The explosion of digital-first marketing hit the consumer sector first, forever changing the way people shop. The resulting shock wave has significantly impacted the B2B sector as well, reshaping the landscape of lead generation, customer relationship marketing. The B2B buyer’s journey is more self-driven than it ever has been, thanks in large part to the opportunities presented by mobile.
B2B marketers must make sure they are working from the same purchase journey map that their customers and prospects are using. Many of the key landmarks are the same ones marketers have been using for years, but the route between them, and the vehicles that move customers from point A to point B, have changed in big ways.
The Biggest Changes to the B2B Buyer Journey
Discovery Phase: Marketers now have a more diversified range of digital ad placement options, any of which have to be carefully integrated into the total strategy. On the buyer side, search engines have become the most common first stop along the journey.
Exploration Phase: Here, content is King – specifically, the types of content buyers engage with, and the way they are accessing that content. From a smartphone or tablet, buyers can search, share, bookmark, view, and download a variety of different content formats. This includes the content you create, as well as third-party sources like articles, reviews, and rankings. From the back end, a B2B marketer can also track many of these touchpoints and use this specific information to nurture the lead.
During the exploration phase, buyers are also likely to query their social networks for tips and referrals, peruse your social profiles, and/or see what others are saying and sharing about you. Social media has been a hard sell for the B2B sector, often seen as consumer-oriented or ‘leisure’ with questionable return-on-investment. But even for businesses, social is the workhorse that carries content out to your audience, and that horse needs to be fed regularly and healthily.
Decision-Making Phase: By this point, the buyer may be nearly 90% through with their journey – before they even contact you directly! While this used to fall to a particular high-ranking decision-maker, businesses are increasingly relying on teams, often comprised of younger or lower-ranked employees, to evaluate the research done during Exploration and make the final cut. So marketing materials designed with only that high-level exec in mind may go right over the heads of those who are actually narrowing down the field.
Purchase Phase: Recent studies show that an increasing percentage of B2B buyers are comfortable completing their purchases via web or mobile, bypassing direct contact entirely. You can thank the retail and restaurant industries in particular for boosting the demand for self-service shopping. Of course, in order to do this, buyers need to be given the option to check themselves out, not blockaded or redirected to an alternate channel.
Use & Service Phase: The customer journey doesn’t end with purchase, particularly for those in service-intensive industries, such as manufacturing. Mobile, social, and search again converge at this stage of the journey. Buyers-turned-customers make use of any and all of this triad of channels to address their needs after purchase – asking questions, reviewing forums, seeking updates, and in the least desirable scenario, publicly airing complaints.
Change is hard, but necessary. Despite the abundant opportunities and ROI potential of mobile-focused digital marketing, many B2B companies have been curiously reluctant to get fully on board. It may be easier or more comfortable to stick to the way things have always been done, but that road only leads to slowed growth and irrelevance and does not belong on your map.
Not knowing where to start, or how to integrate digital and mobile into the bigger picture, is one of the biggest roadblocks B2B marketers face. The first step is making your digital strategy a priority and supplying it with the support it needs to thrive. The good news is that upgrading you digital strategy to align with the modern customer’s expectations and needs is not an expedition anyone needs to make alone.
|Get inspired by some real-life examples of the solutions Mason has provided B2B businesses to facilitate a smooth journey to purchase. View Here|