One of the clearest mandates being heard from B2B buyers today is the desire for buying experiences that offer more than just a product or service sale. This puts enormous pressure on B2B organizations to not only understand what buyers wish to buy, how they want to buy, and why they buy – but also how to provide an enriching buying experience that creates loyalty.
What is clear is that B2B entities are faced with the significant challenges of reinventing buying as well as sales experiences. Perplexing B2B leaders on how to create a revenue growing means of interactions with buyers while at the same time figuring out how to get their organization focused entirely on the buyer. These same B2B leaders searching for the key to finally achieve marketing and sales alignment that has proven to be elusive year after year. No easy task today in the digital age with buyer loyalty as fickle as ever.
Here are four steps B2B organizations can take to initiate a framework for reinventing the buyer experience:
- Gain external buyer insight through qualitative interviews
- Create informing buyer personas that teams can respond to
- Map the buyer’s journey and the buying process
- Engage the organization in buyer experience design
These four steps will help to accomplish creating a buyer orientation and get out of the rut of thinking only in the neat compartments of sales, marketing, or support. In essence, providing a framework to lead from as well as take the organization through the reinvention process. Let’s take a closer look:
Step 1: External Buyer Insight
Without question, B2B entities have undergone waves of changes over the last decade that has to have executives wondering constantly about the next change. While internal data and analysis can provide clues, they cannot tell stories about buyer behaviors. It is just happening too fast and the options available to buyers grow at quantum speed. More than a dozen years after the impact of the Internet we are still experiencing changes in technologies that impact buying behaviors. Companies that invest in external qualitative insight gathering will not only have an edge in understanding the changes occurring buyer behaviors but also keep an edge over completion. This is one area many B2B companies tend to “skimp” on – not realizing that it all starts here.
Step 2: Informing Buyer Personas
Buyer personas have the potential to help achieve the buyer orientation so critical to reinvention. The term informing is used here to emphasize the fact that buyer personas are meant to be informing. Informing about what? They are meant to inform on buyer behavior as well as how to shape strategies that respond to buyer goals. They must go well beyond the concept of profiling or even templates. They must become communication frameworks about buyers that teams can align around. Buyer personas created through solid external buyer insight will give teams a clear picture of buyers and create a buyer focus that is strong enough to align marketing and sales.
Step 3: Buyer Journey Mapping
Mapping the buyer journey and the buying process allows marketing and sales teams to understand how to interact with buyers and fill the gaps buyers usually are left wanting. It helps to fill in the “unknown” about how buyers have changed their buying behaviors. More importantly, having this visual provides clues to how to reinvent the buyer experience in ways that may have not been evident before. There is an important premise that cannot be missed however. To truly understand and arrive at mapping of the buyer’s journey and the buying process, B2B companies must once again not “skimp” on the qualitative insight needed. It cannot be derived solely from scheduling a meeting with sales and marketing and “brainstorming” this mapping.
Step 4: Buyer Experience Design
This step will require solid leadership and strong attributes in design thinking. Tactical thinking and approaches will fall short of the reinvention goal. There is an obvious set of tactical temptations today confronting B2B organizations. What is important is to focus on the insight gathered, who your buyer personas are and how they inform, and how buyers embark on their buyer journey. Designing the buyer experience requires a careful approach to integrating enabling services and technologies that will meet the goals of buyers. This step also involves taking a hard look at the actual sales experience and redesigning to map back to the buyer’s journey and buying process. One thing is clear – haphazardly implementing tactical solutions without a buyer orientation as well as without design in mind will lead to little return.
B2B organizations today can take these major steps to winning over buyers in the digital age. They offer a framework for buyer experience innovation that can not only reinvent the buying experience but also reinvent the organization itself. An important outcome is the creation of marketing and sales team aligned around buyers and the buyer experience.