B2B buying as we know it has changed radically in the past five years. Rapid technology change gives buyers more choice than ever before. Fierce competition drives constant innovation, disruptive tech has become mainstream and there are more digital channels than you can shake a stick at!
As technology becomes seamlessly integrated into our lives, we come to rely on it more and more to help us make decisions. With so many platforms and methods of communication available, buyers spend far longer at the research stage, placing high value on peer testimonials and reviews and relying less on the advice and guidance from sellers.
Buyers are making key decisions before ever approaching a sales rep. With sales teams being held at arm’s length from buyers and 62% saying they can now develop selection criteria or finalise a vendor list, it’s time to re-evaluate the process.
Hmmm, not exactly. The expansion of the digital world and the range of content can add greater complexity and slow down the buying process. In fact research carried out for B2B Marketing highlights that for over half of B2B buyers, the process is taking longer and the number of decision makers has increased in the past 12 months. And with each member of the buying group potentially carrying out their own research, the volume of information to be considered can be overwhelming.
In order to adapt to these changes, we need to understand how B2B buyers now operate in the digital world and what they are looking for.
Search has evolved in recent years as have the search engines we use – so in the early stages buyers might use natural language to help them find solutions to their problems, such as 'How can I reduce my tax bill' or 'how can I manage expenses more efficiently.' The content we create needs to reflect that evolution.
It’s vital to anticipate the kind of challenges your buyers are facing and create specific, targeted content to address these. If buyers eliminate us during the research phase, how can we funnel them further down the process?
This is where the quality of your online offering is key.
Even though buyers are struggling with the sheer volume of content, it doesn't absolve you from the need to produce it. Content can help – it just needs to be the right content delivered at the right time, and be focused on making their buying tasks easier. Take time to research your buyers needs, problems and questions and use this to drive your content, rather than creating vague unfocused material to fill a slot.
Work closely with your sales and services teams to understand what questions their customers are asking - this can form the basis of personalised, focused content that will build trust.
Learn more about the specific tasks you buyer needs to accomplish on their path to purchase, and equip your sales team with the materials they need to support those tasks.
In The Sense Making Seller, Gartner recommends sellers position themselves as a guide and coach, helping buyers to access the content most relevant to them at the appropriate time.
So what does the new B2B marketing funnel look like?
Here’s our view of what the journey might look like from the B2B buyer’s perspective. It’s not a straight line – there are plenty of kinks in the road. But if we can start answering these questions, we can start helping buyers and become part of their trusted network of support.
To see some real examples, and find out what type of content works best best, take a look at our guide ‘The New B2B Buyer Journey. What’s changed and how marketing can respond’.