The B2B buyer’s journey is increasingly becoming a digital-first exercise, especially as face-to-face interactions have been limited this year. These changing realities are forcing sales and marketing teams to adjust the way they engage and address customer needs.
SiriusDecisions’ VP of Portfolio Marketing Amy Hayes and Principal Analyst Steve Casey hosted a keynote session, titled: The Future of Buying: How to Anticipate and Plan for Your Buyers’ Evolving, during Forrester’s SiriusDecisions Summit 2020.
The experts shared key insights businesses can use to adapt to the digitalization of the buyer’s journey and empower their buyers. These strategies include:
- Being transparent to build trust;
- Remaining connected in all stages of the buyer’s journey;
- Using intuition to alleviate potential buyer stresses; and
- Removing roadblocks for buyers where they browse.
Leading With Facts And Feedback
Trust between a buyer and a business can make or break the buyer’s journey and decision-making process. However, according to SiriusDecision’s 2019 B2B Buying Study, currently, only 8% of buyers openly trust the promises businesses make.
“It’s not about providing access to more of the same old content, promises and claims,” Casey explained during the keynote presentation. “We need to provide content, messaging and information that resonates with what they are already hearing about you in the marketplace. Most importantly, all of this content, all of these claims, all of this information must be demonstrably true.”
Businesses must become more candid with their buyers. Content about pricing models is great, but Casey explained that business practices, policies and market feedback have just as much influence over a buyer’s purchase. A business needs to stand by its practices and results, shying away from bold claims and sticking to the facts. By adopting this strategy, businesses can differentiate from competitors and drive demand toward their own product or service.
Connecting with buyers is more than having a 1:1 relationship. It’s also about going above and beyond to remove a buyer’s frustrations. SiriusDecisions’ 2019 B2B Buying Study found that 42% of buyers trust their peers’ opinions when making a purchase decision, highlighting the importance of connection and presenting businesses with an opportunity.
“There are multiple people that are involved in the buying decision process,” said Hayes in an interview with Demand Gen Report. “They're looking for providers and vendors to help them facilitate deeper collaboration as they're making their decisions. From a channel marketing perspective, those businesses that sell indirectly through channel partners, collaboration looks like a deep understanding and collaboration between supplier and provider.”
A buyer wants to remain connected to a business not only at the point of contact and purchasing stages but throughout the whole buyer’s journey. When a business encourages the buyer to ask questions and provides guidance where necessary, the buyer becomes more informed and moves toward purchasing a product or service organically.
By involving the buyer in the decision-making process, the buyer and business can build a lasting connection that enables future sales. Marketers can ensure long-term growth by shifting their brand’s perspective and messaging toward forging lasting partnerships rather than tallying sales numbers.
Understanding Buyer Needs
SiriusDecisions experts noted that businesses must be prepared to address buyer concerns or challenges and take steps in advance to prepare.
One of the most common methods of being prepared is through content, but according to Forrester’s Global Marketing Content Credibility Survey, 59% of vendor content is useless for buyers. Hayes explained that most businesses put out useless content because they fail to understand a buyer’s needs.
“When I [the buyer] interact with a provider, I want them to know who I am,” Hayes stated. “And so the idea of persistent knowledge of the buyer is required in order to create more intuitive experiences, where I know what the next logical step is for me to take in doing business with this particular provider, or how to answer the next set of questions that I have about this particular offering.”
Buyers expect businesses to know about their needs, and businesses should already be prepared to meet those needs. By demonstrating to buyers that businesses know and understand the market and the individual buyer, marketers can alleviate concerns before they arise.
Engaging On All Channels
The buyer’s journey is not confined to a singular platform. In the keynote, Casey explained that businesses should engage with buyers in every channel they are active in.
According to SiriusDecision’s 2019 B2B Buying Study, 40% of buyers prefer assistance when purchasing solutions/products online. The research noted that chatbots and AI assistants are an effective way of engaging buyers, as they can be programmed with the knowledge to answer important research questions. These multichannel chatbots and virtual assistants are a great way to remove buyer challenges, answering all the buyer’s questions about a product/service, and preventing buyers from abandoning a business’ channels due to insufficient information.
“Chatbots and virtual assistants are more capable of making a personalized recommendation to the buyer,” Casey explained. “They can potentially answer an open-ended question that helps [buyers] with the next best piece of content in their journey based on what their needs are.”
Keeping Your House In Order
Managing buyer expectations and catering to their needs is necessary for businesses to adapt to the digital B2B market. Hayes explained that if a business wants to use these strategies, they also need to change internally.
Businesses need alignment across departments to ensure all teams understand buyer personas and target market segments. Aligned processes allow businesses to optimize their business strategy implementation and prioritize critical buyer preferences. Marketers, in turn, can measure and compare business health and results over time, leading to overall growth in the digital market.
“Companies are understanding how critical it is to align their sales process with the buyer journey,” Hayes said. “I think companies have made a lot of progress in bringing those two views together to create a better, more streamlined experience for the buyer. And the companies that do that well are in a much better position than those that are doing those efforts independently or are not doing them at all. They’re not really focusing on the buyer journey, but just on their sales process alone.”