Is it Becoming More Difficult to Reach B2B Buyers?

Bottom line: Yes. But only because we haven’t kept up with the changing needs and habits of our target audience.

The media landscape is increasingly fragmented, buyers are spending less than 20% of their journey directly interacting with sales, and when they do interact with our marketing content, it seems as if each buyer has a different format preference.

This is where the buyer’s journey comes in handy. If you understand the steps your target goes through, from the moment they first realize they have a problem that your product or service might solve through to their purchase and beyond, you can develop content that helps them along their way and, of course, point them to your solution. And you can make sure it’s in their preferred format and on the channels they visit.

Understanding our buyer’s journey sounds easy, but doesn’t it take a lot of time and expensive consultants to figure it out? I used to think it did, and that’s why, along with my friend Dan Mariani, we developed a guide for marketers who want to improve the relevance of their communications. We uncovered that simply reframing our perspective from the more traditional Buyer’s Purchase Journey, where the focus is primarily on the buyer’s needs, to placing the focus on you and your response to those needs, it’s easier to identify the gaps in your communication and understand where and how better communication can be added. This will help you move your target through their journey to purchase and beyond. It will also help to better engage with your target. We call this The Buyer’s Engagement Journey.

And after about three years of research, and some trial and error, we discovered that most B2B marketers know about 60-80% of the information needed to map the journey, and with the help of their sales teams and a few trusted customers, most of the gaps can be filled in. There are two caveats, however; first, it still takes time to go through the seven buyer steps we identified to map all their needs to your possible responses, second, there will almost certainly be content gaps that need to be filled. This is where consultants and agency partners come in. 

A consultant can speed up the process, they have done this before, and they have the dedicated time to accelerate things. Agency partners can help craft the content you need and make sure it’s in the right context and distributed in the right channel (see my The 3 Cs of B2B Content Marketing blog for more on this). In some cases one partner can help with both.

As a marketer, you can get the process started right now without getting a consultant or agency budget approved, and you might find you have enough information to improve the relevance of your communications throughout your buyer’s engagement journey.

To help get your juices flowing, here is a quick outline of the whole process, which you will find in our guide and accompanying workbook. The outline below is a high-level, step-by-step approach to asking yourself what you know about your audience and questions that guide the mapping of the journey that I think will be most eye-opening.

Your Engagement Journey process will cover the following.

Understanding Your Company

Complete an assessment of your company, the product(s): what your company stands for, its positioning, culture, personality, and its pain points.

Buyer Persona(s)

Identify your target or targets: put together a target Persona. You may need more depth or breadth. Consider both rational (demographics, interests) and emotional (feelings, mindset, psychographics) elements.

Competitive Review

This is required for the criteria evaluation step. It is a list of all features and benefits and which competitive products or services they apply to.

The steps of the Buyer’s Engagement Journey

You can use the workbook we developed with helpful questions to answer or simply think about identifying the buyer’s preferred communication at each step, answering for what the buyer needs or wants at each step to help move to the next.

We define the steps as:

Step One – Realization:

That moment when the buyer realized that there was a problem – the “ah-ha” moment – and that there could be a solution.

Step Two – Clarification:

The problem becomes more defined and is clearly stated.

Step Three – Education:

This is where the buyer gathers information and learns (is educated) about possible solutions – products or services – to help solve the problem.

Step Four – Evaluation:

The buyer considers the criteria (features and benefits) that could be used in selecting the right solution. These are then evaluated based on weightings and importance to help arrive at the best possible solution(s).

Step Five – Consideration:

With the purchase in sight, the buyer considers any pre-purchase activities that are required.

Step Six – Transaction:

The actual transaction takes place and consideration is given to specifically what it entails and who is involved.

Step Seven – Reflection:

The buyer wants to ensure that the right decision was made and considers what helps to overcome the cognitive dissonance or buyer remorse.

Communication audit

Once we know what the buyer needs or wants at each step, map out how you should be responding or communicating (3C’s), your message content, context and channel at each step. Identify what you could be doing better or what you are missing. Also, consider these from the point of view of non-marketing staff that have direct consumer contact.

Action plans

It’s time to decide on the opportunities and appropriate actions that you could implement in an order that’s best for you – so remember to set priorities. This may also include the opportunity to provide communication tools for non-marketing staff.

This may seem like there is a lot to do but remember that you likely have most of the information readily at hand. With a bit of hard work, you can map out a better engagement journey with your buyers, better understand their needs and habits, and ultimately reach more B2B buyers and close more deals. You can download the guide and the accompanying workbook on our website.