The importance of the B2B buyer’s journey
What is the customer’s journey and why is it essential to optimize it for B to B?
The buyer's journey refers to all the stages through which a customer passes throughout his or her relationship with a supplier.
You are experts in your field, to you, it’s obvious that your solution is the best one. It’s a no-brainer your target market should buy from you, as soon as possible, and start reaping the benefits from a collaboration with your company.
Unfortunately, this rarely happens, in reality, most companies underestimate the number of stages prospects go through before they end up purchasing.
All of these stages of the buyer constitute the B2B Buyer’s Journey.
There are as many Buyer’s Journeys as there are Buyers, which makes it that much harder to comprehend, but also that much more valuable when properly modeled.
Rather than telling you about the B2B Buyer’s Journey, how about I show you?
Once upon a time, there was a Buyer named Ulysses, and he went on a quest to find the best solution to defeat the enemy of his company. Watch his Buyer’s Odyssey:
Did that story help you get a better understanding of the B2B Client’s Journey?
You are probably familiar with most of these chapters (Discovery, Evaluation & Decision) and might dismiss the value of modeling this journey. Yet, you should never lose sight of how important it is to walk a mile in the shoes of your prospects to understand their pain points and better serve them.
They go through Awareness, Consideration, and Decision stages, and so should you from their perspective. We detail everything you need to know about these phases later in this article.
You must remember that every point of contact with your current and potential customers presents an opportunity to create positive experiences that generate trust. It is this trust that convinces prospects to become customers, and customers to become ambassadors.
When we consider the mechanics of B to B decision making, we understand how important it is to optimize the customer journey. The longer the customer journey, the lower the rate of transformation into a customer. Most buyer’s journeys are longer than they should be because of misunderstandings and lack of alignment both internally and between the buyer and the seller. This is why it is up to you to make your Buyer’s Journey as seamless and efficient as possible.
Understanding and mapping the customer’s journey will allow you to understand where you are succeeding and where you are struggling with your prospects. You will understand the questions your customers ask and it will enable you to create the right types of content to answer them.
What are the prerequisites to properly define the path of your customers?
Put yourself in the shoes of the buyer, he or she has very different priorities and expectations than you do during his/her long journey towards making a purchasing decision. It is your duty to adapt your structure and your content to meet the needs of your potential customers.
It's important to have an empathic approach and a good understanding of your prospects' issues. You must profoundly understand your prospects: what are their needs, motivations, fears, hopes, and beliefs? What are their problems and pain points? That understanding is what allows you to properly calibrate the content and experiences you offer them.
But how can you achieve that level of understanding?
There are proven methods: The Buyer Personas and the Jobs To Be Done (JTBD) method.
Modeling your Buyer Personas is an essential prerequisite to defining the customer journey because each journey is different for each persona.
This is precisely the goal of modeling your Buyer Personas: identifying and getting a better understanding of the different types of prospects you want to sell to. For more information on how to model Buyer Personas to transcend your commercial strategy, you should read our article: Personas, why and how to set them up?
Once you have defined your personas, you need to understand their underlying motivations and the challenges they face in relation to what your offer. The best tool for this is the Jobs To Be Done Method. It will allow you to take into account all aspects of your clients' motivation. Lucky for you we also wrote an article to help you master the Jobs To Be Done framework: Jobs-to-be-done, the 3 dimensions of customer motivation
How the B2B Buyer's Journey will help your company
Design a relevant and effective growth strategy
Taking into account the customer journey and understanding prospects is the keystone of a successful growth strategy. Once you’ve mastered the key stages of your Buyer’s Journey, when you associate your prospect’s perspective, it becomes much easier to determine which channels to be present on and which content to offer at each step of the journey. Not only will it help you convert your prospects, but overall customer satisfaction will also increase.
Align your sales and marketing teams
Understanding the stages of a customer's buying journey and aligning with prospects' expectations at each stage allows your marketing and sales teams to visualize where the prospect is in the buying process. This allows them to take the best path to close more deals by leveraging relevant content to move the prospect along the path with your company until they are converted into a customer.
Value-added content for your prospects
Understanding the Buyer’s Journey allows the creation of content adapted to the maturity of the prospects.
Every good content marketer knows how important it is to fit in with your reader’s expectations. For example, you are not going to send the same content to a "cold" prospect on your prospecting list, to an incoming lead who has contacted you via your website.
In one scenario you have to generate curiosity about your solution and the problem you are solving, in the other, you have to convince of the effectiveness of your solution and your ability to satisfy your customers.
Creating content adapted to all the objections, concerns and frequently asked questions of your prospects allows your sales teams to always be one step ahead. At each of their interactions with prospects (prospecting campaign, discovery meetings, creation of the offer, negotiation of the contract, etc...) they have what they need to guide the prospect to the next stage of his journey such as sales scripts, case studies, customer testimonials, interactive content, one-pagers, etc...
What are the main stages of the B-to-B Buyer's Journey?
The notion of customer journey may seem vague. Every customer has a unique buying journey. It is, therefore, necessary, when you map the customer journey, that you adapt it to your target. That’s why we can’t stress enough the value you’ll get from modeling Buyer Personas and their Jobs-to-be-done.
