Once Upon a Time – you know, 10 years ago, it was very common to see B2B vendor presentations talking about how the typical customer was 59% of the way through the purchase process, before they ever spoke to a salesperson.
In this first 59%, customers were doing their initial research, identifying likely solution providers, assessing pros/cons, price where possible, and coming up with their short list. Only when they reached a point where they could go no further, such as needing key questions answered or a formal quote, might they finally contact Sales.
And now, studies now, as of 2022/23, show this ‘window of opportunity,’ per se, is even narrower. Gartner points out that your sales reps have roughly 5% of a customer’s time in their B2B buying journey.
The morale of the story: Find a way to insert yourself into that 59%. If you didn’t show up in their early research, you’d never get to the short list, let alone get a call. As a result, SEO (search engine optimization), customer personas, drip campaigns, and the like became a major focus.
The morale of the story: Find a way to insert yourself into that 59%.
Now, the process of 5-10 years ago now seems downright straight-forward compared to today. Back then, Marketing would take pains to understand key personas (i.e. end user, manager, purchasing, exec/approver). These personas would outline their role and the path their decision making processes would take. In most cases the steps they followed were very linear in nature.
The need for underlying components, like building personas, is still important. But, rolling the clock forward to today and research shows us the customer’s path toward purchasing is more helter-skelter than straight-lined. Gartner has a study, The B2B Buying Journey, that speaks to this.
With all this upheaval, where do you focus marketing investments?
Harvard Business Review has a new article providing some insight. In What Is the Optimal Pattern of a Customer Journey?, the authors conducted a study of movie goers. In the study, people were asked to indicate how they felt, multiple times through each of 8 movies. Both qualitatively and quantitatively they could predict which movies viewers would want to spend money to see, as well as how much.
It should be no surprise that if you felt better about a movie, you’d be more likely to spend money on it. The study delves further though.
Customer experience (CX) is rarely consistent, start-to-end, at a high level. As their four potential customer journey patterns indicate, the overall, as well as ending experience, can have significant impact. And, not just their own, but those they hear from others (friends, family, social media).
The authors identify an ‘optimal pattern’ for where to allocate resources:
- Think beyond stage models
Still important, but develop higher-resolution understanding (perhaps expanding your data analytics) of your customers’ buying experiences.
- Avoid yo-yos
Keep the CX moving positively, smoothly. Avoid missteps.
- Leverage language
Pay attention to how your customers speak about you in social media. Get past 1-5 star ratings
- End with a bang
Just because they purchased, don’t stop. What does the after-purchase experience look like? Is there a follow-up? When was the last time you thanked a customer in some kind of tangible manner?
- Ramp things up
Consider aligning your offerings from low-to-high values, to support building to a crescendo.
- Add a climax
What can you do to add a ‘pop’ to the experience. They use the example of the chef visiting restaurant patrons.
Understanding your customer ‘buyers journey’ is critical. Not only for basic survival, but to continue growing, to thrive. From my perspective, what is most critical initially, is to be aware of how buying and selling continue to evolve. A small company is unlikely to have the resource to focus as broadly and deeply as articles like this may suggest. Even large companies struggle. So, the key is to be aware, and consciously choose where to invest as resource permit.
Man Buying Flowers – micheile henderson