How Much of the Buyer’s Journey is Digital?

You know by now that most of the buyer journey happens online without any interaction with a salesperson. However, you may be surprised to know how much the buying experience has changed in the past few years.

If buyers had their way, most would never connect with a sales rep directly. A survey in the Harvard Business Review of nearly 1,000 B2B buyers revealed that 43% said they would prefer to avoid sales conversations when making purchases. More than half of millennials said they prefer a rep-free buying experience.

What B2B Buyers Want

Gartner surveys show that B2B customers are spending only 17% of their buying journey interacting with a sales team. That 17% is time spent with any or all sales reps, so if they are looking at multiple suppliers, that time is split even further.

What B2B buyers want is to find the information they need online, including being able to:

  • Identify problems
  • Explore solutions
  • Build requirements
  • Choose a supplier or vendor
  • Validate decisions
  • Create consensus among stakeholders

They get their information online, so if you are not providing them with this content via your website, email, or other digital venues, you’re missing the opportunity to deliver what B2B buyers want. 

The Changing Buyer Experience

Decades ago, the buying process was linear. Prospective buyers moved through a sales funnel during their buyer journey and ultimately came into contact with the sales team. Even with relevant content available on digital channels, a B2B buyer is more likely to take a meandering path through the funnel and may never connect with a sales rep.

The buying process has also become more complicated and involves multiple stakeholders or buying committees. According to Gartner, 22% of the customer journey now involves meeting with buying groups and gaining consensus. The typical buying group includes six to 10 decision-makers who each have four to five pieces of independent research influencing their decisions.

McKinsey reports that half of B2B buyers say they need a business justification to close deals. As each member of the group is doing their online research, content marketing strategies need to create individual buyer experiences based on members’ roles in the organization. Different team members may also be in different stages of the buying process, which means B2B marketers also need to provide potential buyers with relevant content at various digital touchpoints in the digital customer journey to help buying teams come to a consensus by providing the justifications needed.

If you’re still not completely convinced that the buying process has changed, consider this: 87% of B2B tech buyers want self-service options. More than a third say they would be willing to spend half a million dollars or more without ever talking to a sales rep.

Today’s consumers are also channel agnostic during their research. They might contact a sales rep to get input early in the buying process, but then continue their buyer’s journey using your website, competitors’ sites, and other digital resources. Your marketing strategy needs to deliver the right content at the right time, and be consistent across every touchpoint in your content strategy.

Best Practices: Managing the Digital Customer Journey

The digital experiences a potential customer has as they move through the customer journey will shape how they think about your company and your products. From brand awareness, to consideration, to conversion, the digital marketing materials you create will shape the customer experience.

Whether you are creating educational content, promotional content, a case study or product review, a product demo, or another type of helpful content, your marketing efforts must be aligned with the new ways B2B buyers are conducting business.

The Customer Journey Map

A customer journey map helps you define the content you need and the pathway B2B buyers take as they evaluate your company and products. This map serves as a foundation for much of your marketing efforts by establishing what your customers need at each stage of the journey.

You’ll first want to develop buyer personas so that you have a good idea about the types of buyers and companies you want to market to, and then delve into what they are looking for. This helps you frame your marketing efforts to target the most qualified and likely buyers. Then, you will want to examine their challenges, pain points, and motivations.

Whether it’s a blog post, social media post, email marketing component, or they find your content from a search engine,  some of the most effective marketing will showcase a problem and then demonstrate a solution that solves these challenges and aligns with the customer’s motivations.

Want to learn more about customer journey mapping?  Read our recent blog post, How to Build a Buyer Journey in Less Than 30 Minutes.

Stages of the Buyer’s Journey

You’ll also want to consider the different kinds of content that B2B buyers are looking for at each stage of the buyer’s journey.

1.Awareness stage

Goal: Define problems, answer common questions, and build brand awareness.

Customers have become aware of a problem and are beginning to understand it better and look for potential solutions. They may only now be learning about your company or your specific products. B2B marketers focus primarily on educational content in the awareness stage that does not contain a heavily promotional effort to establish trust.

Content for the awareness stage includes:

  • Thought leadership
  • Educational blogs
  • Industry reports and analysis 
  • Troubleshooting guides
  • Infographics

2. Consideration stage

Goal: Provide solutions, show the value of your solutions

B2B buyers understand their problem by the time they enter the consideration phase and are searching for options for resolution. In this stage, buyers are still not ready to make a final decision and are continuing to research solutions. They may be comparing different solutions from other brands and building the case to narrow the list of vendors. At this stage, B2bB marketers are focusing on providing solutions to problems by building credibility and demonstrating value.

Content for the consideration stage includes:

  • Webinars
  • How-to videos
  • Technical blog posts
  • eBooks
  • Downloadable tools

3. Decision stage

Goal: Drive customers to make a purchase

When B2B buyers enter the decision stage, they are ready to select a solution or product. They have already decided they have a problem they need to solve and there are available solutions. Now, you need to convince them that your solution is the best option. In the decision stage, B2B marketers can ramp up the promotion with product comparisons, case studies, product demos, and incentives or offers.

Content for the decision stage includes:

  • Demos
  • Free trial offers
  • Case studies
  • Product data sheets
  • Comparisons of competitor products
  • Discount offers

Building Trust through Transparency

You’re building trust at every stage of the buyer journey, including post-sale. This is critical — because B2B buyers are more skeptical than ever. They’ve been inundated with marketing messages continually telling them a particular solution is better than all the rest. Today’s buyers are looking for greater transparency and companies that deliver it build trust. Marketing approaches that don’t provide honest, forthright, and transparent information run the risk of being dismissed as puffery.

B2B marketers would be well advised to review their offerings to see if they are truly being transparent in what they are producing. A study by Trust Radius shows most companies are falling short. While 87% of suppliers say they are transparent about product limitations, for example, only 37% of buyers agree. To establish trust, you need to close that gap.

From Digital-First to Digital-Everything

In 2022, B2B marketers need to prepare for more change. A Folloze B2B buyer survey in partnership with the Demand Gen Report showed that the pandemic has had a profound impact on the buyer’s journey.

B2B customers now expect a similar buyer experience as B2C customers. They want immediate access to any information, and they want it customized to their specific needs. B2B buyers have graduated from digital-first to digital-everything. This permanent shift requires organizations to rethink the way they build demand and generate revenue.

To do this, B2B marketers will need help from buyer experience platforms like Folloze to personalize content at scale and implement account-based marketing strategies. This task has become less daunting as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) help marketers personalize and deliver data-driven personalization across each digital touchpoint and each stage of the buying journey.

This personalization is necessary to cut through the marketing clutter that exists. That requires an understanding of customers’ unique needs and taking a data-driven approach to produce a robust buyer experience.

Folloze helps B2B marketers deliver a more robust buyer journey that leads to greater customer satisfaction. Follows works by:

  • Recognizing and targeting accounts
  • Using first-party and third-party data, including buyer intent data, to craft a personalized buyer experience
  • Recommending the best content for each buyer, at each stage of the journey, using intelligent content nomination
  • Measuring and analyzing account engagement for optimal nurturing activities
  • Driving collaboration between marketing and sales activities to fuel sales orchestration.

Folloze has helped businesses execute more than 300,000 targeted campaigns, created 1.5 million engaged accounts, and produced millions of buyers. 

Today’s B2B buyers want more. Folloze helps you give them the buyer experience that leads to conversions. Learn more about the Folloze Buyer Experience platform today.