How to Captivate the B2B Buyer: Their Frustrations and the Solutions
Today, B2B buyers are behaving very much like B2C buyers and they expect similar experiences in their journey to a purchase.
The business-to-business (B2B) customer, was believed to be predictable in their buying decisions. This has been changing rapidly over the past few years, and sales organizations are having a hard time adapting.
It is now more difficult to gauge a B2B customer’s needs and information gathering patterns. Growth of digital markets, enhanced information dissemination and social media has empowered the B2B decision maker to bypass salespeople altogether.
B2B companies have long handled their buyers’ journeys in a linear fashion. Marketing teams generate leads digitally and via in-person events then pass those leads off to sales who continue the journey in a person-to-person interaction. However, B2B buyers don’t buy in a linear fashion. According to Gartner, a B2B purchase usually involves six-to-ten decision makers all following different avenues of information gathering leading up to a purchase.
45% of B2B buyers are spending more time researching purchases than the previous year (2018) and are using more sources for their research. 41% are also conducting a more detailed ROI analysis before making a purchasing decision. So, how can you better align your efforts to your buyers’ purchasing journeys? Let’s start by looking at B2B buyers’ purchasing patterns, they’re biggest frustrations and the types of content they are looking for.
B2B buyer’s purchasing patterns
The B2B buyer cycle is getting longer. In part this is because more people need to come together to make purchasing decisions, but also because there are several jobs that need to be done to make a purchase decision.
1. Identify a problem
2. Explore solutions
3. Build requirements
4. Select a supplier
5. Validate their selection
6. Find consensus among the buying team/committee
Most companies now have groups or committees dedicated to purchasing decisions with up to ten members and leverage an average of six different ways of interacting with content. This means, different personas are looking for different content types throughout the purchasing process.
B2B buyers are currently scouring the internet for more information on your organization before deciding to buy. And each member of the buying team/committee will consume two to eight pieces of your content before making a purchase or deciding to talk with a sales representative.
Keeping this in mind, it’s important to have consistent branding and messaging across all your platforms and content types, regardless of the information and stories you’re sharing. You can use your mission statement as a guide for consistency, but also keep in mind that B2B buyers are looking for solutions to their most pressing problems, so remember that when creating content and branding your marketing platforms.
We’ll dive more into this challenge…now.
3 Biggest frustrations of B2B buyers’
Needless to say, B2B buyers have frustrations with the buying process. And if we want to make a smoother, more enjoyable purchasing experience for our buyers, we first need to understand their challenges and roadblocks.
1. No consistent experience across channels
One of the biggest complaints by B2B buyers is that vendors often have inconsistent messaging across marketing channels like websites, social media accounts and emails. This can be frustrating for B2B buyers who are trying to get a comprehensive understanding of your company’s values and benefits. But, how can you create a more consistent experience across channels, especially if you have a larger marketing team?
Solutions: As with any part of your business, from development to marketing, your customer should come first. To start, creating a customer-centric marketing mission statement is a critical first step. Once you have a coherent, succinct mission statement, your marketing team can use it as a guiding force for all their content creation and customer communications. To have a mission statement that is truly grounding, it needs to be actionable.
Another important piece to consistency is keeping your targeting efforts consistent across channels. What’s important when it comes to channel consistency is that you don’t drop your personas and targeting on certain channels while upholding it on others. Make sure personalized offers and persona-targeted content are present for your varying buyer demographics across channels, so they’re always represented, and their specific challenges are always prioritized.
2. Quantity over quality
There’s nothing that will make your buyers quit on your business like unhelpful content in the early stages of their buyer’s journey. Let’s assume your competitors have helpful content that gives buyers the information they need to make informed buying decisions they can feel confident about. If you’re putting out subpar and unhelpful content, your desired buyers aren’t going to waste their time sifting through the noise to find the content they’re looking for.
Solution: As with anything else, you need to have a customer-centric approach to content creation. Along with buyers’ personas and getting a strong understanding of your buyers’ top challenges, you need to do your research on what kind of content is best. (By reading this blog you’ve already started, so cheers to you!) In the next section, I’ll go into detail about what types of content B2B buyers want to see. But first, one final frustration.
