Myth Busting 101: Insights IntoThe B2B Buyer Journey

Lori Wizdo

There is turbulence in the B2B marketing zeitgeist. Why? The most quoted factoids of the modern marketing age have been discredited.  Are buyers really not 57% of the way through their journey before they speak with a vendor sales rep?  Are they really not sourcing 67% of their buying research online? Was it ever true?  If not, how can we believe the new insight that sales rep involvement now starts at the beginning of the journey two-thirds of the time?   

B2B marketers, keep calm and carry on. There’s been no fundamental disruption in your world.

It’s still true that 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 Forrester 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.  But that’s where the prevailing knowledge about ‘today’s buyer’ will fail you.

You gotta know YOUR buyer.

All of these arresting statistics about buyers represent buyer behavior on average.   Averages are great because they show us directional change in the aggregate. But savvy marketing practitioners know that it’s irresponsible to build your customer engagement strategy on aggregate trends. The behavior and proclivities of your buyers might be very different from those averages.  Forrester’s detailed research into buyer behavior (Forrester Business Technographics Global Priorities & Journey Survey, 2014) consistently proves that hypothesis.  Consider these examples:

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B2B Buyer Journey Mapping Basics

Lori Wizdo

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.

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Keeping Everybody "On Message"

Lori Wizdo

Well, the 2016 US presidential race has begun in earnest.  Every day a new candidate enters the race on the quest to headline the Republican or Democratic ticket.  I am a bit of a political junkie: not because I am a policy wonk, but because I am a marketing wonk. I love (ok, sometimes hate) to watch the unfolding strategies to win the ‘hearts and minds’ of the electorate. What interests me most is the struggle to stay ‘on message’.  The candidate wants the dialogue to be about the ‘brand message’: “Don’t Swap Horses When Crossing Streams”, Lincoln, 1864; “Return to Normalcy”, Harding, 1920; “Are you better off than you were 4 years ago”, Reagan, 1980; and, of course, “Yes, We Can” Obama, 2008.  But, it’s tough.  Political discourse requires a political platform of messages on issues and topics that are targeted to micro-constituencies.   Political operatives, surrogates and donors can get it all terribly muddled.  And when they inevitably do, the damage control often rises to an art form.

It’s something any B2B marketing exec can relate to. Keeping everybody on message is never an easy task. Despite the hours spent in claustrophobic conference rooms discussing mission and vision and value propositions, key stakeholders just seem to go rogue when communicating in practice: the CEO wings it in press interviews; the SVP of engineering explores the nuances of fascinating, but irrelevant features with a prospective buyer; marketing managers write content that misaligns benefits and customer problems; agencies propose promotional taglines that are slick but won't stick; and sales reps create their own special spiel (and use it faithfully regardless of client context).  

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We’ve Hit The B2B Marketing Ground Running

Peter O'Neill

Our new B2B marketing role pages are just one month old, and we have already published new reports on B2B channels, marketing through communities, B2B metrics that matter, and thought leadership programs. All topics at the sharp end of B2B marketing.

Our team was also present at Forrester’s two Marketing Leadership Forums held in New York and London. In addition to giving topic presentations there, we ran a 90-minute consulting workshop for over 100 B2B marketers in New York advising attendees on how to formulate their target personas and potential content for thought leadership programs and providing methodology and tools.

This week, Kim Celestre is presenting to thousands of marketers at the National Automotive Parts Association Expo in Las Vegas (yes, that is also B2B!). In fact, at our last research meeting, we discussed what’s the same across all different B2B industries and what varies. Here are some highlights from that discussion, some of which will appear in future reports. We hear that all B2B marketers feel that:

  • Digitally empowered buyers are disenfranchising sales (see this report)
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Welcome To The B2B Marketing Role

Peter O'Neill

Welcome to our new B2B Marketing role pages. Our research and advisory work will focus on the sharp end of B2B marketing (see below). By that I mean all the work that marketers do to generate and accelerate revenue for their company. You’ll find our reports useful if you do demand generation, lead-to-revenue management, field marketing, content marketing as it is related to buyer engagement, and, of course, all aspects of sales and channel enablement.

B2B companies must rapidly adjust their go-to-market strategies, as they face disintermediation from the B2B buyer — because of the increase in digital and mobile channels and the ubiquity of information. They must make investments in technology, process change, and skills development; they need to engage customers better, both digitally and further into the buying process; while sales must also engage buyers earlier, often via social channels. At the same time, eBusiness teams should gear up to support the B2B buyer’s increasing demand for an eCommerce channel.

Many of you are doing these things, but because these changes and adjustments happen inside of organizational boundaries, they’re often uncoordinated and seem disjointed to customers. Here on these pages, we will provide B2B Marketing Professionals with guidance in how to develop ONE customer-centric engagement strategy that will help you win, serve, and retain your customers — a strategy that scales across all the customer segments you target and all the different types of products and services you offer.

