Life of a B2B buyer
Although the industry has come a long way since the cheesy product spiels and clumsy advertising of the mid 1900’s, B2B buyers are still being bombarded every single day by sales calls and badly thought-out marketing communications. Buyers used to be naive, falling for false promises and guarantees, but as we’ve moved into the 21st century, buyers have begun to learn how to avoid these traps and wise up. As we enter 2014, we are faced with an army of B2B buyers who can see right through the majority of sales messages. Quite simply, they just don’t believe what they’re being told anymore.
When we look at decision making, alarmingly, buyers are progressing nearly 60% of the way through this process before they even begin to engage with a sales rep*. This is a concerning figure for businesses as essentially, buyers are qualifying them out before they’re even in! Decisions are being based more on personal experiences and the buyers own judging criteria, with buyers more likely to choose just a couple of potentials to choose from. This can pose a significant challenge if you’re not being considered by the buyer in the first instance.
The rise of the 'smart buyer'
In the last year, we’ve started to learn more about the new modern-day persona of a buyer. The new ‘smart buyer’ wants to just be given the relevant information and then left to sift through it in their own time – they don’t want to talk to anyone while they’re in the process of researching. This is proposing new challenges for marketers as they try to find a way of getting through to and engaging with their target audience. It is becoming commonplace for companies to be fighting through switchboards, dead lines and agitated buyers in order to engage. What’s more, popular communication channels such as social media platforms aren’t providing optimal business engagement opportunities – for example, how many MD’s do you think actually take full control of their Twitter accounts? While companies may still be able to generate the occasional piece of new business via these methods, people are generally choosing their own way to be communicated to. It is down to companies to find a way of cutting through the clutter and catching buyers’ attention.
In line with this, we have seen a shift towards a buyer-focused approach, where companies are identifying prospects and attempting to reach them in more valuable ways. If buyers are basing more decisions on experiences, it is key for companies to reach buyers with more salient and meaningful messages that encourages a relationship. This could include sending invitations to communicate so that it stays on the buyer’s terms, and ensuring that communication is based on warm interactions, incentives, relevance and encouragement. Relationships create a personal link between the buyer and the company and, once established, are more difficult for the buyer to step back from. Although buyers will still be sensitive to sales messages, if they’re coming from a company they trust, they are more likely to process information that they’re being sent and tolerate being ‘sold to’ .
Cutting through the noise
To establish this relationship companies need to work towards creating communication which is capable of interrupting the buyers thoughts and making them listen. In other words, creating communication which addresses their company’s pain points, focuses on areas of interest and reaches them via their preferred method for contact. The better you understand who buys what, when and why, the better informed you are to begin tailoring a message that resonates with them. However, although a lot of companies do collect data like this about their prospects and current customers, they are not able to use it in a way that can inform their marketing efforts. This is usually down to varying factors such as incomplete or inaccurate data, a lack of customer segmentation or the amount of time taken to process data for marketing.
The inability to build a complete profile of buyers leaves companies unsure as to which messages their prospects are most likely to respond to. By bringing data together, company’s can learn exactly which factors are driving business decisions, how buyers want to be contacted and when. This information allows for enlightened communications, where marketing can be targeted to different buyer profiles based on these aforementioned preferences. If companies are able to create content that is first and foremost relevant, as well as interesting and encouraging, they will be able to get better results from much fewer messages giving a greater return on marketing investment. If you would like to learn more about how we can use data to put insight at the heart of your marketing communications then please get in touch.
*Statistic taken from ‘The Digital Evolution in B2B Marketing’ research paper by the Marketing Leadership Council