How to Influence B2B Buying Journey [Case Study + Best Practices]

Most of the advice you see round about B2B buying journey, is repackaged and recycled. The concept of a buying funnel is 125 years old. The first reference of "create demand" was in 1907. Let's look at B2B buying journey in detail.

Author
Updated on
July 9, 2023
b2b buying journey by gartner

If you’re trying to get in front of buyers for the first time when they are ready to buy, you’re too late. Sales efforts will fail unless a company truly understands what buyers value, how they gather information, and how purchase decisions are made.

In 2024, people ask communities for reference, b2b buying journey
In 2024, people ask communities for reference

Unless a company truly understands what buyers value, how they gather information, and how purchase decisions really get made, sales efforts will fall short.

buyer journey diagram

According to a survey by Bain, 80%–90% of the b2b buyers, depending on what they are buying, have a set of vendors in mind before they do any research. Just as important, 90% of them will ultimately choose a vendor from the day one list.

Now this is very important metric in the b2b buying journey to keep in mind for any b2b company

In 2023 buyers are as knowledgeable about the technology or product as the salesperson. Sales then become more of a facilitator role, focusing on commercial terms, delivery/implementation schedules, and support/services. If I, as a buyer, know what I want, why do I need a salesperson to hold my hand all the way along my buyer journey?

The days of marketing and sales controlling the buyer’s journey are long gone — but that’s something of an open secret in the B2B industry. In the era of self-service and anonymous buying journeys that rely on peer recommendations and social media insights, marketers must stay on their toes to increase their brand’s agility and relevance of responses. A critical component of this modern buyer’s journey is the continued rise of buying groups and committees, which include several members across all departments in a business. To optimize customer engagement, successful organizations shift their focus from journeys to the collective buying tasks that buying teams need to complete.

Respondents to Demand Gen Report’s “2022 B2B Buyer Behavior Survey” indicated that the average buying group (buying committee) consists of:

  • One to three members (41%);
  • Four to six members (36%);
  • Ten or more (14%);
  • Seven to nine (10%)

It’s clear that buyers want a vendor who can speak in a highly targeted, relevant way to their specific market. The research shows that the traditional idea of nurturing a brand and providing buyers with a guided journey is a thing of the past — instead of tracking buyers’ actions and delivering relevant content, the modern buyer has flipped the script with self-service demands. After a buying group (Buying committee)has decided they want a specific solution and has a list of their potential vendors, they’re demanding specific information — putting the onus on B2B marketers to increase their agility to stay relevant.

As B2B buying increasingly moves online, both the substance and the scope of seller behavior will have to adapt in order to stay relevant, focusing increasingly on Sense Making and Change Enablement. Meanwhile, sales leaders will have to substantially rethink their role. Too many sales leaders today perceive themselves to be the leader of sellers rather than the leaders of selling. Undoubtedly, customers are migrating decisively from in-person channels to digital alternatives. Sales leaders must not cede their deep expertise in sales effectiveness to functions more classically owning these digital channels.

B2b websites and new digital channels must be purpose-built to drive sales performance and vendor selection, justified by a simple truth: customers learn and buy digitally. Understanding specific needs and providing a specific solution itself has become a marketing tactic, which is used by marketing teams.

Ultimately, sales is about selling thought leadership and b2b customer journey is not a straight line. B2b business and b2b markets, when it comes to decision stage, potential buyers looks for business needs and thought leadership. Irrespective of whether the role of human involvement in sales decreases overtime, selling must still happen one way or another; the channel (human versus digital) is merely the means, not the end. No question, the future of sales is different. Change is coming to the function — change in which heads of sales are takers, not makers. But that doesn’t mean leaders can’t adapt in response, and the best ones have already begun.

Buyers want to progress through some obstacle. And they have more options to make this progress. Marketing and sales succeed when they understand the specific progress buyers want to make, and why these challenges exist in the first place.

Get insights on your customers, ideal customer profile. B2b business and b2b marketers should find out what they want, their journey and their expectations. Then comes messaging, including website messaging and tactics.

Better understanding of potential solution, customer support, case studies will help b2b business to design for the purchasing process starting from awareness stage. Sales teams and sales reps should really understand buyer personas, customer journey mapping, sales cycles or buying cycles, buyer journey stages, target audience, email marketing, marketing tactic, marketing strategy and customer research. They should have better understanding on which potential customers and are in awareness stage.

B2B Marketing in 2024

B2B marketing is now about having a better understanding of potential solutions and showcasing expertise and building trust before the first call with sales reps. Your promise to your customers is a critical part of your brand identity. In turn, this sets in a customer's mind the value of your brand.

While brand marketers are trying to make people feel something at the top, and the performance marketers are trying to get people to act at the bottom, their customers are in the middle, trying desperately to understand; unmoved by the brand unless they understand the value and unmotivated by performance unless they understand the brand.

Here are three things to consider:

  • Be interesting. Creativity matters. If the context is right, the concept is fresh, and its craft is beautiful, people will pay attention.
  • Make value clear. Once you’ve got people’s attention, don’t waste their time with tired tropes and bloated metaphors. Help them understand why they should choose you. You can entertain and demonstrate at the same time.
  • Justify the decision. Post-decision, don’t give people a reason to loop back and agonize over yet another sprawling consideration set. Romance the hell out of the product. Contextualize it so it makes perfect sense. Make them feel great about what they’ve put in their cart.

