How Engagement Data Can Help Realign Marketing and Buying Processes

Illustration: Alexis Rivera

By Matt Leap

When your company sets out to make an important purchase, what’s the process? Who determines the need? Who sets the budget? Who compares alternatives? Who decides the purchase timeframe? Who makes the final decision?

Chances are, you named a handful of different people in answering these questions. For example, your immediate boss might determine the need, the executive in charge of the department might set the budget, and you might be tasked with comparing alternatives.

It’s common to have these sort of buying duties distributed throughout a department or, possibly, an entire organization. Business buying looks very different in 2017 compared to that of even 5 or 10 years ago.

With these changes to the buying process come new challenges and opportunities for marketers. It’s imperative that marketers adapt their processes to align with the new and evolving needs of their prospective buyers.

What changed in B2B buying?

The first defining characteristic of today’s B2B purchases is group buying. Where purchases were traditionally driven by a lone executive or department head, they are now driven by consensus among a group of stakeholders. A study by CEB/Motistafound the average B2B buying group now includes 5.4 people.

As companies continue to value the varied perspectives of group buying, the size of buying groups will only grow. According to a study by Demand Gen Survey Report, nearly half (45%) of the B2B buyers surveyed said the number of team members involved in the purchase process increased in the past year.

In addition to larger groups of buyers, the other major characteristic of business purchases is an increased in self-education. The classic sales and marketing approach emphasizes establishing contact with a key decision-maker early on and guiding them through the entire buying process to the ultimate sale. As content marketing has compelled brands to offer more in-depth content and tools, buyers have answered by collecting this information and guiding their own buying experience.

Many buyers simply want to avoid the pressure or expectations that come with contacting a sales rep. They are choosing to move further and further through the buying process without ever revealing themselves. In a study by Demand Metric, 53% of respondents said they reveal themselves when they are midway (after they have a short-list of solutions) through the buying process. Another 22% said they don’t reveal themselves until late in their process (when they’re ready to buy).

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