Insights into The B2B Buyer Journey
“B2B” stands for “business-to-business”, which immediately differentiates it from the other business models, such as the business-to-consumer (B2C), consumer-to-consumer (C2C) and the business-to-government (B2G) models. However, there are still some gray areas about B2B that even long-running businesses are not fully aware of, particularly from the point of view of a buyer.
In this guide, you will 1) get a good understanding of B2B and 2) learn how a typical B2B buyer journey looks like.
If we are to put things into terms that almost everyone can understand, B2B refers to the “exchange of products, services, or information between and among businesses, in direct contrast to the exchange between businesses and consumers”. In short, if you are a B2B company, you are selling a product or services to other businesses.
These are 3 typical scenarios when B2B takes place:
- When a company sources the raw materials it uses in its manufacturing processes from another company;
- When a company acquires the services of another company for some aspects of its operations; and
- When a company resells products and services that have been manufactured or provided by another company.
B2B is characterized by several indicators:
- Large volumes of purchase. More often than not, the businesses involved buy and sell in relatively huge volumes. This is the main reason why B2B is referred to as “wholesaling”, as opposed to “retailing”, which is a characteristic of B2C.
- Fast delivery. The delivery times are also shorter, since there is no complicated or meandering distribution chain to be followed; it’s mostly directly from one business to another, doing away with middlemen.
- Stable and competitive pricing. The prices are mostly stable, especially when the businesses have already established long-term buyer-seller relationships.
Another way to gain a better understanding of B2B is to clearly mark its differences with B2C. In B2B,
- The decision-making process is longer and more tedious, since there are more people involved; in B2C, it’s just the consumer making the decision, so it takes a relatively shorter period of time. Assessments in B2B are also more detailed, since the buying company may require samples, prototypes, mock-ups and more detailed testing and trial runs.
- The buyers are committees or groups of people within an organization; in B2C, the buyer is often an individual.
- The premium on brand loyalty is higher, since businesses are particular about building long-term relationships with other businesses; in B2C, brand loyalty is still high, but not as high as in B2B.
The most popular and commonly used example for a B2B company is an automobile manufacturer. The manufacturer sources the components of the vehicle from many different companies. After purchasing high volumes of the components from these companies, the automobile manufacturer will proceed to the production process of the automobiles. The end-product – a car – will then be sold to consumers.
In that traditional example, the automobile manufacturer purchased from another business, making it a B2B transaction. The purchase of the end-user of a car from the automobile manufacturer demonstrates B2C, since the business (the automobile manufacturer) is selling the product (a car) to a customer (the consumer).
If you are interested in how the B2B buyer journey has changed, then read through this insightful presentation.
THE B2B BUYER JOURNEY
It would appear that being able to identify whether your business falls under the B2B or B2C category is not enough. Selling companies often overlook or, worse, choose to ignore the fact that they have to take care of their buyer. It is highly likely that this attitude stemmed from the confidence that their buyer will, without fail, seek them out. After all, they have the goods, products or services that the buying company needs.
But times are changing, and the business landscape is changing. Competition is becoming fiercer than ever, so businesses have to pay more attention to their partner in this relationship: the buyer. In order to do that, they have to be more perceptive with respect to what the buyer wants, and do something to improve the overall B2B buyer journey.
Understanding the B2B journey is vital, as it serves as one of the most important foundations of your B2B marketing strategy. Every businessman knows that one of the most critical elements of marketing is knowing your market and the individuals that comprise it. Designing a marketing strategy without this knowledge is like creating a campaign blindly; you are basically selling something to someone you do not know anything about.
But how can companies make a more positive impact on the B2B buyer journey? Here are some insights shared by business experts.
Familiarize Yourself With The B2B Buyer Journey
You have to understand that path that your buyers take leading them to making the purchase. The important thing to note here is that buyers are as different as they come, so do not expect them to take the same route in their buyer journey.
Recent surveys show that 74% of B2B buyers who are making an offline purchase opt to conduct more than half of their research using online sources, before they actually make a purchasing decision. Once the buyer reaches 57% of his buying journey, he decides to talk to a sales representative or a vendor, or seek other information from peers and professionals. But there is another development: it appears that two-thirds of B2B buyer journeys have already engaged the aid of sales representatives or vendors from the beginning of the buying process. They have already devoted a lot of their time in the journey doing internal assessments, discussing at great length with their peers, and even seeking the recommendations of external sources and experts.
What you should do is to get a clearer and bigger picture of the path or the journey undertaken by buyers. This way, you will be in a better position to design and implement your B2B marketing.
One of the techniques introduced is the B2B Buyer Journey Mapping by Forrester, where you will have to develop a buyer journey map that answers the following questions:
- WHO? Who are your B2B buyers? While it is true that B2B buyers come in teams, there is a need to clearly identify who the key members of the team are. Who is the leader of the buying team? Who makes the decisions and who are the ones who are doing most of the legwork? In some instances, it is normal to see end users as well as the potential customers being considered part of the buyer team, in varying capacities.
- WHY? Why is the buyer making the purchase? This will entail looking into the buyer’s perception on what value is. What need is expected to be fulfilled? What problem is hoped to be solved by the purchase? What outcome is expected or anticipated by the buyer?
- WHEN? This is another way of saying that timing is everything when making buying decisions. The buyer journey can be seen as a timeline, with stages that have to be passed through by the buyer. In each stage, there are concerns, questions and issues that must be addressed, and so timing must be considered when addressing them. This will facilitate the transition and progression of the buyer to the next stage of the journey, until it reaches its culmination, which is the actual purchase.