Stage 1 of the Buyer’s Journey: The Discovery Stage
From stranger to visitor: your prospect doesn't know you yet
The Buyer’s Journey begins when the prospect becomes aware of a problem and is motivated to find a solution. That's how 70% of the Buyer's Journey happens before sales teams get involved. We call it the Discovery Stage because this is when he uncovers that need and discovers solutions.
You have to be here for your prospect from the very beginning of his journey. The sooner you reach your prospect, the stronger your relationship. Within this Discovery and the client searches for answers and enters the awareness stage as he gets more knowledgeable on the topic.
This is when you should attract your target by helping him understand the issue and how it can be solved.
Example: You are a software solution that allows you to efficiently deploy account-based marketing. Most of your prospects may not even be familiar with this method. To attract them, you need to position yourself on concepts that are close to their questions at this stage. For example "How to generate opportunities with large companies".
This is where Search Engine Optimization is valuable. By ranking well on specific keywords and writing good blog posts you will be able to attract prospects.
From visitor to lead: The prospect has discovered you and becomes aware of his problem.
Once the prospect is drawn into this process, he becomes a visitor. You've aroused his curiosity in some way. This could have been done through the natural referencing of your content (inbound marketing) or through outbound actions such as prospecting, advertising, a trade show, etc. (Outbound marketing).
You must now educate him, convince him of the importance of his problem and the benefits of dealing with it. This is where educating the prospect, with appropriate content, comes into play. The prospect essentially seeks to define his problem and understand what he has to gain by treating it.
It is crucial to create content that will persuade your prospect, push them into action. So you need to create the desire to act by showing them what they have to gain. At the end of this phase, you will have convinced him that he must initiate an evaluation process to find the best solution to his problem.
Example: Let's take the account-based marketing solution again. The idea at this stage is to show him that account-based marketing can generate many opportunities and with a much better transformation rate for his company. He will then decide to initiate a purchase phase to deploy account-based marketing in his company.
Stage 2 of the Buyer’s Journey: The Evaluation Phase
From lead to opportunity: The lead specifies his project and gets closer to a purchasing decision.
Now the prospect knows he has to act, but he doesn't know the different solutions to his problem.
Depending on the origin of his achievement in stage 1, the prospect will have more or less indications about possible solutions to his problem. However, whatever his level of knowledge, he will want to explore the issue and understand the options available to him.
He will research and analyze information on the products and services offered to solve his problem. Yours of course if you have managed to capture it in the discovery phase, but also other solutions. Today, 67% of the customer journey is digital, we no longer rely solely on the word of a sales representative, each buyer will investigate his problem to make an informed opinion on the subject.
By familiarizing himself with potential solutions, he not only refines his understanding but more importantly, he projects himself into the future with one or more of these solutions. The objective is to convince him that you are one of the most suitable solutions to his problem.
During this consideration phase, it is key to keep a good relationship with your potential buyer and not to become complacent. Do not lose touch or you will lose the sale. Remember that you are not the only supplier in the world and that you are being thoroughly compared during this consideration stage.
From Opportunity to Decision Maker: you are "in"
Once converted, the prospect is convinced that the product or service you offer can help them. It becomes an opportunity for your company and finally enters the sales process that you all know. There are two scenarios at this stage.
Scenario n°1: Your opportunity is coming from the awareness stage
You have content and actions throughout the whole process and your prospect knows you thanks to the first phases. That's very good, you are on the right track but do not become complacent, keep beating the iron while it's hot and do everything possible to transform this conversion into customer acquisition.
Scenario n°2: Your opportunity is starting at the evaluation stage
You have not been present in the previous phases of the buyer's journey. His journey with you starts here, so more than half of the journey took place without you. The Buyer may already have made his mind and it will be challenging to change it.
In both scenarios, you must adapt your solution so that your potential customer can adopt it. Make it as simple as possible to choose you, facilitate the buying process, and optimize the buyer's experience! You need to demonstrate your keen understanding of their needs and they need to feel that you are right for them.
Stage 3 of the Customer's Journey: The Decision Stage
From decision-maker to client: Closing the Deal
This is the moment that every salesperson dreads... The buyer compares solutions and quotes. You've done your best, you've educated the customer well, their problem is clear, and the solutions are clear.
This is where you reap what you have sown in the previous stages. If it is your company that has guided the prospect along the way you have already won. You are the expert who has educated him, you have convinced him at each stage of his journey and you have adapted your offer to his particular context. We often talk about closing techniques, but the reality is that closing is in most cases decided upstream.
Stage 4 of the Client's Journey: The Loyalty Stage
From client to ambassador
The prospect has chosen you, he is now your customer.
The prospect trusted you and decided to sign with you. He is committed to you, you must now accompany him and meet his expectations.
Yes, the customer journey continues after the purchase, otherwise, we would just call it a prospect journey.
It's up to you to enchant them to become your most fervent champion and recommend your services to their network.
Always keep your customer's perspective in mind, optimize the user experience, exceed their expectations and you can count on them as your brand ambassadors.
Conclusion: why you should model your Buyers's Journey
This article is generic by design, but it is intended to give you the keys to initiate the work of mapping the customer journey.
Couple this work to the realization of Buyer Personas and the description of their Jobs-to-be-done (JTBD). Together, these three elements will help you to fully understand your customers.
There are multiple ways to leverage the actionable insights you’ll get from modeling your Buyer’s Journey. If you do it right it will transcend your business, from the inbound marketing strategy to the sales process and the implementation of marketing automation.