The Four Elements of Buyer Experience Ecosystem Thinking


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B2B market CEO’s must feel a little like the great explorer’s of our time.  Embracing buyer experience strategies and experience design in the B2B world is like discovering a new frontier.  While B2C successes in customer experience offer a guide, the translation to the complex world of B2B is not that easy.  There are no definitive maps to get you there per se’.  Buyer Experience Innovation pays particular attention to the customer acquisition aspects of the B2B buyer experience cycles and how companies can embrace design thinking to create innovative buyer experiences.  A focus that can provide the rudimentary map that can guide leaders through the frontier of buyer experience strategies and design.

When rallying the organization to transform around buyer experience, it must be extremely difficult, even exasperating, to talk about the repeated examples of Zappos, Apple, Nordstroms, and etc. for it leaves employees with the good feel of providing extraordinary experiences but presents an empty binder on how to get there in the B2B landscape. 

An important attribute that B2B CEO’s will need to possess to lead organizations in Buyer Experience Innovation is ecosystem thinking.  Ecosystem thinking can be characterized as a combination of integrated thinking and big picture analysis.  It is an attempt to understand the relationships and interdependencies amongst important elements.  The complexities presented by B2B markets and environments make this type of thinking all the more necessary.  It also provides a platform for communicating to the organization just how to think in terms of providing loyalty creating B2B buyer experiences.

There are four broad elements that lend itself to an integrated view of the Buyer Experience Ecosystem:


In the broader context, B2B offers the most complex network of relationships.  Not only must the entirety of the Buyer Experience Ecosystem be considered but gaining insight into the Buyer Ecosystem of your own buyer persona base becomes critical.  The challenge for most B2B CEO’s is that they will discover a significant shortcoming in the organization’s “inside-out” understanding of the many relationships that can exists in their buyer persona’s ecosystem.  Acquiring the “outside-in” view of the web of B2B complex relationships becomes an essential ingredient to Buyer Experience Strategy.  This quote from David Meerman Scott is relevant because with all the shiny new objects that have been introduced the past few years, we can forget it is still about relationships:

“It’s fascinating how the fundamentals of business-to-business marketing are the same today as they were 50 years ago.  It’s still about relationships although today we have new tools and techniques at our disposal.”


Understanding buyer engagement pitfalls as well as opportunities is like playing a game of chess.  B2B CEO”s will need to anticipate continuously the types of engagements that buyers will respond to most favorably.  Here’s the bad news for B2B CEO’s.  Most buyers will have a hard time articulating exactly and precisely how they wish to be engaged.  Thus, the ability to anticipate and read the unarticulated through qualitative buyer insight becomes a core requirement.  In the modern B2B world, discovering the right mix of outbound and inbound engagement can be an ongoing design challenge to get the right recipe of engagement channels that buyers will select.  The advent and rise of engagement channels related to digital marketing and social media has made this undoubtedly a perplexing issue for many B2B leaders.  The roles of sales and marketing with respect to engagement are best defined when shaped by how they contribute to the overall buyer experience.  B2B leaders will be faced with the challenge of no longer holding a provincial view of the conventional roles of sales and marketing.  A focus on a Buyer Experience Strategy recasts the sales and marketing alignment issue from being that of how marketing will enable sales or how sales will align with marketing messaging to that of how each contributes to enabling the overall buyer experience.


Over the past several decades, the concept of brand in B2B has essentially been one of identity, positioning, and messaging.  Today, B2B buyers look to branding as an embodiment of an overall experience.  A new way of thinking for many B2B outfits.  B2B leaders will need to ponder how the branding experience is integrated and interwoven into every aspect of the buyer’s engagement and experience with their organization.  Extending the brand experience values to every employee is a considerable undertaken.  While this is of the utmost importance, what is often forgotten is addressing organizational systems and structure that can either impede or enable brand and buyer experiences.  It does no good to arrive at brand and buyer experience values yet leave organizational systems and structure in place as potential obstacles.  Marketing messaging and branding identity alone will not create a buyer experience that engages buyers.   In fact, irreparable damage can occur when buyer’s respond well to branding identity and messaging but then encounter systemic and structural obstacles resulting in the mindset that the organization fails to deliver on its’ promises.  This in turn, severely undermines customer acquisition and growth strategies.