Additional Reading: The B2B Marketing Puzzle: Rethinking SMART Goals with Jade Tambini

B2B buying increasingly moves online

In the podcast 20 sales, Kevin Egan the Global Head of Enterprise Sales at Atlassian says "85% of Slack's enterprise customers (customers with over 1,000 seats) started in self-service." This is a very important statistics in terms of how B2B buying is changing.

Here is an interesting video by Kale.

Facts about the customer journey in B2B:

  1. It's not linear and simple. It's a complex, multidimensional mess.
  2. There's no such thing as impulse buy - unless you have a $49.99 price tag.
  3. No single channel can be fully responsible for the conversion.
  4. And yet, that is what most attribution software suggests.
  5. No single team can be fully responsible for the conversion.
  6. 95% of B2B buyers are not in the buying mode.
  7. 5% of buyers who ARE ready to buy usually choose one of the few vendors they're most familiar with.
  8. Word of mouth, referrals/recommendations from friends, colleagues and community are the biggest driver of conversions.
  9. To understand your customer journey, use software attribution (HockeyStack (YC S23) reveals the most touch points on it), self-reported attribution, and talk to your customers.

Source: Ognjen, Demand Lead at Honey Stack

How website design is changing with the shift in B2B buying journey?

We are living through a fundamental shift in B2B SaaS marketing. Influencers and creators, a group many executives thought limited to B2C Instagram, are now adding millions in revenue to SaaS companies. Communities and word of mouth is playing a huge role in B2B buying journey.

In a B2B prospect's journey, your website homepage is just the tip of the iceberg.

The only real questions you need to answer on the website, to get a prospect to book a meeting are:

✅ What is this product?

✅ Is it meant for me?

✅ When would I use it?

You're just trying to get them to understand what you do!

Pricing page of a B2B website

Your pricing page is the 2nd most important page on your b2b website. Some SaaS companies are moving aways from transparent pricing on the website and its a bad idea.

Notion — Their transparent pricing strategy enables them to dial in their product messaging to align on the perceived value of their target customers.

While there is no silver bullet...

🤑 Showing your prices turns your value messages into value propositions.

And when this proposed trade is clear...

🧩 It is much easier to solve for your ideal pricing strategy.

pricing strategy of b2b product
What is Value Proposition of Notion?

Many prospects use it as a go-to resource for learning about a product and deciding whether to try it. In my experience, an optimized pricing page can lead to increases in signups even as you raise prices.

Show “product capabilities” rather than “benefits” (since there is so much ambiguity around “benefits” as it relates to talking about ROI, business cases, outcomes, etc.). So rather than a feature list, you’d share the capabilities (i.e. what people can DO with those features) - “tell a story about what the customer can do with the feature”

How to Build Your Business Case In Sales? Tell a before-and-after customer story.
How to Build Your Business Case In Sales? Before and After Customer Story

How we used before and after customer story in B2B website design?

B2B Website for Nimble Edge
How to Build Your Business Case In Website? Tell a before-and-after customer story.
B2B Website for Entropik with Before and After Customer Story
How to Build Your Business Case In Website? Tell a before-and-after customer story.
www.entropik.io

Webflow uses before after customer stories to improve buyer's journey

Before and after customer story of Shift - Website strategy for better customer conversion
Shift's before and after story captured by Webflow
Before and after customer story - Website strategy for better customer conversion on Webflow Website
Before and after customer story - Website strategy for better customer conversion

Product Positioning is everything

First check, which personas are your buying champions 🤔

Even when you sell to a “buying team” you have just ONE buying champion.

This person has a ‘personal interest’ in buying your solution.

Everyone else is just a stakeholder, with veto powers.

(Ingeniously pointed out by April Dunford in her positioning podcast.)

👉 Veto power holders have “no personal interest” in buying your solution.

👉 They never speak to your sales like their life depends on it.

👉 They never visit your website.

👉 They simply pose objections to your buying champion.

👉 They block the purchase if they feel your product can make their life difficult.

Examples:

🙎‍♂️ Users can veto it….if they feel adopting it will be a pain.

👨‍💼 Budget holders can veto it…if they feel the cost is difficult to justify.

🙎‍♀️ IT can veto it…if security and integration seem to be a challenge.

👩‍💼 Procurement can veto it…if they get competitive quotes from others.

👨‍⚖️ Legal can veto it….if they feel there is a compliance risk.

Hence, your website messaging must focus on convincing the CHAMPION. And arming them to get a YES from various stakeholders ✅

B2B Marketing Consultant Jade's observation about the shift in B2B Buying Journey is very interesti

~ 27% of B2B buyers would spend up to $500k through a hybrid sales model or digital self-service.

~ 73% of B2B buyers would spend up to $50k.

Also according to McKinsey: hybrid selling is expected to be the dominant sales strategy by 2024. (But how we interpret that is far more than just switching in person sales meetings for Zoom). B2B buyers are increasingly comfortable with digital and online channels.

They use up to ten channels for purchases, double the number from five years ago. Buyers now prefer these channels because they offer fast and easy access to information and subject-matter experts.

b2b product recommendation request on social media

They no longer want to wait for in-person meetings and can engage with experts more frequently. Even in 2021, over two-thirds of B2B buyers opted for remote human interactions or digital self-service throughout the sales process. The “digital self service” is a very important point that highlights the idea “I don’t want to speak to a person unless or until I ABSOLUTELY HAVE to! ”

These shifts in buyer behavior require organisations to rethink their sales models.Moving from in-person to Zoom meetings was a significant change, but there is much more to be done. In the hybrid, increasingly competitive world of sales, those B2B organizations that act proactively to get the right talent in the right roles will lead the way in revenue growth. Customer satisfaction of current customers is playing a huge role customer loyalty and modern b2b buyer is keeping it as a a vendor selection criteria or buying decisions are made at awareness stage itself sometimes.

