Use Context to Help B2B Buyers Bypass the Solution “Rabbit Hole”


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Context is based on perspective. Quite often, the reason buyers don’t engage — or are disappointed — with vendor content is because it lacks relevance. As the majority of B2B buyers report, the content they see is high quality, but it’s not meaningful to them. It’s not relevant. In essence, we’re not meeting them where they are, and the point of view we’re sharing has no bearing on what’s important to them.

The concept of buyer-driven experiences is based on knowing your buyers. This means understanding their context for the business situation they find themselves grappling with.

Part of the challenge is that many vendors lack this knowledge. You think you know, but you’re making assumptions that keep your content at a high level. Talking at that higher level may sound good, but it’s devoid of meaning because it misses connecting with buyers based on their context as defined by where they are in their problem-to-solution process.

Ditch the High-Level Concepts and Get in the Weeds

The problem with using high-level terms — like “outcome” or “value” — without a clear definition is that they become generic. They don’t mean anything specific to anyone. Therefore, they lose the impact they could have and nullify the engagement you were hoping to achieve.

Outcome is the “what” and “how”

In the simplest terms, an outcome is the result of an action. It’s the tangible change from the status quo your buyers had before they took the action. An outcome is the combination of the “what” and the “how.” A simple example could be “increase engagement X% by providing relevant buyer-driven experiences.”

One of the challenges in buying today is a lack of confidence buyers have that they’re making the right decisions and that they/their team will gain the outcome promised by vendors. Getting specific about what that entails helps buyers build confidence that they can accomplish the actions needed to get to their desired outcome. It’s no longer good enough to sell the promise or the means to a result. Hinting at a high level doesn’t do it.

Instead, you must get specific and provide progressive guidance. The adage “knowledge is power” still carries weight. Your guidance must also help our buyers set the right expectations if you’re to earn the right to assist them in solving the problem.

You do this step by step, starting with matching their perspective and helping them make shifts toward their desired outcome each time they engage with your content. Make the shifts tangible. By this I mean to help them visualize what the change looks like on the way to getting the outcome. Enabling them to “see” what the change looks like gives them a way to gain confidence the change will happen with minimal risk.

Value is the “why”

Value is different than outcomes. An outcome is what you get from taking an action — good or bad. Value is what’s meaningful to you and/or your company. Value is the “why” for pursuing the outcome in the first place.

What’s valuable to a CFO budgeting with a view toward a recession may be vastly different than what’s valuable to a Director of IT focused on securing the network. Or it could simply be safety. For their roles and the company.

Context is the game changer. Obviously, you’d talk about the “safety” in the paragraph above differently to the CFO vs. the Director of IT. Even though the outcome (safety) is the same, the context is different for each of them based on how they get to “safety.” Think about context from the perspective of each of the people on the buying committee.

Use Outcome and Value to Create a Rabbit Hole Bypass

Think about what your B2B buyers go through when researching how to solve a complex problem. It’s essentially akin to diving down a rabbit hole. The information can be overwhelming. Every vendor is pushing their solution as the best way to go. It’s hard to sort through the noise to find the “carrots.”

Creating buyer-driven experiences based on context shifts helps your buyers bypass the rabbit hole. Dole out the information in manageable bites to guide their thinking. This allows their thinking to keep pace and their experience with you to be informative — rather than overwhelming.

The combination of outcome with value sets a path. If we take the outcome example above of the what and how, “increase engagement X% by providing relevant buyer-driven experiences” and add the value “to help our customers see how to use our solution to gain even more value” – we’ve now got a recipe for retention and account expansion. When you know reaching that objective is a problem (or opportunity) your customers are interested in, you’re able to create just the information they need to grow their business with your help.

By going through the questions below with this outcome and value statement in mind as applicable to a defined segment of customers, you’ll be able to cut through the noise and help your customers streamline their learning process by using your buyer-driven experience as a rabbit-hole bypass.

(HT to Ashely Guttuso for the rabbit term – see her post for more ideas)

The Tricky Thing About Context in Buyer-Driven Experiences

Here’s the thing about context. It changes. Continuously.

Every time your buyers experience your content, they learn something. Whatever they learn shifts their thinking, hence, their context in relation to the topic or problem they’re looking to solve. If your subsequent content doesn’t continue to help them learn something they don’t know — or haven’t understood before — then context shifts stall. The buyer stops advancing because you haven’t provided a path that pulls them forward.

The trick in creating compelling buyer-driven experiences is to facilitate these shifts in context and do the work to string them together to orchestrate progression. The result is buyers with the confidence to continue to advance toward purchase — with your help.

How much do you understand about your buyers’ context and how it shifts with the content experiences you provide?

How Context Plays to Value and Outcome

Let’s break down a buyer-driven experience with a view to value and outcome driven by context. To create compelling buyer-driven experiences, you need to understand the specific scenario and orchestrate how it plays out. Creating context shifts that help buyers advance are critical.

But to do so, you need to map out the scenario so you can help buyers drive the experience that gets them from A to Z.

To be clear, we’re not talking about a campaign. No start/stop, okay-we’re-done-now mentality. Buyer-driven experiences have a job to do that sticks with and assists the buyer throughout problem-solving.

Business Situation:

  • What’s going on that highlights the need for change?
  • Who and what does it impact?
  • Why is this a problem?
  • What’s the risk or downside of not changing or solving the problem?
  • Why haven’t they solved it yet? What could be in the way of change?
  • What are the risks involved in solving the problem (real or perceived)?

Discover the Path to Outcome:

  • What can your buyer do to change successfully?
  • What might they try that won’t truly solve the problem?
  • What do they need to know to evaluate their options?
  • How will they go about enacting successful change?
  • What’s involved in doing that?
  • What are the options for the “whats” and “hows” your buyer could choose?

Define Value:

  • What’s meaningful about solving the problem?
  • What will your buyer gain professionally, and for their company?
  • Why is that enough to motivate your buyer to pursue the outcome above?
  • How will they recognize that they’ve received the value incrementally?

As you work through answering each question, notice how the answer to one fuels how you answer the next question. That’s a demonstration of context shifts.

Do you find yourself answering a question and then reviewing the previous answers and changing them to gain flow and alignment? Perhaps because you thought of something new…

To map these scenarios well, you must truly understand your buyers. Will they buy into the scenario you’re constructing because it’s relevant and resonates with them?

Once you’ve mapped the scenario for one problem-to-solution story you should have a clear line of sight to the content needed to support the context shifts that move your buyer from having a problem to solving it. If you orchestrate it well, your buyer will drive the experience because you’ve addressed the context shifts in step with helping to evolve their thinking, confidence, and vision for creating an outcome that delivers meaningful value.

Even better, the act of mapping out the problem-to-solution process with an eye to your buyers’ context at each point means you’ll be able to identify where they are based on the content they engage with and the path through the experience they choose to take. And that’s all possible because you put context at the core, created the supporting guidance, and presented it in a way that lets them do the driving.


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