The accelerating rate of technological change in today’s digital context has transformed the B2B technology buying process, while creating unique challenges for marketers of complex solutions. Below we consider the most salient aspects of the different buying-process components.
Not surprisingly, buyers seek help in navigating today’s information-rich (and implication-rich) environment. A recent ITSMA study[i] found that while almost half spend 9 or more hours a week online, they consume information from a variety of sources including:
- Offline sources – trade publications, vendor materials, consultant and industry analyst reports
- Online sources – trade media websites, Google searches, vendor websites.
- Peers – within their company, private communities, membership based organizations
- Outside Experts and Vendors – sales people, subject matter experts, management consultants and industry experts.
One surprising result of the ITSMA study[ii] was that the vast majority of technology buyers surveyed (70%) want to engage with a vendor sales person prior to settling on their short list.
Influencers of the Buying Process
The natural consequence of buyers’ reactions to today’s ever-changing surplus of solutions is that they are looking to subject matter experts (SMEs) and vendor sales people as trustworthy sources to help them parse the latest research and options as it applies to their organization’s particular needs and goals. However, simply providing buyers digital resources, while vital, isn’t enough. Throughout the buying process, the ITSMA study found that, people matter – be it as discussion among peers, via word-of-mouth recommendations, or in consultation with SMEs. The implication being that SMEs need to be integral to the marketing and sales process.
Traditionally, buyer focus has been on product features, functionality and price. Yet within today’s increasingly complex and commoditized market environment, what today’s buyer seeks is a great, comprehensive sales experience. A McKinsey study[iii] found that the primary components of that experience are:
- A comprehensive knowledge of your service/product, your industry context, and the buyer’s own business
- Just the right frequency of contact
- A not overly aggressive approach
- Ongoing customer support of the same caliber
Integral to this experience is conveying the sought after knowledge through compelling, clear, cohesive, and consistent messaging that simplifies complex offerings and facilitates decision-making. Content must provide both rational and emotional/personal value for your buyer, via digital content, online self-service tools, and the sales team.
Collectively, we are increasingly connected, impatient and impulsive consumers of information in danger of being overwhelmed by its volume and availability. For the B2B buyer, one of the primary challenges is parsing the quality and relevance of this information. Marketers can facilitate this process by providing simplified, consistent messaging through a cohesive, multichannel effort. Content, tools, and teams must necessarily cater to today’s over-burdened and shortened attention spans by helping buyers efficiently navigate complexity, while addressing their questions in a quick, yet effective manner.
An Elegant Tool to Facilitate the Process for You & Your Buyers
Prospect surveys nicely fit the needs of today’s marketers seeking to engage time-challenged buyers by:
- Providing a vehicle for quickly communicating differentiated value in the form of thought-provoking questions
- Identifying warm prospects via the opt-in participation process
- Providing individualized prospect intelligence to inform the sales call
- Yielding segment insights via aggregate results, which can inform new content and be used engage the larger audience