CEO of Revenue Hero jumping into a LinkedIn Conversation
CEO of Revenue Hero jumping into a LinkedIn Conversation
customers recommending products on social media
Customers sharing product reviews on social media - New B2B buying journey

B2B Buyers now want self-service options

And they only want to speak to reps when necessary, not for everything. Meaning competitors who provide information digitally are more likely to make a sale than those who don’t. “But relationships are the foundation of B2B”.

Trust, not relationships, drives sales. In the past you could only get trust built on a 1:1 basis because there was no other option. But today, the options exist and buyers want to be served online.

Building trust through mass consulting, like watching explainer videos from subject matter experts and making sure that for all pain points that exist there are answers online easily found, can be as effective as conversations. To meet buyer expectations now and into the future, sellers must offer in-person, remote, and digital self-serve interactions. Understanding buyer needs and developing digital experience models are crucial. Most only offer the first two - which pretty much means “if you want expert information you’re going to have to speak to us”.

But with 64% of B2B buying groups (buying committee) comprising Millennials and Gen Z, who prefer digital channels, this trend will only accelerate.Gen X leaders will have to make the necessary shift, or we may need to wait for Millennials at the top for change to come about.

Source: Jade's LinkedIn post

Customers are asking product alternative recommendation on social media
Customers are asking product alternative recommendation on social media

What are the changes in Marketing Approach to adapt to the new B2B buyer journey?

Conventional wisdom tells marketers to lead with benefits over features.

For instance, if you're Loom you would say, "reduce time spent in meetings by 50%" rather than, "record yourself and your screen to share videos with teammates asynchronously." - Austin

But lately, marketers like Anthony Pierri 🎸have been challenging this.

A recent survey on digital transformation in manufacturing (a field flooded with SaaS products, and therefore, marketing), seems to back up the need to lead with FEATURES.

Executives in this survey didn't want to know how digital transformation will affect business growth. Why? They probably already know that. Or at least, they're sufficiently sold on the concept. Therefore, leading with ROI might not be the right move. Plus, it's undifferentiated. Instead, these executives want to know WHAT technologies they need and HOW to use them. To communicate this, you'll need to talk about FEATURES.

This isn't to say there's no place for benefits. It's not either/or, but it is a question of what's most important.

Leading with benefits and ROI does three negative things:

  1. makes you look like everyone else
  2. hides the differentiating parts of your product
  3. makes you seem less believable
Features or Benefits?

1. Calendaring tools replace demo request forms

Any demo request/talk to sales will move to calendaring tools that eliminate friction and allow the prospect to schedule time without engaging with a BDR first

2. Ungate the content, please

I am convinced there is no piece of content you can generate that isn't more valuable in this environment ungated. Get as many eyeballs on your content as possible, eliminate friction, and provide a better experience with your brand. Content marketing is how you can be in front of a customer who is searching for an answer online.

3. Intent & web de-anonymizers eliminate need for Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU) content forms

Leverage intent tools and website deanonymizers to identify accounts in market and stop your over reliance on BOFU form submissions. Ungate those Gartner MQs everyone!

4. Social sign-in capabilities eliminate need for dedicated landing pages & forms

Capabilities like "sign up with google" negate the need for traditional forms in front of even personalized demo environments. Social tools like LinkedIn's "complete with LinkedIn" eliminate the need to link out to your dedicated landing page with your high friction form on it. Try to find the efficiencies for your users and leverage them.

5. Customer experience & trust

Customers are becoming more and more sensitive to data privacy. They know what you're going to do with their email address & phone number and forcing them to give it to you starts the relationship off on a bad foot. Build trust and familiarity with your brand as one that is genuinely trying to help solve their problem by making your valuable content available freely.

6. Marketing attribution has changed

If you're a B2B marketer and you haven't begun educating and influencing your leadership & board that attribution and the role of marketing is changing, you need to. Follow thought leaders like Chris Walker and Dave Gerhardt who give away tons of great insights on how the role of B2B marketing has changed and how old-school attribution is incentivizing the wrong behaviors, focusing marketers on tracking every engagement instead of creating demand for your service and preference for your brand.

What are the benchmarks companies should consider while studying B2B buyer journey?

- Customer journey length

- Company size vs. speed of the deal

- Company location impact on the customer journey

- Amount of stakeholders involved in B2B deals

- How much does a first touch impact customer journeys?

- How much of the customer journey goes without the seller?

- How does tracking data influence revenue reporting? 

- How many touches does the B2B buyer make before purchasing?

Source: Dreamdata

How product messaging and website messaging can help in this new B2B buying journey?

Improving your messaging can increase your cashflow by at least 66% and bring in an additional $2,000,000 on a $10k ACV product.

What impact can improved messaging have on your cashflow and pipeline?

Plenty, says Andrew Hatfield from Deepstar Strategic

Your revenue and speed of growth is heavily influenced by

- Win Rate %

- Number of Qualified Opportunities

- Sales Cycle Length

- Average Contract Value

Obviously the number of qualified opportunities is a huge factor your results. That is most impacted by your Demand Creation efforts. But what if we just looked at your Win Rate % and Sales Cycle Length. For a SaaS product that has a $10,000 Annual Contract Value, if you could improve your messaging the impact is going to be substantial.

