In your opinion, how has the B2B buyer journey changed as a result of the pandemic and what can organisations do to adapt to those changes?
As we all know, a greater portion of the buyer journey has gone digital, which often means that the “ownership” shifts towards marketing. Even years before the pandemic, it was recognised that 67% of the buyer journey was taking place digitally; now that number is likely even higher. Buyers have raised their expectations of taking themselves as far as possible through that journey towards the purchase. But that doesn’t mean that the other part of the journey is less important. In a B2B setting, a buyer is usually purchasing products that are quite complex and they often want that complexity unpacked with a human, who ideally, is an authority on the matter and knows more than them.
Even though most of the journey is digital, I think organisations need to humanise it as much as possible, ‘digital’ and ‘human’ shouldn’t be mutually exclusive. Regardless of whether it’s B2C or B2B, the language, the tone of voice, the general feeling and so on should be H2H (human to human). At the same time, they need to make sure that they offer a journey that is as smooth as possible for buyers to navigate on their own. A buyer should never have to stop to figure out what they need to do next; the digital path should be so obvious that they’re just allowed to focus on their buying needs and their decision-making process. And then, it’s important that there is some kind of human element accessible at every stage throughout the journey, ideally, in case they decide they need it.
With that in mind, does human engagement still play a part in B2B customer acquisition?
Even though the customer journey has changed, sales interaction and human engagement is still crucial. That human and personal touch can make all the difference in helping the customer over the line at the end of the journey. Generally in B2B, I think a customer will want real human interaction because not only does it offer more nuances in terms of information and tailoring of what they’re buying, but it also offers some physical evidence of skills and expertise in some cases.
What I mean by this is that often in a B2B setting, the buyer is buying people’s skills and knowledge. They are buying a relationship and that often acts as physical proof. So doing, they would not only want to speak to very knowledgeable business development representatives, but also to the people who are going to work for them on a specific project or know the intrinsic details of a product because that is how they get that physical proof.
Previously those opportunities often started when people actually spoke to someone at an event or similar. Then, during the lockdowns these personal interaction numbers dwindled, and now they’re coming back into play. Even if the percentage of direct human interaction throughout the buyer journey is smaller than pre-lockdown numbers it doesn’t make it less important. And the need for a trust-based provider-customer relationship is a key driver in this.
“Generally in B2B, I think a customer will want real human interaction because not only does it offer more nuances in terms of information and tailoring of what they’re buying, but it also offers some physical evidence of skills and expertise in some cases”.
“In my opinion, the mindset should start and end with the customers and how they are best served. `Then you can think about the tools you want to use”.
According to Gartner, in order to meet customers’ new buying preferences, sales leaders must adopt a digital mindset. As a marketing leader, what does a ‘digital mindset’ mean to you?
Today, we’re not talking about digital marketing anymore, it’s simply marketing in a digital world. That’s the landscape and it’s a big part of how we connect organisations and customers. Digital interaction is adaptable, scalable, instant, measurable and allows for precision targeting; as such is hugely beneficial for marketers. In my opinion, the mindset should start and end with the customers and how they are best served. `Then you can think about the tools you want to use. I think it’s easy to get side-tracked by the ‘shiny new toy syndrome’, but we need to be able to take a step back and look at what works for our customers.
When it comes to customer acquisition, how important is it to position your salespeople as thought leaders?
This is a huge opportunity in any stage of the buyer funnel. Buyers have doubts and questions around their needs and can benefit from expertise and guidance, even opinions on related topics. Once you start talking to a prospect or a client, you need to have that knowledge so that you can show credibility and authority, and help them navigate their way towards the best solution for their needs. It’s also important that the marketing and the sales teams work together to create a reciprocal relationship in which marketing can use the insight and intel that salespeople provide to further support and help position them as thought-leaders.
“It’s also important that the marketing and the sales teams work together to create a reciprocal relationship in which marketing can use the insight and intel that salespeople provide to further support and help position them as thought-leaders”.
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