How to Win the New and Next Generation of B2B Buyers
Is traditional B2B marketing dead? What does it take to drive leads and opportunities today? And, yes, we’re going to talk about millennials.
Let’s start here:
Yes, traditional B2B marketing is dead.
Before you throw everything out the window, or cry uncle, hang tight. Let’s explain the disruption and put together a strategy for how you can be successful today and tomorrow.
Here we go.
The New B2B Buyer World View
Ten years ago, maybe even less, the B2B buying journey was somewhat simple. It was propelled by an urgent need, fed by marketing messages and ignited by sales pitches.
The journey looked something like this:
That traditional and linear journey is now a memory. Maybe even a pipe dream. That’s not just my opinion – look at the B2B buyers research released by Google:
- 90% won’t take a cold call
- 88% use the internet to do research
- 80% prefer to learn about you through a series of articles over ads
- 1/3 will hide their online activities from advertisers
This is a seismic shift in worldview, not just in marketing strategy. The foundational way that people engage with businesses has changed.
The resulting impact today is a buying journey that looks something like this:
Welcome to the new normal.
Today's journey is unique to each individual. It’s fluid, sporadic, and somewhat unconnected. And it’s longer than ever: research shows that the B2B buying journey takes 22% longer than it did five years ago.
B2B buyers today are propelled by education rather than urgent need. They are fueled by value-add content rather than marketing messages and UVPs, and ignited by personalized touches rather than cold sales pitches.
Here’s the big shift that you might be missing: Your potential customers expect more from you than sales and marketing.
The people you are trying to reach expect leadership, insight, direction, education, and consistent value from you before the sales process is even initiated. Once they’ve raised their hands for a sales conversation, they expect smart and tailored advice rather than a cold pitch. They want to buy through a partner they trust rather than a vendor they found.
Marketing & Sales can no longer be about Marketing & Sales
Here’s what I mean by that subheading: To win over the next generation of B2B buyers, businesses must learn how to delight their prospects, not only their customers. We must learn how to enrich the lives of people who may or may not buy from us. We’ve got to think bigger.
”To win today…smart marketers need to see through customers’ eyes, understand buyer personas, educate those buyers, tap big data, and offer content mapped to the buyer’s journey.” - George Stenitzer
If your only marketing is advertisement, you’re in for a world of hurt over the next several years. So, what’s the right way to win?
The Human Side of Marketing
Many agencies will tell you that the key to B2B marketing success is either to invest in more channels or invest more in current channels.
That kind of silo’d thinking underestimates the shift in world view that we talked about above.
I believe that success today hinges on 360° persona strategies. That means stepping back from what you’ve always done to ask questions like the following:
- What do my prospective customers really value?
- What pre-purchase questions are they asking daily?
- Where are they going for advice or inspiration?
- What buying questions do they have?
- What influences that purchase decision beyond price?
360° Persona Strategies articulate the worldview of your target buyers, empathize with their emotional and intellectual drivers, pinpoint they topics they care about most, identify the types of content they are looking for at each stage of their journey (from inspiration to insight to research to purchase), and embrace their digital consumption habits.
But it doesn’t stop there. This level of detail allows you to be far more strategic with cross-channel integrated marketing that works together toward common and profitable goals.
It’s not about doing lots of things or doing one thing really well. It’s about doing the right things to drive more leads, opportunities, and customers for your business.
Five Questions Every B2B Marketer Must Ask
The world is changing fast. Today’s B2B buyers are 66% to 90% through the buying journey before they contact a vendor.
As more millennials become B2B decision makers, the new normal will grow even more disparate and chaotic. I think this can be a good thing for businesses, if you evolve your approach to attracting and winning new customers.
How prepared are you? Now is a good time to ask yourself these five gut-check questions:
- How well have we identified the persons to which we are trying to market and sell?
- Is our marketing driven by marketing messages or by persona needs?
- How is our competition helping our prospects solve problems with content?
- Does our marketing move people through the buying journey, or does it simply capture people at the end stages?
- How can we help our prospects solve problems outside of answering buying questions?
Success today, and (more importantly) tomorrow, requires businesses to tear down the silos between their marketing teams and sales teams to truly give their target audience the advice, education, and inspiration they are looking for at all stages of the buying journey.