Today’s buyers are afforded sources of information, systems, and tools, which help them to make the right purchase decisions. Depending on the complexity of challenges faced, buyers may be seeking simple answers or complex custom solutions. For B2B buyers, the nature of buying itself has changed. This puts pressure on B2B marketers and sellers to evolve and get in lock step with buyers. Many are behind the pace of buyers.
Statistics Losing Meaning
Over the past year or two, we have had many statistics proclaimed about the buyer’s journey. Stating buyers are from 50% to as much as 90% through their buyer’s journey before engaging sales. Since there are so many of these statistics now, I don’t think the actual number makes any difference. What does matter is the more overarching development. B2B buyer behavior includes a consumerization shift towards researching extensively what they need to solve or achieve. This could be almost entirely online or almost entirely via a sales representative. Or, it may be a hybrid of both.
Is your organization adapting to this shift? Or is your organization so bought-in to one of these statistics, adaptation means – marketing automation. The use of marketing automation can be beneficial and help generate new opportunities. To reap benefits though, it needs to be aligned to the critical path-to-purchase of your buyers. Today’s B2B organizations have to be careful about thinking in terms of technology adaptation versus buyer adaptation. To get this right, buyer adaptation should inform technology adaptation.
What has to be considered is this: is the rush to technology adaptation hindering the progress needed to catch-up to evolving buyers today? Indeed, this is something to ponder. And, it provides a clue as to why some B2B companies struggle with effectiveness and efficiency when making use of technology such as marketing automation.
The good news is B2B organizations can catch-up to how buyers are evolving. Focusing on buyer adaptation in earnest can elevate an organization’s capabilities in two areas. The first being how to operationally orient the organization around customers and prospect buyers. The second is gaining knowledge on how to implement and make use of the automation available to them. Bringing them in closer alignment to the pace buyers are evolving at.
To be successful at aligning with the evolving buyers, I suggest the following four steps be taken:
Step 1: Commit the organization to customers and prospect buyers
I have sat in many meetings, as you have, where we hear the same proclamation of commitment made over and over. You know them: “we are committed to providing the best product”, “we are committed to providing the best service”, we are committed to providing the best experience”, and etc. What they have in common is their internal focus. Executives need to stand up and make a serious commitment to customers and buyers – and prove it with how-to actions.
Step 2: In-depth Customer and Buyer Understanding is the Plan
A serious commitment to customers and buyers means you need to get to know them. You need to know their goals, motivations, needs, challenges, objectives, and more. This is true both on a company level as well as a buyer level. It means committing to quantitative buyer intelligence and qualitative buyer insights. This needs to purposeful for it drives step 3.
Step 3: Strategies are Customer and Buyer Informed
A commitment to customers and buyers involves ensuring the organization’s marketing, sales, service, and operations strategies are guided and informed by buyer insights. I advocate encapsulating strategies with front-end and back-end thinking. On the front-end, buyer insights are informing and validating strategies. On the back-end, buyer insights are assessing and monitoring strategies.
Step 4: Develop Customer and Buyer Knowledge-Base and Communications Platform
Getting the entire organization committed to customers and buyers calls for moving beyond training to making customer and buyer insights available just in time. There are many moments of truths which customers and buyers can encounter. It pays to have the enterprise ready no matter where they are.
To develop what it takes to catch up as well as keep up with the evolving buyers of today, B2B organizations can go a long way by following these four steps. It does not happen overnight. However, the first step is critical. Committing to the customer and buyer as well as laying out the path to getting in step with them means a journey which can be taken together. And, prevents you from being on a different path than your buyers.
(Schedule time with me and a conversation to help you catch up with evolving buyers. I am very interested in getting your thoughts and perspectives on the obstacles, which can be slowing you down. Please share widely – your peers and colleagues are running as fast as they can to catch up.)