The BIG subject right now in B2B and B2C marketing is definitely customer experience, which includes the question of customer satisfaction and user centric strategies. Not a single day goes by without seeing it on a homepage or a blogpost to the point that it has almost become a cliché. But in reality, do marketers really know their customers, their behavior and most important, their needs and expectations? Nothing is less sure.
Today, many marketers still don’t have direct contacts with their clients. Salespeople, whose job it is, usually tell you they know their clients and prospects well as they meet them on a regular basis.
But in reality, things have changed. Buyers behaviors have changed. At least 60% of the B2B buyer’s journey is now done digitally, sometimes without contact with Sales. With the exception of a niche clientele such as in luxury, companies should not stick anymore to a traditional one-to-one relationship with their clients.
The B2B buying cycle is specific
Within the same company, a number of people are usually involved in a B2B purchase. And with digitalization, the roles and functions of each have changed. They can appear and disappear at times during the project and therefore are less easy to identify. These people belong to different departments and usually each own their budget. They work together in project mode before being replaced by others on a new project. Not an easy start.
In this buying committee, you will classically find the visionary, the influencer, the decision maker, the end-user etc., who will each play a role during a given time and have a specific weight in the decision to buy you or not. Thus, the buying committee is the result of both individual as well as pack behavior which is important to identify and understand. To help you in this, start by creating your personas.
How do you build your personas ?
You certainly don’t build personas the same way you’d run a market study on a specific target. Here your aim is to understand the behavior and expectations of each individual involved in the buying decision as well as their interactions with the other stakeholders of the decision.
Take a journalistic approach. Run interviews with your clients and prospects (with a number of people in the company identified as your buyers or users) and focus on 6 main points that qualify each persona:
- Their role and mission within their organization
- Their priorities and objectives, both individual and for their teams
- Their ambition (including personal)
- Their position and influence in the buyer’s journey, in which stage they are involved (is it at awareness stage, exploration or decision stage?) and how they interact with other personas involved in the various stages of the funnel.
- Their decision criteria. Is it led by cost, continuity or on the contrary by disruption and change? Which other criteria are there to take into account?
- Their preferred source of information and how they look/search for it and on which formats and channels.
At TheoryGlobal, we have a dedicated team of journalists and Content Strategists who run these interviews and build personas. These experts know how to extract and gather the essential information they collect. A minimum of 4–5 qualitative interviews is necessary for each persona (you will eliminate other interviews that are not good enough), supplemented with thorough desktop research, specially with market research and analyst reports the likes of SiriusDecision, Gartner and Forrester.
In parallel, run an internal study on your clients expectations interviewing your Marketing, Sales and Pre/After Sales departments etc. It will give you a lot of insights on the level of knowledge that exists within your company and will complement your research. And it helps invalidate some points. This also enables to have your Sales involved upstream in the project. This will prove to be essential for your future actions, including when you’ll work at aligning your sales and marketing practices.
Map your personas with their buyers journey
You can now map your personas and align them on their buyers journey, either for the whole organization or better, for each of your business lines and/or main verticals. For each buyer’s journey, it’s best limiting yourself to building 2 main personas and 2 secondary ones. Remember, creating more means developing as many more content scenarios. Avoid a labyrinthine system and prioritize (of course, there will always be special cases that may require a specific campaign or tactics. You may want to apply an ABM strategy for this).
Align your personas with your content strategy
The final stage for now is to run a check of your personas in your current database. Can you find your personas in your data? Are they clearly informed? Can you cluster them in groups and align them on a consistent buyer’s journey? Are they engaged in the way they should be, in the right buying stage (awareness, exploration, decision)?
You have to keep in mind that the final objective of this work is to build a tool that will help you create and push the right content to each persona, engage them and follow them in their buyer’s journey, both as individuals and as a group.
Thus customizing your content naturally flows from there. Do you send your personas the right content, at the right time through the right channel? Are your personas sufficiently qualified and scored in the correct manner in your system, to help you follow them?
Answering these questions will help you take the next steps in your strategy which are as follows:
- Run a content audit and map your existing content with your buyers journey
- Map your Customer Journey, in other words, map all the touchpoints currently available between your company and your prospects and clients
- And finally, build your future Content strategy and engagement scenarios based on this audit.
Great tool isn’t it? Don’t be misguided. It’s a time consuming and long-effort job that you may wish to outsource. But at the end, it’s a fantastic approach to manage coordinate everyone in your organization around the same goal which ultimately is to better understand, win and retain your customers!