B2B leaders today will need to be mindful of how to assess and integrate sales enablement and marketing automation technology as well as the multi-varietal CRM applications that exists into enabling buyer experiences.  A significant risk in this area is that there can be an unconscious gravitational pull towards viewing sales and marketing automation as a panacea to challenges in meeting growth strategies.  Carefully assessing buyer insight and mapping a view of the buyer journey are necessary before determining which technologies are the appropriate enablers for implementing a Buyer Experience Strategy.  Taking a step back and evaluating via an insight-driven approach can lead to choosing the right mix of technologies that contributes to overall growth strategies. 

These four crucial elements can help B2B leaders to develop an ecosystem view of the Buyer Experience Strategy that will best make their organization the choice of buyers seeking goal-fulfilling experiences.  There is high pitch frenzy for B2B leaders today in terms of being confronted internally and externally with persuasive arguments for the latest and greatest new technology or services that promises high returns.  Undoubtedly feeling like one is at a carnival and becoming overwhelmed with the noise, lights, and continuous shouts of the barkers attempting to lure you to their attraction.  Incorporating ecosystem thinking into the crafting of a Buyer Experience Strategy can mitigate the confusion as well as the complexity while at the same time transforming the organization to a model of high regard in providing memorable buyer experiences. 

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Tony Zambito
Tony is the founder and leading authority in buyer insights for B2B Marketing and Sales. In 2001, Tony founded the concept of "buyer persona" and established the first buyer persona development methodology. This innovation has helped leading companies gain a deeper understanding of their buyers resulting in revenue performance. Tony has empowered Fortune 100 organizations with operationalizing buyer personas to communicate deep buyer insights that tell the story of their buyer. He holds a B.S. in Business and an M.B.A. in Marketing Management.


  1. I agree wholeheartedly that there is a dearth of B2B examples provided in customer experience literature. However, in my B2B career over the past 20 years I have witnessed a great deal of sophistication in B2B buyer experience. It just happens that authors of most textbooks, articles, and books may not have had much B2B exposure. Excellent sources in this field are Institute for the Study of Busienss Markets and Business Market Management: Understanding, Creating & Delivering Value by James C. Anderson & James A. Narus. Chapters include Market Sensing, Understanding Firms as Customers, Sustaining Customer Relationships, etc. They feature best practice examples from ABB Asea Brown Boveri, ABN-Amro, Airborne Express, BASF, Baxter International, Cisco, Eli Lilly, Embrex, GE, Grainger, Greif, Hitachi Data Systems, Honeywell, Infineon, Intel, KLM Special Cargo, Monsanto, Siebel, Siemens, Sonoco, Sprint Business, Volvo Trucks, and many more B2B companies.

    Winners of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award include many B2B companies that have a great understanding of customer experience management.

    One of my recent blog posts, Customer Survey Actions & Feedback to Customers features Boeing and Motorola. I encourage customer experience enthusiasts to explore B2B CEM!

    Lynn Hunsaker helps companies improve customer data ROI, customer-centricity and customer experience innovation. She is author of 3 handbooks. See,,

  2. Thank you for your comment Lynn and for the excellient resources. I agree that there are fine examples of B2B organizations who have done well in focusing on customer relationships and experiences. Many have arisen from the Total Quality movement, of which I was a part of more than 20 years ago, and have made the process oriented changes to improve overall customer relationships and experiences. I also believe that B2B is in a state of continual evolution on this front – especially in addressing customer acquisition – which is very exciting for the likes of the many people who care such as you and I! Thank you again!

  3. Tony: Much to comment on from your blog, but for brevity, I’ll focus on one thought you mentioned, because the biases are rampant, and the risks are great:

    “A significant risk in this area is that there can be an unconscious gravitational pull towards viewing sales and marketing automation as a panacea to challenges in meeting growth strategies.”

    I have been asked many times–too many times–to apply a technology to solve problems that truly require an ‘ecosystem’ of embedded solutions and practices to solve. In effect, buyers and decision makers are saying “give us technology to address this challenge, because we haven’t been successful managing our way out of it!” The candor many need to hear is “if you were bad at (pressing matter or problem) before, this solution alone isn’t going to fix it.”

    Unfortunately, many salespeople are loathe to provide that harsh honesty because it will lengthen the sales cycle, or worse, kill the sale. But customers who want to hear the truth, and who can accept it, are invariably better customers.

  4. Andrew,

    Thank you for your excellent comment. It is true that technology can be seen by both the buyer and the seller as a way of managing their way out of challenges. Oftentimes, the blame game ensues when the touted technology does not fix the problem. Candor is tough to come by sometimes in business situations but if it is exercised by both the buyer and seller, both are better sales people and better customers. Great point and thank you!



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