Take this fairly standard example of an average performing SaaS vendor; A SaaS company wins 15% of their qualified opportunities. Their time to sale is 90 days - again fairly standard for a $10K ACV product.

With improved messaging, it is easy to increase your win rate from 15% to 25% and reduce your sales cycle length from 90 days to 60 days. The impact on your cashflow and pipeline velocity, the amount of money moving through your pipeline, is huge. You can deliver a 66% increase in revenue - an additional $2,000,000

That's before you even take into account the increase in qualified opportunities because your demand creation, capture, and conversion efforts perform better.

What else does this mean? Your sales productivity increases. Sales people are expensive - so you want them efficient and bringing in deals. Messaging is an underrated lever you can control to improve your business in the next 90 days.

Messaging needs to have clarity, distinctiveness, and relatability. The short answer is talk to your customers. The longer answer is translating the pain of their unmet needs to the outcomes you deliver in such a way that you capture their attention and connect at an emotional level.

Michelle Picoto pointed out that it’s also worth pointing out the difference between messaging and copy. Messaging is core to your business and buyers. Copy is the expression of your messaging in the channels that make sense for your business. Copy is not a one-and-done. You need to find the expression that moves the needle now, and keep tweaking it as things change for your buyers. The way you ensure that it keeps resonating with your buyers is, as Andrew mentioned, understanding your buyers constantly.

42-step example of a buyer journey, including 85% of steps NOT SHOWING in your analytics software

AWARENESS

1. A marketer sees a friend’s comment on my LinkedIn post, reads it, and likes it

2. I send an invitation to connect, thanking him for the support

3. He accepts

4. I thank him for the connection, and mention our free Trenches –B2B marketing community

5. The marketer joins, but keeps lurking 

6. Occasionally, he shares FullFunnel.io posts on his company’s Slack channel 

7. Andrei announces a partner webinar with a MarTech vendor used by the marketer’s team

DEMAND GEN (CATEGORY CONSIDERATION)

8. Marketer joins the webinar to learn about ABM (account-based marketing) 

9. After the webinar, I send him a video message and share a content hub with the slides, a couple of case studies and our ABM framework 

10. The marketer shares the content hub with his CMO

11. The CMO checks out our case study 

12. Based on content analytics, I connect to the CMO, and ask what she thought about it 

13. The CMO remembers the case study, but decides it’s not the right time and ignores my outreach 

14. She starts seeing our posts on her feed, but never engages

DEMAND GEN (INTERNAL TRIGGER)

15. The CMO gets critical feedback about ROI, and ambitious KPIs for the next year 

16. She sees a post about our summit, and asks her marketer to join and collect ideas 

17. The marketer attends our session about full-funnel marketing 

18. He shares a screenshot of our framework with his CMO

DEMAND CAPTURE (VENDOR VETTING)

19. After seeing our framework shared by her marketer (and seeing our content and brand several times in the past), the CMO decides to check out our website, and recognizes one of our clients 

20. She reaches out and gets a positive recommendation 

21. She asks the marketer to book a call with us

22. After the discovery call, I share the content hub with the proposal along with a few key pieces of buyer enablement content 

23. The marketer presents our proposal, but gets a critical question about ROI he doesn’t know how to answer 

24. He stops responding to our follow-up

ACCELERATION

25. Andrei engages with the CMO’s recent post, and follows up with a LinkedIn message, inviting her to our podcast. She agrees to join 

26. During the pre-production interview, he asks her about their challenges and priorities (to get the business context), and agrees with her on the topics to discuss during the main podcast interview.

27. After the main interview, Andrei reminds the CMO about how our proposal can help solve the challenges and help with priorities she shared in the pre-production interview. She shares her concerns and critical questions 

28. We agree that we’ll help the marketer work out the business case

29. With the marketer, we create the business case, share a relevant case study and references 

30. CMO asks the marketer to check two more references 

31. After positive reference checks, the CMO books a call, and asks a few more critical questions 

32. We agree to start with a simple, low-ticket alignment and planning sprint

INITIAL EXPANSION

33. During the sprint, we help drive internal consensus and alignment, and get the buy-in for a marketing plan to reach their new KPIs 

34. The CMO decides to hire us to guide the implementation, and gets an approval for the first quarter

ADVOCACY

35. The company starts landing accounts with 5X larger ACV than previous marketing-sourced deals 

36. We invite the CMO to speak in a “live case study” webinar 

37. We start conversations with a few attendees, and activate a stalled deal with a prospect

EXPANSION

38. We turn the webinar into a detailed case study 

39. During the debriefing call, we collect insights about missing elements, and strategic priorities 

40. We prepare a proposal to support the team with their strategic initiatives

41. We share the proposal with the exec team, along with the case study, testimonials of their team members, comparing the performance with previous year’s results, and share the forecast of the larger program and how it will contribute to the company’s overall objectives 42. We work with the CMO until she gets an approval for the larger plan

Source: Step-by-Step Guide to Modern B2B Buyer Journey and How to Influence it With Full-Funnel Marketing

Is Inbound the best way of marketing in 2023?

A common trap = thinking inbound is the "BEST" way to do marketing. Purchase intent, also known as buyer intent, describes the extent to which customers are willing and inclined to buy a product or service from you within a certain period of time, typically over the next 6 or 12 months. Customer acquisition, decision criteria, purchasing behavior, buying committee, they are all getting complex.