- WHAT? What are the contents that play a major role in the B2B buyer journey? What answers do you have to your buyers’ queries? What solutions can you provide for their concerns and issues? How will you present these content to the buyer, in such a way that will satisfy them?
- WHERE? What channels, avenues and vehicles do your buyers usually go to for information and answers to their questions? What means or tools do you use in order to make the answers and solutions reach your prospective buyer?
Know Your B2B Buyer (And What Type Of Purchase He Is Making)
Between the averages that you obtained and the buyer, who should matter most?
The answer: the buyer. After all, it is the buyer that will make the final decision in the buyer journey.
Of the many insights that a business must gain, insights into its customers or buyers is one of them. This is considered by many to be the starting point of any seller-buyer relationship. Know who your buyer is and what type of purchase he is making, so you’ll know how to deliver what he needs or wants. More often than not, businesses rely on existing statistics, getting the averages in order to build up their representative buyer, or their archetype buyer.
Normally, B2B buyers purchase in groups or teams. For example, the automobile company may have its own purchasing team tasked to look for sellers of specific components. They are the ones in charge of going through the motions in researching and purchasing the said components.
Now the next thing you have to focus on is the type of purchase that your buyer is making. B2B buyers put a great amount of consideration in their buying decisions, performing research and lengthy deliberations before they close the deal. Once you are aware of what type of purchase is being made, you will be able to figure out how you positively respond to your business customers and improve their buying experience.
When getting to know your buyer, Tony Zambito came up with the Buyer Persona Canvas. The key questions that must be answered are:
- Buyer Persona. Who are your buyers? Among the buyers you have identified, what is your archetype, or the “standard” buyer? What is the background of your buyer? Their experiences and interests? Their focus, areas of responsibilities, and roles in organizations?
- Goals. What are the business goals and personal goals of your buyers? What are the buying behaviors of your buyers, and how did their business, organizational and personal goals affect this behavior?
- Buying Process. What is the standard buyer’s journey that your buyer takes? What is the buying process that he follows?
- Buyer Thinking. What are the seller attitudes that drive the decision of buyers on whether to buy or not? What are the prevailing beliefs and perceptions that your buyers have, and how do they affect their buying behavior?
- Reasons for Buying. What motivates your buyers to buy? What drives their choices? What are the risks that they take into account when making their buying choices?
- Initiatives. What are the most common or usual initiatives of your buyers? What strategies do your buyers, and the industry, as a whole, use?
- Timing. Is there a seasonal pattern in your buyers’ buying behaviors? What is the role of budget planning and budgeting in the timing of your sales?
- Channels. What are the channels that your buyers are using in looking for what to buy, and in doing their research on the products you are selling? What social circles or platforms do your buyers move in, and what external sources do they frequently use?
- Influencers, Stakeholders, Buying Team. Who are the key stakeholders in the buyer’s journey? The internal and external influencers? Who are the key players in the buying team? Who ultimately makes the buying decisions? Who is the buyer persona in the buying team, and what is his role?
- Content and Information. What information do buyers look for and rely on in their buying decisions? What data references do they use? How do they obtain these information and where from? What content do they find most relevant in their buying decisions?
Know Your Marketing Strategy
A report by Gartner stated that sales and marketing influences 32% of the B2B buyer’s journey. Granted, for many, that figure seems too small to be significant, but marketing and salespeople would beg to differ. That 32% could make the difference between the company making a profit or incurring a loss.
Effective marketing is characterized by a solid marketing strategy, and it can only be so if it is based on hard facts. Some companies settle on using averages, but they are not really what you would call hard facts. Facts can only be obtained by engaging with the buyers, through the use of multiple channels, using various tried and tested tools and techniques. Experts encourage using a buyer engagement strategy across channels, considering how more and more buyers prefer to do their research and seek information in various social and digital channels, both online and offline. B2B buyer journey mapping is also very helpful in this case.
It boils down to your creation, development and sharing of content and tools that are customer-focused, helping them throughout the business process. We then go back once again to the importance of knowing your buyer, since you will be able to create the relevant customer-focused content if you know exactly who your customer is.
Competition will always be dogging the business’ every stop, and one sure way to stay ahead of the competition is to ensure that you know more about the B2B buyer journey than they do. By showing that you know more, you will be able to inspire more trust and loyalty from your buyer, and leave the competition behind.
Get Their Cues From B2C Digital Commerce
B2C is effectively making use of digital commerce to engage and draw favorable responses from its buyers, and there is no reason why their techniques should not work for B2B as well.
Of course, we are all aware that B2B also widely uses e-commerce or digital commerce. B2B is known to entail a complicated process of research by buyers, in order to come up with a purchasing decision, and the use of digital means is expected to ease the process somewhat.
Looking at the bigger picture, B2B players also ought to consider the applicability of tools and techniques that were originally thought to be exclusive only to B2C. One of them is by going mobile. Mobile commerce is now seeing major action in terms of profitability. Many businesses are now realizing how they can drive their revenues up by tapping into mobile. Consider the fact that B2B buyers are now getting younger and younger, and more tech-savvy than ever, then it is but natural to assume that a greater number of them will also start doing their buying decisions on mobile.
Looking at the big picture is the only way to go about fully understanding the B2B buyer journey. It is not enough to break it down in phases and understanding some parts while ignoring the others. The focus should be on the entire journey.
At the end of the day, always keep in mind that the most important factor in the B2B buyer journey is the customer. It is all about the Buyer: what the buyer needs, what type of purchase is being made, and how you can integrate all the content that you have into the whole journey.
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