3. Content is disparate and confusing
The final frustration I want to delve into a bit in this blog is the struggle buyers find when trying to hunt down helpful content and making sense of various content pieces when they find them.
There is too much content for buyers to digest. If you want your organization to stand out, you need to help buyers make sense of all the content they’re consuming.
- Ali Din on the Open View Partners’ Blog
Many (if not most) companies don’t have a central location in which they house all their content so buyers can find what they’re looking for easily, and in one place. This can be hard for businesses who want to have lots of different types of content and ensure they’re maximizing awareness by housing this content across a number of channels. This is all well and good, but all these channels need to be brought together so that buyers don’t have to spend too much time digging through channels and scrolling through content to find what they’re looking for.
Solution: There are a number of solutions to this problem varying in sophistication. A simple blog tab on your website may do, where you publish a blog for every video, whitepaper or thought leadership think-piece published by and for your company. Or, you could use artificially intelligent streaming services (like ours) to give your buyers a central place where they’ll find a consistent experience with intelligent recommendations to accelerate their purchasing journey.
What types of content do your B2B buyers want?
In order to deliver content to your buyers in the best way, you first have to create the right content- or the method of delivery becomes moot. According to the Demand Gen’s B2B Buyer’s Survey, the content B2B buyers are looking to for their decision making include:
1. Website content that speaks to their needs
2. Case studies and testimonials
3. Easy access to pricing and competitive differentiation
4. Reviews, peer recommendations
Peripherally, B2B buyers also look for:
5. Existing discussions
6. Thought leaders’ opinions
7. Relevant, industry-specific content
8. Easy access to content (meaning they don’t have to go through a gate to access it)
9. Search and navigation tools
The key to leveraging these content types is using the right format for the right content. For this, I like to refer to the marketing funnel. This helps better understand which types of content best fit each phase of the buyer’s journey. For instance, a promotion delivered via email is probably best suited for the “delight” stage of the marketing funnel — or the customer retention stage, as you can only reach people via email who have already willingly provided their email to you. Meanwhile, a general, informational blog post or video about your industry is probably best suited for the awareness phase.
Aligning your marketing efforts to the B2B buyers’ purchasing journey
Remember the beginning of this post, when I was talking about linear marketing and sales efforts and how B2B buyers don’t operate that way? Well, it’s a bit complex, but I’m going to do my best to break this concept down and give you some solutions in the simplest way possible.
As I stated above, businesses have traditionally taken a linear approach to marketing, using marketing for demand generation then passing leads off to sales. But this is not how B2B buyers go about their purchasing decisions. With a designated buying group or committee of up to ten members, each with different roles and different priorities, buyers are exploring various avenues for buying information in parallel.
Let’s think about this from an account perspective. Let’s say there’s an account interested in your product or service with a buying committee consisting of six members. Two of these members are executives and the other four are managers. Each of these committee members interacts with a couple different content pieces that pertain to their individual areas of interest. Throughout their information discovery process, some get in contact with sales representatives to get more information about what they’re looking for. Soon, the committee will get back together to go over their findings, narrow down their search and compare competitors before making a decision.
Perfectly narrowed down content will increase the likelihood that your buyers will buy your product over a competitor’s. Delivering the right content to your buyers, at the right time, ensures that your content is meeting them where they are and aren’t pushing them past their comfort zone or giving them fluff when they’re looking for hefty, informational assets. Let’s look at the benefits of a parallel marketing and sales approach one more time before we close:
1. Engage the right contacts
2. Increase ROI
3. Increase awareness
4. Gain trust and credibility
5. Close more deals
It’s not enough to simply create content and blindly release it into the digital world. B2B buyers are looking for specific content to help them along their purchasing journeys. Doing the prep work of finding your buyers’ personas and learning about them, creating a strong mission statement, then making a content plan that you can stick to is critical to B2B marketing success.
One great way to deliver your stunning content to buyers is with a content playlist. Social27 Playlist not only delivers all your best content to buyers in a central location, it also leverages an artificially intelligent recommendation engine to surface the most relevant content to each viewer’s unique interests.
To start toward a better content marketing strategy and more effective efforts go to our website — Social27.com
What areas of your content strategy could you improve upon to make it more friendly and helpful for your buyers?