5 reasons inbound is overrated:

1. Lots of terrible, terrible leads

How many times have you entered "123 fake st" or when filling out a lead form? I've done it and I know you have. But even when they're real, you'll get a ton of poor-fit leads. A drag on everyone's time.

2. It takes forever

Multiple quarters - best case. Sure, you can get some quick wins on the board. but it's a long game. If the biz needs marketing to produce impact ASAP, inbound is the wrong answer.

3. Out of your control

A personal example. I use an inbound strategy for my fractional practice. Some months I get 15+ DMs from founders. Some months I get 3. But I know people that outbound only (ie: zero inbound) -- they have 10 discovery calls every month, because they have a repeatable process.

4. Gets you obsessed with the wrong numbers

Because it takes forever, and is out of your control for a while, marketers can get stuck reporting on pageviews, impressions, email db size, etc. This is one of the reasons why marketing has an awful rep in most orgs.

5. Doesn't work for enterprise

Can inbound help here? Sure. But is outbound, or a named account approach faster and more effective approach? Almost always yes. Also, ICP matters. CTOs don't make buying decisions from reading a blog post, no matter how good it is.

6 Key Takeaways on B2B Buying Behaviors from Demand Gen Report

  • The length of the B2B purchase cycles increased compared with a year ago, with 20% saying it was a significant increase.
  • The majority of B2B buyers (59%) report that there are more than three stakeholders involved in their purchase process.
  • The top resources that inform 88% of buyers continue to be online web searches and vendor websites. These findings stress the importance of ranking in SERP, delivering a frictionless experience for website visitors, and continually improving your B2B website messaging.
  • There’s a good chance they may have already selected an ideal vendor without the vendor even realizing it, while outreaching or evaluating.
  • Pricing, reviews and features are the top three variables when evaluating solution providers
  • More than two-thirds (68%) cite “knowledge of our company and its needs” as the top reason for choosing a winning vendor over others. Not far behind is high-quality content that speaks to their pain points, demonstrates knowledge, and shows potential ROI.

Key findings from a Gartner report about B2B buying journey

  • Rapidly shifting buying dynamics, fuelled by digital buying behavior, is reshaping the strategic focus of sales organizations. Few sales organizations are responding with appropriate urgency.
  • Chief sales officers (CSOs) must engage in a fundamental mindset shift from leader of sellers to leaders of selling, embracing digital-first go-to-market.
  • Progressive sales organizations will rapidly innovate digital selling models, leveraging the associated analytics advantages to engage customers in a far more coordinated fashion through all routes to market.

Recommendations from a Gartner report to successfully navigate the evolution of B2B buying over the next five years

Heads of sales should:

  • Rapidly build digital sales experiences to support customer self-learning on the array of complex considerations associated with their products, services, and above all else, the customer’s change journey.
  • Shift organizational focus from sales professionals as the primary commercial channel toward digital sales channels to invest in developing rich and valuable customer decision support.
  • Accelerate beyond foundational analytics capabilities (such as, clean data, integrated data markets) toward AI-powered insights, fueled by customer engagement data to provide next best action and coordinated proactive actions to better retain and grow customer accounts.
  • Build ecosystems of support for customer Change Enablement, including guidance on key buying considerations, but also broader project/initiative guidance to help ensure decision complexity is minimized and customer decision confidence is maximized.
  • Embrace a Sense Making sales approach among sales professionals, positioning their unique value-add to help guide customers to decision confidence, minimizing uncertainty over competing perspectives and alternate actions.

Map who is on the buying team and the different sources of value for each

Customer segmentation is the process by which you divide your customers up based on common characteristics – such as demographics or behaviours, so your marketing team or sales team can reach out to those customers more effectively.

Bain has organized the 40 distinct kinds of value that B2B offerings provide customers into a pyramid with five levels. The most objective kinds of value are found at the base, and the higher a level is, the more subjective and personal the types of value it contains. It was important to know how to measure—and deliver—what business customers want.

Map who is on the buying team and the different sources of value for each.

How much does retention matter in the new B2B Buying Journey?

Did you know SaaS companies lose 55% of their users in the first week and 78% in 2 months? According to 2021 State of SaaSOps report, 42% of respondents said finding unused or underutilized SaaS app licenses was one of their most crucial challenges to solve. And indeed, 80% of respondents concede that some percentage of their SaaS spend is being wasted. So it is important to look into the onboarding, and it starts at the marketing stage.

Retention Marketing
Retention Marketing

Retention marketing is about getting your customers to come back. Retention marketing focuses on bringing back your existing user base in order to create habitual users and repeat customers. The goal is to improve app engagement (session length and frequency) as well as business revenue (purchase frequency and average order value).

How much does building trust matter in the new B2B Buying Journey?

When your buyers don't know you, they don't trust you.
And that means you have to work that much harder to build trust (too) late in the buying journey.
Capturing those late stage or out-of-market buyers as leads is why so few convert.

There is trust, and identification, and that puts you right at the top of that shortlist. If you’re trying to get in front of buyers for the first time when they are ready to buy, you’re too late.

Bonus: it accelerates the buying journey astronomically.

Is strategy in B2B Dramatically different than in B2C?

B2B purchases are, on average, higher value than B2C purchases. B2B products can also be more customized or complex than B2C products.

Even though the payor is a business in B2B, you are almost always selling to a specific person or identifiable group of people in that business. And they need to be understood in ways that are similar to those in B2C. And, as Google discovered in 2015, the ‘approver’ isn’t always in the C-suite.