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Some More New Analysts Joining The B2B Marketing Role

Peter O'Neill

Today, I continue my introduction to the new analysts (from April 1st) in our group providing research and advisory for B2B Marketing professionals, including sales enablement. In addition to Laura Ramos, whom I introduced last week, we are also being joined by experienced Forrester analysts Kim Celestre and Lori Wizdo.

So, as an introduction to Kim’s work, let me point you to a recent report: Executive Q&A: How Online Communities Help You Achieve A Social Depth Objective, which is currently on the Marketing Leadership pages on this website. This report discusses the benefits of creating and maintaining online communities, a marketing tactic still undervalued by marketing leaders. As Kim points out, you can better influence how your customers explore your offerings and help move them to a purchase decision by tapping into the content and interactions generated by online communities. She explains about social reach and depth and cites the EMC Community Network online community as a powerful B2B marketing best practice. Through 2015, Kim will also be researching and publishing on the topic of social selling.

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Moving On Towards The B2B Marketing Role - Check Out This New Report

Peter O'Neill

In last week’s post, I mentioned the upcoming transition of the Sales Enablement role to a much more strategic B2B Marketing role. In April, overnight, you will have immediate access to over a hundred reports about B2B marketing written by experienced Forrester analysts Laura Ramos, Lori Wizdo, and Kim Celestre.

This is in addition to the reports you know already from our existing sales enablement research. That body of research will continue as planned within the new role; there is no let-off in our momentum on sales enablement coverage. But this research will now be read by a much broader audience across B2B marketing. That is important for sales enablement automation vendors and service providers, because most of them actually sell their wares to the marketing department. So the reports we write about them will reach a larger audience.

Plus, as I discussed at the Sales Enablement Forum, you Sales Enablement Professionals are wearing at least six hats of responsibility, for what we call the six business goals of sales enablement, and you must continually educate and influence colleagues to get things done. Most of these colleagues are also in marketing, so we are helping your cause directly.

As an introduction to the new analysts in our group over the next few weeks, I will refer you to an interesting report that they have published and discuss how relevant it is to our sales enablement ambitions.

The first introduction is easy.

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Sales Enablement Forum Debrief for B2B Marketers

Peter O'Neill

Wow! It may have taken place eight days ago, but I am still exhausted — and also exhilarated. In all modesty, we held a great Sales Enablement Forum in Scottsdale, Arizona last week. Nearly 350 attendees enjoyed presentations from 34 different speakers, including many industry practitioners, as well the opportunity to meet 21 sponsoring companies. As I promised you a few months ago, the agenda was equally strong around B2B marketing topics. For those of you who did not make it, here is a short recap on the Sales Enablement landing page of what we covered in the two days.

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This is what you missed at the Sales Enablement Forum

Peter O'Neill

Wow! It may have taken place eight days ago, but I am still exhausted — and also exhilarated. In all modesty, we held a great Sales Enablement Forum in Scottsdale, Arizona last week. Nearly 350 attendees enjoyed presentations from 34 different speakers, including many industry practitioners, as well the opportunity to meet 21 sponsoring companies. For those of you who did not make it, here is a short recap of what we covered in the two days.

Day One: Challenge Thinking

Rowena Track from TE Connectivity kicked off our presentations on the main stage, discussing how to establish an infrastructure to help sales be successful. She focused on how customers were already well on their way to digital self-sufficiency, which means that the buyer’s journey starts well before your sales team is aware of them.

Forrester analyst Andy Hoar took the stage next and presented a wealth of data that revealed customers’ growing preference for engaging via self-serve eCommerce portals; this data led to him to predict that this will displace 1 million B2B salespeople over the next five years. Andy’s prediction and analysis resonated with attendees throughout the Forum.

 

Joanne Moretti from Jabil joined us next to talk about the evolution of sales enablement over the years, including her own experience creating HP’s Sales University, integrating Dell’s various software businesses, and in her current role at Jabil.

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B2C or B2B? Is There A Difference?

Peter O'Neill

Peter O’Neill here. We held our annual research planning meeting the other week and ended discussing yet again the eternal question of B2B marketing versus B2C. This is also a common discussion point with clients in my experience. Many of the documented marketing stories and best practices seem unsuitable for B2B marketers, they claim. B2C marketers respond that even business buyers are people and so the lessons they have learned apply equally to B2B. Now, as is always the case with these interminable arguments, both parties are partly right — and they are partly wrong.

My colleagues and I are planning a Forrester report that explores this dilemma in much more detail. Here is a table which I have often used to lead discussions and which I would like to include in the report. As this is “research in progress”, I have annotated the graph accordingly. In fact, I am looking for YOUR feedback on this please.

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