Understanding & engaging the modern B2B buyer
Selling to B2B buyers has never been easy. It has gotten even more challenging in recent years due to longer sales cycles, larger teams making purchasing decisions, and the number of options available to the buyers. So, who comprises this B2B buyer marketplace, what are they looking for, and how do you optimize your B2B ecommerce platforms so your buyers have the best experience possible?
The B2B marketplace is changing, fast. Here are three things to consider when you look at your B2B digital offerings:
Not so long ago, the process of finding vendors was simple. Often, it was as simple as B2B buyers googling or cold calling until they found what seemed like a good fit. Vendors were not expected to tailor their services to each buyer, which gave them a kind of leverage. Vendors could expect buyers to come seeking their services without putting in much effort upfront. This is no longer the case. With modern customers, vendors cannot reasonably expect buyers to be content with a one-size-fits-all approach. You have to earn their trust by anticipating and adapting to their needs on the fly.
Who is the modern B2B buyer?
There is no straightforward answer to this question. Large B2B purchase decisions are now made by teams of people from various backgrounds, roles and even locations. Those decisions are not merely a matter of yes or no. Altitude Marketing describes a B2B buying process consisting of six discrete considerations:
- Identifying the problem
- Finding a solution
- Building requirements for the solution
- Selecting a vendor
- Validating the choice of the vendor with third party analysis
- Cultivating consensus in the organization
When you think of the modern B2B buyer, don’t try to picture a single consistent persona. Picture this process instead. Understand that you should not be trying to sell a product but rather making it clear on all fronts that you are prepared to go on the journey with any potential buyer, however long and complicated the journey may be.
The B2B buyer’s digital experience matters
More and more, B2B buyers are behaving like consumers and expect a shopping experience more traditionally associated with B2C. They consult review sites and social media much more than they used to, and their initial exposure to your website figures heavily into final decisions. In a survey conducted by Demand Gen Report, an overwhelming 97% of respondents said that relevant website content matters and that content should not be gated.
Other steps you can take to improve a buyer’s digital experience include:
- Focus not only on your products and services but also on your customers and understanding of the market overall.
- Integrate sales and marketing so that buyers receive a consistent message all along.
- Build an omnichannel presence; be where your customers are and get out in front of them.
- Provide content in multiple formats: ebooks, webinars, online videos and white papers
It is also essential to demonstrate a willingness to help your customers adapt to ecommerce software they are perhaps unfamiliar with. You can accomplish this by practicing transparency and responsiveness when answering any questions a buyer might have. Live chat is a tried and true option on this front.
You don’t have long to make an impression
Gartner has also found that B2B buyers spend less time than ever meeting with potential suppliers when considering a purchase (17%). Buyers now get most of their information about your company through independent research online. This is why your online experience needs to fulfill all your buyer’s information needs in an efficient way. The delivery of your product and company information needs to be intuitive and smooth, with an element of design that reflects your brand.
Often, when B2B buyers are looking at new vendors, they aren’t just looking at one. Finding ways to differentiate yourself from your competition is important and should be a definite part of the digital experience of your brand.
Anticipate your buyer’s needs
According to Gartner, the overwhelming number of potential vendors B2B buyers have to consider can have a paralyzing effect. This happens before a sale is made and can cause a buyer to second-guess their choice of vendor, even after the sale. The most valuable commodity in the vendor-buyer relationship, then, is the buyer’s confidence in their decision. As a vendor, you must work steadily to establish and then maintain that confidence every step of the way. This is not a matter of reacting to your buyer’s needs but being proactive with them, which can be accomplished by:
- Anticipating when your buyer needs relevant information during the sales process.
- Identifying and asking the questions that matter most to the buyer.
- Providing appropriate support during the sales process. Make it easy for customers to find FAQs, support services and contact information.
All of this is in service of simplifying an inherently complicated process as much as possible. The more uncertainty a buyer experiences, the more second-guessing will occur. You are not in control of every outcome, but you can control how a buyer perceives their situation by being prepared.
Not sure where to start?
Becoming and remaining relevant to modern B2B buyers is a daunting task, but Acro Media has the resources to guide you along the way. Whether you are going through a digital transformation or attempting to access a new demographic, Acro Media is here to help. Get in touch with one of our consultants to start improving your B2B digital experience.
Rafael Carillo is a writer, editor and tutor living in Brooklyn.