Simplified version of B2B buying stages

  1. Stage 1: The Prospect Identifies a Challenge
  2. Stage 2: The Prospect Begins Researching Options
  3. Stage 3: Request for Proposal (RFPs) are Sent
  4. Stage 4: The Prospect Selects a Vendor

However these four stages of b2b buying journey is not exactly how sales are happening in 2023. Many times brands are coming in front of the prospect even before they identify the challenge. So if you are getting in front of the customer at stage 2, you are already too late.

Different types of B2B purchase

Four factors impact the nature of the B2B buying journey:

  • The amount that will be spent on the product or service. The more a product or service costs, the more stakeholders will typically be involved in the buying journey. These stakeholders won’t necessarily be senior – that is driven by strategic importance (see below). Organizations also have higher expectations around levels of service and customization when buying high-priced products or services. For low-price products, there are fewer opportunities to differentiate. Vendors tend to differentiate through relationships, or by making the purchase as easy as possible for the buyer
  • The amount of differentiation between products, and the levels of product complexity. The greater the differentiation or complexity of a product, the more time an organization needs to dedicate to researching or comparing the different options on the market. More complexity also means that more specialists will be involved in the decision-making process. These specialists can be external to the buying organization, as the individuals within the organization cannot be expected to become experts in the more complex products
  • The strategic importance of the product or service to the buyer. For more strategically important purchases, organizations will involve more senior decision-makers and specialists in the buying journey. Consistency, reliability, and quality also factor into decisions far more
  • Whether the product is a first purchase or a re-purchase. If an organization is repeating a purchase and is likely to stay with the existing vendor, fewer people will be involved, and less time will be required

The summary of the B2B buyer journey and the principles for effective marketing highlight key aspects of customer behavior and decision-making processes in business-to-business transactions. Here's a breakdown:

  1. Complex Buyer Journey: The path from initial brand exposure to the final purchase decision involves numerous marketing touches and a significant time lapse. This complexity is often oversimplified, and the real journey is even more nuanced, as you noted.
  2. Marketing Touch Points: Multiple interactions with a brand over time contribute to brand recall and preference, emphasizing the importance of consistent and long-term marketing efforts.
  3. Challenges in Attribution: The final purchase decision, often influenced by a long history of brand interactions, can be mistakenly attributed to the last marketing touchpoint, like a Google Ad, overlooking the cumulative effect of previous marketing efforts.
  4. Sales Process Alignment: The role of sales representatives is crucial, especially in the final stages of the buyer journey. However, their contribution can be over or under-recognized based on the attribution models used.
  5. Principles for B2B Marketing:
  6. Targeting Active Buyers: Recognizing that only a small percentage of potential buyers are actively looking to purchase at any given time is crucial for effective targeting and resource allocation.
  7. Brand Exposure: It's essential to reach out-of-market buyers to ensure your brand is top-of-mind when they enter the buying mode.
  8. Narrow Consideration Set: Most buyers have a pre-selected list of vendors. The objective is to be part of this list to have a chance of being chosen.
  9. Optimized Sales Response: When potential buyers are ready to engage, it's critical to provide prompt and expert responses, enhancing the chances of conversion.

Understanding these aspects and implementing strategies aligned with them can significantly improve marketing effectiveness in B2B contexts. These insights highlight the need for a sophisticated approach that acknowledges the complexity of the buyer journey and the nuances of buyer behavior.

How to create a B2B buyer persona?

Creating a B2B buyer persona is a crucial aspect of understanding your target market and tailoring your marketing strategies effectively. Here's a breakdown of what should be included in a B2B buyer persona:

  1. Understanding Business Processes Supported by Your Solution: Identify the specific business processes that your product or service enhances or supports. This helps in understanding the context in which your solution is used and the value it offers.
  2. Measurements of Success for the Process: Define what success looks like for these processes. This includes key performance indicators (KPIs), efficiency gains, cost savings, or other metrics that your solution impacts.
  3. Stakeholders Involved in the Process: Identify all the key players involved in these processes. This can include end-users, decision-makers, influencers, and anyone else who might play a role in the buying process.
  4. Challenges in the Process and Their Manifestation: Outline the common challenges or pain points encountered in these processes and understand why they occur. This helps in positioning your solution as a remedy to these specific issues.
  5. Trigger for Change: Determine what circumstances or realizations lead your best-fit buyers to seek a change. Understanding this trigger point is crucial for timing your marketing and sales efforts.
  6. Previous Approaches to Solve Challenges: Investigate what other solutions or approaches your buyers have previously tried to address their challenges. This helps in understanding their mindset and preferences.
  7. Evaluation of Potential Solutions: Understand how your buyers evaluate different solutions. This includes the criteria they use, the resources they refer to, and the decision-making process they follow.
  8. Reasons Your Solution Was Chosen: Analyze why your solution was preferred over others. This could be due to features, price, customer service, brand reputation, or other factors that made your solution stand out.

Incorporating these elements into a B2B buyer persona can provide a comprehensive understanding of your target audience. This detailed persona can guide product development, marketing strategies, sales approaches, and customer service practices to ensure they are all aligned with the needs and preferences of your target buyers.

