The Future of Buyer Relationships

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This decade, we are beginning to see the continuing impact of the advent of the digital and social age and the robust evolution of the new buyer experience economy. Our developing views of the buyer undergoing perhaps the most profound transformation in the last 100 years. By the end of this decade, what buyer and seller relationships might look like will be anyone’s guess at the moment. Without a doubt, yet to be discovered new digital and social technologies will introduce new buyer behaviors and social buying dynamics.

At this particular juncture, we are beginning to see some evident changes in buyer relationships and what new expectations are becoming parts of the buyer-seller landscape. Changes that organizations today will need to plan for, adapt to, get ready for, and begin to strategize about:

Buyer Experience

As covered extensively over the last few months, the buying experience is becoming a predominant factor in the buyer’s relationship. In fact, it is fair to say that the buyer will view the value of their relationships with sellers based on a high percentage of their experiences with the selling company. Today, B2B companies will need to catch up to B2C advancements in this area if they are to have a future in buyer relationships. Carefully examining new social technologies that enhance the buying experience.

Social Expert Networks

The social buyer persona that is emerging this decade is placing tremendous value in social expert networks. I see this trend as having two distinct components. The first being that the social buyer persona is looking to avail him or herself to expert knowledge that creates more confidence in decision-making. The second being, and we are seeing this more today, social buyers are seeking to position themselves as experts in their respective fields and seek to contribute content socially.

Reputation

Based upon recent interviews with buyers, a trending towards an emphasis on reputation as part of the buyer’s mindset in valuing relationships with sellers is becoming more pronounced. Tied closely to the same thinking as mentioned for social expert networks, buyers not only want to place credence in the reputation of the firms they are having relationships with but also do quick calculations on what that relationships will do to enhance their own reputation. Social reputation management will need to become a mindset for B2B marketers in the next decade.

Real-Time Content

Buyers will make quick determinations about their relationships based upon the availability of real-time content – information on products, services, support documentation, expert knowledge sharing, and the likes. The unavailability of real-time content, in social networking environments, can make for a relationship that is exasperating for the buyer. Organizations will need to look at how content strategy integrates into the world of social marketing as a means of making real-time content instantly accessible to buyers.

Social Algorithms

I use the word algorithm in the sense that buyers expect to go online as well as in social networks to find they can take predictive steps to reach conclusions. This will cause organizations to have to build logic into how they present content and expertise. Moving forward into this decade, it will not be enough to just produce high quality content from a content marketing standpoint. Content strategy will need to look at how to build logic and algorithm into the equation.

Authenticity

In terms of buyer relationships, the days of the grand “dog and pony” show is facing utter extinction. CMO and CSO leaders of the new digital and social age will need to demonstrate authenticity in all ways. Frankly, a new skill and attribute aspect of how organizations must establish relationships with buyers today. This means being socially transparent as well via social networks and communities.

Self-Directed Buyer Journeys

Touched upon in the previous article entitled Engage the Social Buyer Persona, how well organizations allow for buyers to self-direct their buyer journeys will be a factor in new buyer relationships. This trending will have tremendous impact on sales and marketing organizations in their ability to establish loyal buyer relationships. This will require a new mode of thinking, especially for those organizations with systems and processes set in stone. It is not to say that systems and processes are bad or not appropriate for the new social buyer persona however organizations will need to account for the fact buyers will want to self-direct their own buyer journeys.

How organizations today, especially B2B marketers, are able to adapt to new dynamics of buyer relationships will most likely determine what their own future looks like. While the oftentimes used expression that buyers are in control is becoming truer every day, it is really only one side of the evolving story. The other side is how we are undergoing a dramatic transformation in how we define and establish buyer relationships.

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