs, they are witnessing the conventional strategies associated with sales and marketing being dismissed and tossed aside by buyers at an alarming rate. The seller centric world of yesteryears has literally been turned upside down as buyers are seemingly in more control than ever and traditional strategies no longer are effective.

These challenges are creating a mandate for CEOs to innovate towards new means of attracting new buyers, retaining existing customers, and maximizing value through customer loyalty. A CEO today must think in a much broader context than the myriad of different approaches that have arisen over the past few years to respond as well as adapt to the transformative events taking place in BtoB markets. This broader context is essential to viewing in totality the buyer experience one has with their organization. Today’s CEO’s must make Buyer Experience Innovation a top priority to succeed in the rapidly changing BtoB marketplace.

Let’s define Buyer Experience Innovation:

“Creating in totality an ideal buying experience and innovative interactions that engages as well as enables buyers to enter into a transactional and loyal relationship with the organization.”

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Over the past decade, customer experience has become part of the landscape of business thinking. In particular, customer experience has found its way more prominently in the BtoC market space as the emphasis on creating brick and mortar as well as online experiences has become an essential means of winning over customers. New technologies associated with mobile, digital, and social media is causing resurgence in customer experience thinking today. In the BtoB context, it is important to delineate this context whereas customer experience can be viewed as essential to back office operations while buyer experience is essential to the front office — primarily sales and marketing.

Why must BtoB CEOs make Buyer Experience Innovation a top priority?  There are several reasons, of many, that can be noted:

Growth Strategies: The lifeblood of BtoB organizations is creating sustainable top line revenue as well as market share growth year after year. The path to sustaining growth strategies is through creating innovative and rewarding buyer experiences that help buyers to meet their goals.

Alignment: The issue of sales and marketing alignment has been written about extensively over the past few years. Many organizations continue to struggle with this issue. When this alignment is problematic, it directly affects the buyer’s experience and not for the better.

Cohesion: In conversations with several BtoB CEOs, a recent issue is that while there have been new approaches related to areas such as demand generation, content marketing, and social media, there is a lack of cohesion in these efforts that contributes to the overall buyer experience.

Static View of Buying Cycle: For many years, we have conditioned ourselves to look at the buying cycle one dimensionally and through the prism of the seller only. Many sales and marketing approaches have been designed around these static views, whether they be defined as 4, 5, or 6 stages makes little difference, and in today’s digital age creates a severe disconnect with buyers.

Lack of Insight: While BtoC has made strides in customer insights, BtoB has lagged behind in attaining critical buyer insight that contributes towards making informed decision. Some of the BtoB CEOs I’ve talked to basically say this “not knowing” truly keeps them up at night and that decision-making can be an art form of crap shooting.

Sales Cycle Modeling: The sales cycle and the numerous selling models that exist have been reinvented over and over throughout the years. Evident to many BtoB CEOs today is that buyers today no longer make themselves accessible to this means of one-way communication and have become resourceful in resisting such efforts.

Design Thinking: Forward thinking CEO’s today are leading their organizations through sound design thinking in products, services, and experiences. Buyer Experience Design and the sub-component of Buyer Journey Design will become critical pieces of the puzzle in developing buyer experiences that enables and engages buyers.

Brand Experience: While the concept of the holistic brand experience has gained prominence in BtoC circles, the sales-driven cultures that exist in BtoB organizations have not considered brand experience in the same holistic manner. Today’s leading BtoB CEOs are beginning to make brand experience a considerable component of strategy.

We are undoubtedly in a transitional period in BtoB strategies related to sales, marketing and services. This requires of us and BtoB CEOs today bold new thinking around Buyer Experience Innovation as a means of achieving acquisition and growth strategies.

Tony Zambito is Founder and Principal of Goal Centric, a customer strategy firm based focused on goal centered customer and buyer experiences. In 2002, Goal Centric originated the buyer persona methodology used for identifying and marketing to target buyers today. Tony has served as a member of senior management teams with TRW, Knight-Ridder, and Compaq where he worked with many of today’s leading Fortune 100 companies. He is also author of The Buyer Experience blog offering thought leadership on creating growth strategies through buyer experience innovation.

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