High-investment products like SaaS solutions: the non-linear and complex nature of the customer journey

Here are some key points to note:

  1. Non-Linear Buyer Journey: The traditional sales funnel model (TOFU - Top Of the Funnel, MOFU - Middle Of the Funnel, BOFU - Bottom Of the Funnel) is often not linear in reality. Prospects might engage with different stages in a non-sequential manner, reflecting the unpredictable nature of their decision-making process.
  2. Challenges with Standard Funnels: Relying on a rigid, "cookie-cutter" sales funnel, especially for high-value products, is often ineffective. High investment decisions involve a more intricate and varied set of considerations and touchpoints.
  3. Customized Approach: The buying journey for expensive B2B SaaS products can't be neatly packaged into a fixed number of interactions. Expecting prospects to follow a predetermined, chronological path is unrealistic and may lead to missed sales opportunities.
  4. Importance of Contextual Information: Providing relevant and comprehensive information at every potential decision point is crucial. This means creating content that addresses the specific needs and concerns of the buyer at different stages of their journey.
  5. Adaptable Marketing Strategies: Successful marketing in this context requires flexibility and adaptability. It involves recognizing that each prospect might have a unique path to purchase, and the marketing strategy should be versatile enough to accommodate these variations.
  6. Focus on the Customer’s Needs: The key is to focus on what the customer needs to make an informed decision, rather than trying to fit the customer’s journey into a pre-defined marketing model. This involves understanding their context, challenges, and questions at each stage.
  7. Comprehensive Support and Information: Ensuring that all potential obstacles in the decision-making process are addressed with appropriate content and support can significantly enhance the chances of conversion.

In essence, the path to purchase in high-value (B2B) Business-to-business transactions is complex and requires a nuanced approach. Understanding the unique journey of each prospect and providing them with the necessary information and support at every stage is crucial for successful conversions.

B2B lead generation and marketing strategies

The landscape of digital marketing, especially in the B2B sector, has evolved dramatically, necessitating a more nuanced, integrated, and strategic approach. Let's delve into the key points you've made and explore solutions:

1. The Complexity of the Buying Journey

  • Digital-First Decision Making: With a significant portion of the buying journey happening online, B2B buyers are more informed and independent in their research processes. This shift demands that marketers provide substantial value and information throughout the buyer's journey, well before direct sales engagement.
  • Reduced Sales Influence: Acknowledging that sales teams have less influence on the early stages of the buying journey shifts the focus towards nurturing leads through content, digital touchpoints, and value-driven interactions that build trust and authority.

2. Strategic Integration over Isolated Tactics

  • Beyond Ads: Simply running ads without a comprehensive strategy and adequate budget for testing and optimization is unlikely to yield significant results. Ads need to be part of a broader, multi-channel strategy that addresses the buyer's needs and pain points at different stages of their journey.
  • Holistic View: Successful lead generation is about more than just capturing data; it's about engaging potential leads in a meaningful way that builds trust and positions your brand as a preferred solution.

3. Messaging and Positioning

  • Value Proposition: Your messaging must clearly articulate how you solve specific problems and why your solution is the best option. This requires a deep understanding of your target audience's pain points, preferences, and decision-making criteria.
  • Content Marketing: Providing valuable content (guides, whitepapers, case studies) is crucial, but what happens post-download is equally important. Effective lead nurturing campaigns, educational content series, and personalized follow-ups can help transition a cold lead into a warm opportunity.

4. Long-term Approach to Lead Generation

  • Customer Journey Focus: Considering the entire customer journey means moving beyond immediate conversions to fostering long-term relationships. This approach builds a foundation of trust and can increase the likelihood of conversion over time.
  • Patience and Persistence: B2B sales cycles are typically long, and immediate results from marketing efforts may not be realistic. It's crucial to give strategies time to mature and to adjust based on feedback and performance data.

5. Adequate Budgeting for Effective Marketing

  • Investment in Growth: The underfunding of marketing efforts is a common issue in many B2B organizations. An appropriate marketing budget is critical for developing and executing strategies that can move the needle. The 4% to 8% of sales revenue guideline you mentioned is a good benchmark, though this can vary based on industry, business size, growth stage, and specific goals.
  • ROI Perspective: Viewing marketing as an investment rather than a cost can shift perspectives on budget allocation. With adequate funding, marketing can effectively support the entire sales process, contributing to long-term growth and profitability.

How b2b businesses can effectively implement a strategy to improve sales?

The process of how B2B buyers make purchasing decisions is intricate and requires a nuanced approach from sellers, especially when it comes to differentiating their offerings in a crowded marketplace. To effectively engage B2B buyers, it is crucial for sellers to not only get noticed during the initial consideration phase but also to stand out during the subsequent evaluation phase. This involves a strategic presentation of their value proposition in comparison to competitors. The use of relative value tables represents a sophisticated approach to achieving this, facilitating a more informed decision-making process for buyers by emphasizing the unique benefits and differentiators of a seller's products or services. Let's delve into how businesses can effectively implement this strategy.

Understanding the B2B Buying Process

1. Creating a Shortlist: Initially, B2B buyers compile a list of potential vendors through various methods such as brand recognition, peer recommendations, online searches, and reviews on platforms like G2. This stage is critical for vendors to ensure visibility and consideration.

2. Narrowing Down the List: Buyers then refine their options to a top few, usually three, based on deeper research and comparison. This is where differentiation becomes key.

3. Booking Demos: The final contenders are often evaluated through product demonstrations, further discussions, or pilot projects to assess the practical value and fit for the buyer's needs.

The Pitfall in Marketing for Stage #2

Many companies fail in the crucial step of narrowing down because they do not adequately differentiate themselves. They often present their offerings in broad, generic terms that fail to highlight how they stand out from the competition. This is a missed opportunity to connect with the buyer’s specific needs and decision criteria.

