Mark Goren, CEO Point to Point, a leading B2B marketing agency, explains that we are in a buyer revolution. Buyers are now on the driver’s seat armed with a wealth information from the Internet. Fact is, new buyers aren’t raising their hands until they’re two-thirds or more through the sales cycle. They have new tools to find the information they need before they interact with salespeople.
Business revolutions are messy.
We see them everyday with new digital technologies, driverless cars and mind-blowing breakthroughs in medicine. These revolutions and the forces they inflict on businesses are not a new phenomenon. Eighty-eight percent of Fortune 500 companies listed in 1955 no longer exist today. Some went bankrupt, others merged and the remainder just got smaller. These companies didn’t suddenly disappear; they gradually sailed into the sunset by not recognizing they were in a state of immense change driven by a shift in behaviors.
Today we are seeing a significant shift in B2B buyers’ behaviors: we call this the B2B Buyer Revolution. Many industrial sales forces are acting like it’s 1995 and buyers aren’t responding, marketing and sales are too siloed to increase buyer engagement, and technology deployments intended to better reach buyers are half baked, underfunded and provide poor insights to improve buyer experiences.
Today’s industrial B2B buyers aren’t raising their hands until they’re two-thirds or more through the sales cycle. They have new tools to find the information they need before they interact with salespeople. According to Forrester Research, this change in behavior indicates that one million B2B sales jobs will be lost by 2020. Goodbye order takers.
Industrial B2B buyers want the same friction-free buying experience they have as consumers. And they expect that companies use their buying behaviors to anticipate buyers’ needs and demonstrate a comprehension of their needs. They want companies to make it easier to open their wallets.
Creating easier and more seamless experiences first starts with companies identifying and engaging stealth buyers. Millennials are the prototypical stealth buyer. They are rapidly displacing aging boomers while bringing their tech savvy behaviors into the workplace. Their stealth moniker acknowledges an invisible intent to buy that requires businesses to have proper insights and content to address their buying needs while unseen. Stealth buyers would rather spend time online than meeting with a salesman equipped with a box of donuts and a brochure.
To respond to the needs of stealth buyers, industrial marketers must develop comprehensive personas that document key audience interests, information needs, product and vendor selection preferences, and a multitude of other factors that influence their behaviors. The definition of the persona helps organizations agree on the best ways to create engagement in the absence of a salesperson. By developing and understanding personas, companies can begin to model the best ways to create engagement to convert unseen to seen opportunities.
Once there is a comprehensive understanding of buyer wants, technology can then be harnessed to drive real-time engagement. Companies that are investing in new business processes and technologies to accommodate shifts in customer interactions are reporting increased revenue, larger customer bases and improved customer loyalty. But it’s not easy and often requires outside experts to work with marketing, sales and IT to develop and implement an appropriate response.
The third reality of the B2B Buyer Revolution is dynamic deployment. As personas identify behaviors and technology creates higher level of engagement, analytics can promote enterprise learning to improve all marketing and sales efforts. In the age of the stealth buyer, nothing is static and every activity presents an opportunity to improve the way companies engage and respond to customer needs. Marketing decisions become data-driven and content requirements are objective responses that dynamically optimize engagement.
Today’s industrial B2B buyer has the same expectation of the buying experience they have on Amazon when making personal purchase decisions. They want it easy and they want businesses to comprehend their needs and anticipate future needs. By building a strategy around stealth buyers, technology and dynamic deployment, companies can gain a competitive advantage and supercharge their growth. They may even be able to take the place of the Fortune 500 company that used to be on the list.
Mark Goren is CEO of Point To Point, a Beachwood, Ohio-based customer engagement marketing agency focused 100% on B2B companies.