In today’s digital world, most of a B2B buyer’s journey is completed before even uttering a single word to a salesperson. To say B2B buyers have a lot more research, educational and buying tools at their disposal would be an understatement.
The Internet and technological developments have allowed B2B purchasers to research, educate and buy products and services by using search engines, social media and mobile devices. What’s next?
LinkedIn attempts to take an inside look into the “the B2B buyer’s journey” in a new ebook.
Speaking with more than 6,000 buyers around the world, including in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, LinkedIn researchers studied the numerous changes transpiring in the B2B marketplace. By examining these trends, the social network team served up some suggestions for B2B marketers to embrace.
To summarize: B2B marketers have to adapt or die.
What did LinkedIn discover? Let’s take a look at some of the important findings:
Knowledge is Key
Mark Twain may have taken great satisfaction in saying, “I don’ know.” But B2B buyers want their vendors to have the knowledge to help them make a purchase. Knowledge influences their decisions.
There are four crucial factors that buyers want from their vendors:
- Understands my company’s business model (26 percent).
- Is a subject matter expert (25 percent).
- Knows my firm’s products and services (25 percent).
- Offers valuable consultation, education and tools (25 percent).
In order to win their hearts (and wallets) of the customers then knowledge will be a tremendous asset to offer.
A Strong Customer Relationship
Customer service has been the primary focus for B2B vendors in recent years. What has been the result? Good faith and steady results.
According to the report, the professional social network reported that 84 percent of buyers rated their relationships with vendors as very good or good. Interestingly enough, just three percent of survey participants noted that their relationships with vendors have deteriorated.
You may be asking why buyers have such strong relationships with vendors. It’s simple enough: trust (52 percent) and responsive communication (45 percent) exhibited by the vendors are pleasing the buyers.
For those that have reported lackluster relationships, nearly one-third (30 percent) cited a lack of responsiveness as the reason why.
Extra, Extra: Content is King
Content reigns supreme. Why? The research noted that buyers required an array of content to assist in their purchasing decision. A poorly optimized content strategy can hinder the B2B industry.
According to the report, buyers need variety and customer service. For instance, B2B buyers want basic information and demonstrations about the products they’re interested in acquiring, while also requiring the professional and astute opinions of the vendors.
“The implication for marketers is that they must have their message present throughout the full funnel, from awareness and thought leadership content in the upper funnel to data sheets and demos in the lower funnel,” LinkedIn writes.
“This is how to assemble a complete marketing program. ”
Are marketers getting this? Unfortunately not, as there is a great divide in this process. Thirty-five percent of buyers wanted product information, features and functions, and 31 percent wanted demonstrations. The marketers, meanwhile, wanted to provide case studies. This suggests a lack of communication and coordination between the marketing and sales departments.
The Power of Social Media
Akin to a content strategy, a strong social media campaign is very influential and powerful. During the funnel process, buyers take advantage of social media at every stage, from awareness to selection, from scope to planning. Simply put: social media is in a buyer’s top three content channels of the funnel.
Here are two important findings from the LinkedIn study: two-thirds of buyers used social media for awareness, and buyers are more than nine times more likely to share content on social media.
Adopting Greater Sales Strategies
The report outlined two things that B2B marketers aren’t very good at: deploying sales technology and moving into different territories to create and foster customer relationships.
First, sales process technology is continuing to grow in adoption, which is a positive for B2B firms. It helps in a number of ways, including the ever important task of aligning the sales and marketing departments.
Second, nurturing, which has seeped into the domain of the marketing team as of late, has to move beyond the conventional email campaigns. In order to cultivate a relationship with a customer, marketers have to enter into the realm of multi-channel networking, display advertising and social media campaigns. Akin to sales technology, this helps to coalesce sales and marketing.
All B2B executives, marketers, salespersons and other industry professionals have to value all of the above. Without compelling content strategies, quick response times or vast amounts of knowledge, it cost your business plenty. Moreover, it could erode your firm’s reputation.
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