B2B Buyer Journey Mapping Basics

Today’s buyers control their journey through the buying cycle much more than today’s vendors control the selling cycle. In a recent survey, 74% of business buyers told us they conduct more than half of their research online before making an offline purchase. This buyer dynamic changes the role of B2B marketing in a fundamental way. Marketing now owns a much bigger piece of the lead-to-revenue cycle.  And B2B marketers must take responsibility for engaging with the customer through more of the buying journey. To do this, you need to engineer a cross-channel marketing strategy to successfully engage with buyers who proactively seek the information they need — through digital and social channels, from peers, on YouTube, at events, and through your sales reps — to advance their decision process.   Of course,  there's no one right way to do this: some buyers prefer to engage with a sales rep who can help them create and evangelize a vision; other buyers want to educate themselves through professional contacts and peer-created content; and yet others are comfortable doing research on vendor websites. Buyer journey mapping is a technique to understand your buyers' path to purchase. 

When developing a buyer journey map, remember the "five W's" of interrogative investigation:

Who? B2B buyers purchase in teams. A senior executive might kick off a buying process but delegate the exploration to an individual contributor on the team. End users may be part of the evaluation process or not. Think about the prospective customer as a portfolio of buyer personas who each play different roles in the collective advance toward a decision.

Why? What outcome is the buyer looking to achieve? What need or pain is the buyer looking to ameliorate?
This will help you understand the buyer's perception of value.

When? Buyers have different needs at different stages of their buyer journeys. It's important to understand the buyer's context and identify the questions that need to be addressed at each stage. It's also important to understand what will trigger a buyer to move to the next stage and to identify the barriers to progression.

What? What content can you provide to address buyers' questions? How does the buyer want that content packaged? A marketing buyer might be happy with an infographic in the discovery phase, while a developer needs a technical white paper.

Where? Where does the prospective buyer seek information? This includes all the various channels and vehicles in the classic marketing mix, such as websites, webinars, and events. It also includes personal influencers (e.g., a trusted colleague), consultants and analysts, and your own salespeople and channel partners.

When you pull it all together, it looks something like this.



Lean principles

That is a nice tool for marketers, but will not deliver the optimum value stream for a unique ideal customer.

For example, the buying steps of an ideal value stream will vary from company to company. Also, the things that your customer actually perceives as value may not have anything to do with content or information. That is a marketing bias.

Lean principles suggest you eliminate waste from a process and make that process flow faster by starting with what you customer actually perceives as value; and work backwards from there.

Suppose your optimum value stream was a one step trial software offer? Your approach assumes a marketing solution to a revenue problem.

Response to Lean principles

Brock, yes, the ideal value stream will vary from buyer to buyer. Buyer journey mapping is a hypothesis up which to plan an engagement strategy. But, there is nothing in the buyer journey approach that is inconsistent with your "hypothetical" where the buyer journey was very short and the consideration phase was a software trial. BTW, even in your example, a marketer would still have to think about the 'discover' phase and sales or marketing still needs to think about the 'buy' phase. As for whether or not you start your buyer journey research from the buy phase or the discover phase, I don't think it matters. But, regardless of how lean your principles, you have to think about each phase of the journey. If the buyer's process is actually short and lean, then your engagement strategy should match.

Thanks for the reflection and comments.

Good map

Enjoyed this post, Lori. We see this all the time in B2B marketing, particularly around content. Too often, the content machine is disconnected across these various stages of the customer lifecycle. The result is a disjointed journey for the buyer, and an incomprehensible mess within the selling organization.

And your point about the end user not being in the sales cycle is spot on. This can be a killer particularly in SaaS models as often an executive will lead or sign off on the search, but pass implementation to a lower-level employee. That employee may not have had involvement in the purchase, but they'll be a primary buyer when it comes time to renewal. Better to bring them into the consensus of the purchase early on, even if it slows some velocity, then leave the entire future adoption and renewal to the onboarding team.


Response to Good Map

Great observations, Jesse, that I didn't explore fully in the blog post. Thanks for adding to the conversation.

"Content machine is

"Content machine is disconnected" - Jesse, spot on.

Great post, Lori! I would

Great post, Lori!

I would like to read more about the last table. I see that the source is a Forrester report from 2015, but can you provide me with the titel of this report?

Best regards,