The long and winding path-to-purchase: Don’t lose your way
Every week it seems marketers are bombarded with new – often conflicting – facts and figures about B2B buyers. From the amount of time they spend researching products online before making a purchase to how far they progress on the buyer journey before reaching out to a vendor. It’s confusing at best, and can risk putting a stranglehold on marketing activity.
Sometimes it helps to take a step back and rationalise. Ultimately all these factoids boil down to one core truth: B2B buying is more complex than it was five years ago. And this trend is likely to continue.
So how should marketers respond to this complexity? Clearly, traditional 4-phase buyer journey mapping (awareness, consideration, evaluation, decision) is not sophisticated enough for the current environment. This approach tells you where buyers are in the journey, but not how they got there or where they are going next.
The new buyer dynamic has fundamentally altered the roles and responsibilities of marketing and sales. Today’s B2B marketers are under pressure to engage and nurture leads over a longer and more convoluted timeframe. They handle a larger portion of the buyer journey than before. And they need to understand the paths individual buyers will take, finding ways to answer the needs they encounter along the way.
In this complex buyer environment, optimised customer experience is a critical success factor. Significant purchase decisions involve multiple stakeholders, each with their own agenda, priorities and needs that must be addressed. Companies that invest in buyer insight across the full decision making spectrum are best placed to align their marketing activities strategically and intelligently to achieve greater returns.
Key elements of success
Delivery of customer-centric marketing in the B2B sector requires an in-depth understanding of the ‘who, what, why, when and where’ of business decision making. This is best supported by the following five pillars of buyer journey management best practice:
Focusing efforts on the right organisations with the highest propensity to convert to a sale is an important first step, ensuring marketing time, budget and effort is invested wisely.
A structured approach to segmenting audiences based on demographic, firmographic and psychographic attributes is the cornerstone of customer-centricity. This can be driven by interviews with people in prioritised markets. Personas should be developed at the individual and account level to help explain and predict behaviours.
3. Buyer journey
Identifying the moments that matter to buyers can illuminate a path to more focused and relevant marketing. It’s about understanding required outcomes at different stages of the buyer journey, and finding ways to answer under-served outcomes in a way that is relevant and helpful.
When you understand the required outcomes at various stages of the buyer journey, content can be created and aligned for maximum resonance. Some decision makers will be perfectly satisfied with an infographic that answers topline needs. At a later stage in the journey, more technically minded decision makers may need a paper that drills right down into the detail.
5. Data, martech and execution
Marketing technologies play a vital role in the delivery of large scale marketing initiatives. Yet their success is often hindered by data inadequacies. Pinpointing the data that you need to drive next-step decisions is fundamental to extracting value from these tools. Quality beats quantity every time – make sure you invest in the right data and use it to inform the content strategy. A well-documented content plan is the perfect antidote to complex technology ecosystems.
Complex buyer journeys are here to stay, but it is still possible to navigate a clear path to success. Organisations that align their marketing effectively can create golden opportunities for lasting, mutually beneficial business relationships.
Intelligent management of the buyer journey is a vital component of strategies to drive better revenue and growth. This webinar with Harte Hanks will give you what you need to accelerate your efforts.