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How to Understand and Influence the Buyer’s Journey in Today’s B2B Marketplace
The Buyer's Journey has changed - vendor-directed sales methods are much less effective than they were in the past. The concept of the Buyer’s Journey has undergone a complete transformation over the past two decades. Whereas buyers were once largely dependent upon vendors to perform needs assessments, propose solutions, and provide customer references, the vast majority of today’s buyers have declared virtual independence from such vendor-directed sales processes. With ever-expanding sources of reliable and objective information available through the Internet, buyers are assessing their own business needs, conducting their own research on solutions, and seeking their own reviews of products and services from peers and user communities, all with little or no assistance from vendors. Today, buyers are in control of the purchase process!
The Buyer’s Journey consists of three distinct stages:
- Awareness Stage - The buyer becomes aware of a business problem and takes steps to determine the cause.
- Consideration Stage - The buyer understands the cause of the problem and is researching possible solutions.
- Decision Stage - The buyer has identified the best solution and is ready to implement it to solve the problem.
Each prospect traverses the Buyer’s Journey at a different pace, progressing from awareness of a business problem to consideration of various solutions and ultimately to the decision point of vendor selection. Look at the acquisition of your current customer base to determine the parameters of the Buyer's Journey for your business.
Why is it so important to understand the Buyer’s Journey?
A recent Forrester study revealed that deals are won or lost early in the process, with 74% of buyers claiming they most often choose vendors who provide information and serve as helpful resources for assessing problems, determining solutions, and defining decision criteria. This underscores the importance of knowing exactly what information your customers need at each stage of the Buyer’s Journey:
- To attract leads, you must anticipate the questions that buyers will ask as they begin to search for causes of problems.
- To keep their interest and establish trust as a credible resource, you must provide relevant information that educates buyers and helps them determine solutions.
- By helping buyers define their purchase decision criteria, you position your business as a viable contender and increase lead-to-customer conversions.
A CEB study of over 1,400 B2B customers revealed that 57% of a typical purchase decision is made before a customer even talks to a supplier. Opinions vary on where the needle sits now; some insist that buyers are progressing as much as 90% through the Buyer’s Journey before engaging with vendors, while others believe the timing of vendor involvement fluctuates based on product complexity. This implies that the tipping point for initiating direct vendor contact is different for every business. Look back at the Buyer’s Journey of your existing customers to predict when prospects will be ready to engage.
Marketing and sales must work as partners throughout the Buyer’s Journey.
Over the past few years, a trend toward greater collaboration between sales and marketing has emerged among growing businesses. This collaboration extends beyond basic alignment of sales and marketing goals; today’s visionary leaders are erasing the lines that have traditionally separated their sales and marketing organizations and are instead integrating sales and marketing through the establishment of shared goals. To adopt this approach for your business, consider the following:
- Your sales and marketing teams share responsibility for bringing in business.
- To qualify leads, sales and marketing work together to define criteria for accurately evaluating buyer position within the three stages of the Buyer’s Journey.
- To nurture leads and win new customers, sales and marketing collaborate to define appropriate responses to buyers at each stage of the Buyer’s Journey.
- Sales and marketing share goals and agree on metrics for new prospects, qualified leads, and new customers.
Inbound Marketing provides a proven method for attracting prospects and leading them through the stages of the Buyer's Journey.
Our next blog post will focus on Inbound’s methodology of lead nurturing as an effective tool for customer conversion.
In the meantime, download the 24 marketing tips we recommend for differentiating your company from the crowd.
Bristol Strategy is a full funnel inbound marketing agency and inbound sales agency offering the full complement of Inbound Marketing services that enable our clients to surpass their business objectives by transforming the way they engage with their buyer on-line. Reach out to us to learn more about how our experience and capabilities can help your business grow.