In a B2B (business-to-business) market, the buyer experience (BX) is something that often gets overlooked. B2C (business-to-customer) often gets the attention, focusing on the customer experience (CX) in the overall chain of events. Sellers get very little opportunity to influence a buyer’s decisions. According to Gartner’s research, when a B2B buyer is considering a purchase, they only spend 17% of the time meeting with those potential suppliers.
The B2B BX is not a linear concept. In fact, it is a process that requires more than one “job” to be completed simultaneously. Even when these jobs are completed, they are often revisited along the way to change and improve BX.
BX vs. CX: Adjusting the Sales Cycle for the Buyer Experience
Many people are stuck in the B2C and CX mindset when it comes to the sales cycle. Not every step of the process is different between the B2B and B2C cycles. Still, there is enough difference that the outcome of the experience for the customer or buyer is very different. Think about the model in the shape of a funnel. At the widest part begins awareness, followed by interest, consideration, intent, evaluation, and purchase.
Here is what the two models look like:
- B2C: Search for information
- B2B: Search for information
- B2C: Learn about products
- B2B: Buyers look at products and reviews
- B2C: Read reviews and compare products
- B2B: Buyers share research with other stakeholders
- B2C: Learn about products
- B2B: Buyers request product demos
- B2C: Review shopping cart and complete checkout process
- B2B: Buyer reviews a contract proposal
- B2C: Sales transaction is complete
- B2B: Sales transaction is complete
Focusing on the Buyer Journey as a Part of Experience
Much like the cycle of a sale, there is also a “journey” that the buyer takes when they are making a purchase in the B2B market. To make the experience an enjoyable one, you have to understand the journey it takes to get there (and use the right marketing techniques).
Phase 1: Awareness
During this phase, buyers identify that they have a problem and that a solution to solve it needs to be found. They begin doing the research it takes to find a solution, either online or offline. The biggest question that they ask is, “how do others solve this problem?”
Marketing in the awareness phase for the seller will provide value and address specific pain points that can be addressed with their product or service, often educational. These may come in the form of eBooks, blog posts, and industry reports.
Phase 2: Consideration
Buyers begin to evaluate their different options. They want to see the one attribute that makes the right choice stand out. They will look at the products that will fulfill the awareness phase.
Marketing materials at the consideration phase are more in-depth and bring more detailed information to light about the product or service benefits. The buyer can use the materials to make a comparison easily.
Phase 3: Decision
Buyers have finished evaluating and know which product they are going to buy. They have picked out the most straightforward way to purchase so that the problem can be solved relatively quickly.
At this phase, marketing materials help provide the buyer with all the information and the contact information for making the purchase. They should not have to “search” out the answers to make a purchase. Sales representatives should also encourage that the right decision has been made.
Phase 4: Post-Purchase
During post-purchase, buyers have already bought, received, and are using their product. They may be reviewing how their needs have been met or reach out for additional support for their purchase.
Post-purchase marketing materials offer buyers the customer service experience that helps them solve any problems after purchase or give them the “how-to” if additional clarity is needed. Much of the educational content from earlier in the journey will still be applicable.
Phase 5: Repeat Purchase
Buyers prefer to find a supplier and remain loyal. If they have a good experience, they are likely to stay and become a repeat purchaser. Buyers are looking to see if they want to keep with the product or service or if they want to start the journey all over again.
Marketing for a repeat purchase means checking in with the buyer and continuing the relationship. Let them be a part of your community and keep them privy to any product changes or advancements.
Always Work to Improve BX
Facilitating the buyer through mindful marketing maneuvers helps improve their experience. You may not have the cheapest product or service, but if you supply the buyer with an amazing experience when they work with you, they are likely to keep coming back.
To help keep improving, make sure you are managing your channels when speaking with the buyer. We live in a digital age, so ensuring that everything is cohesive through online and human touchpoints of the buyer’s journey is imperative to keeping them engaged. Nothing looks less professional than having to input information multiple times.
Listen to the buyers you work with. The best way to provide them with a good experience is to listen to what they want. If they give you feedback, don’t look at it as criticism. Use it as a focal point for growth. You can use metrics and analytical reporting to ensure that you are consistent across the board with buyers.
The B2B environment is like a supply and demand type of chain. What you offer, someone else wants, but what you need, you have to buy from someone else. You become the buyer. Think about the experience you want to have and pay it forward.
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