The Strategy of Relative Value Tables

Relative value tables are an effective tool to communicate your unique value propositions by directly comparing your features, benefits, and outcomes against those of your competitors. This method is superior to traditional value tables, which list features in isolation without context or comparison. Here's how to create and leverage relative value tables:

Step 1: Focus on Differentiation

- Identify Unique Features: Start by pinpointing the features or services that set your offering apart from competitors. Focus on those aspects where you have a clear advantage or offer something unique that others don’t. A content strategy built around the buyer’s journey and their preferences has more chances of being successful.

Step 2: Quantify the Difference

- Measure the Impact: For each differentiator, quantify its impact on the customer’s business. This could be in terms of cost savings, efficiency gains, revenue growth, or other measurable benefits. Providing tangible data makes your value proposition more compelling.

Implementation of Relative Value Tables

- Simplicity and Clarity: Design your tables to be easily understandable, avoiding overcrowding with too many details. Highlight key differentiators that matter most to your target audience.
- Contextualize Benefits: It’s not just about features. Explain how these features translate into real-world benefits for the buyer. Use case studies or customer testimonials to add credibility.
- Visual Appeal: Use visual elements like icons, graphs, and color coding to make comparisons easier to grasp at a glance. Visual cues can help emphasize your strengths and the unique benefits you offer.

By strategically utilizing relative value tables in your B2B marketing and sales efforts, you not only assist buyers in their decision-making process but also position your brand as a thought leader that understands and addresses their unique needs. This targeted approach to differentiation can significantly increase your chances of being selected in the final buying decision. As the B2B landscape continues to evolve, the ability to effectively communicate your unique value proposition in relation to your competitors becomes increasingly crucial in winning over informed and discerning buyers.

The nuanced behavior of B2B buyers and the critical role of marketing in guiding their purchase decisions

The distinction between being perfectly rational and pragmatically driven in decision-making processes fundamentally alters the approach needed for effective B2B marketing strategies. Here are several key takeaways and implications for crafting successful B2B marketing efforts:

Understanding Buyer Behavior

B2B buyers prioritize pragmatic choices over purely rational decisions, guided by factors such as risk aversion, familiarity, and the minimization of effort in the decision-making process. This behavior is encapsulated in the concept of 'satisficing', where decisions are made that are 'good enough', favoring familiar and safe options over potentially better but unknown alternatives. Recognizing this behavior is crucial for developing marketing strategies that resonate with how buyers actually make choices, rather than how we think they should.

The Power of Brand Familiarity

The LinkedIn and the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute research highlights a significant tendency among B2B buyers to stick with what they know, such as their existing bank, even when exploring other options. This underscores the importance of building a strong, memorable brand that becomes the 'go-to' choice when a need arises. In a landscape where product differences may be minimal or difficult to discern, brand familiarity and trust can be decisive factors.

A great example of this is research done by LinkedIn and the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, where they looked at B2B companies who needed a new financial service, which is without a doubt a highly considered purchase.Of those in the study, 47% simply went straight to their existing bank. More interestingly, 75% of those who claimed to shop around also ended up with their existing bank.Good enough is often better than perfect, and familiar is safe.There's even a nearly 70 year old economic term for it - Satisficing (a portmanteau of satisfying + sufficing).

Marketing’s Role in Product Success

While product quality is undeniably important, the belief that a great product will sell itself is a common pitfall. Effective marketing plays a crucial role in ensuring that a product is known, considered, and chosen by B2B buyers. This includes creating strong brand recognition, maintaining visibility, and fostering positive associations with your brand.

Distinctiveness Over Differentiation

In a crowded market, being distinctive and memorable is more valuable than simply highlighting product differentiation. Creative marketing that makes a brand stand out in the minds of potential buyers can be more effective than focusing solely on product features, benefits, and superiority claims. This approach aligns with the pragmatic nature of B2B buyers, who are more likely to choose brands that are top of mind and readily recognizable.

Emphasizing Creative Marketing

Creative marketing strategies that engage, entertain, or resonate on an emotional level can outperform those that solely focus on the product's strengths. By creating memorable experiences and associations with your brand, you can increase the likelihood of being the chosen provider when the purchasing decision is made.

Nurturing Brand Loyalty

Given the propensity for buyers to stick with familiar brands, nurturing existing customer relationships and building brand loyalty are pivotal. Continuous engagement, exceptional service, and consistent communication can reinforce the decision to choose your brand initially and increase the chances of repeat business.

Strategic Implications

For B2B marketers, these insights suggest a shift towards investing in brand building, creative marketing, and customer experience as central components of the marketing strategy. While the inherent qualities of a product or service cannot be neglected, the overarching goal is to ensure that your brand is known, trusted, and preferred—attributes that significantly influence the pragmatic decision-making process of B2B buyers.

In summary, understanding the pragmatism at the heart of B2B purchasing decisions enables marketers to craft strategies that align with real-world buyer behavior. By focusing on building a strong, memorable brand and engaging buyers through creative marketing efforts, companies can secure a competitive advantage in the B2B marketplace.

Conclusion

Addressing the challenges of modern B2B marketing and lead generation requires a strategic, integrated approach that goes beyond traditional advertising. It involves understanding and engaging with the buyer's journey, investing in comprehensive messaging and positioning, adopting a long-term perspective, and ensuring sufficient budget to support these efforts. By focusing on building relationships and providing value at each stage of the buyer's journey, B2B companies can create a sustainable pipeline of leads that are more likely to convert into loyal customers.

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