The expectations of B2B buyers are changing, in line with our experiences as consumers. We’re used to services like Netflix, Amazon and Spotify, which give us access to content and services whenever and wherever we want them, as well as a great customer experience.
Today’s B2B buyers are also doing extensive research on their own, with three quarters spending up to 20 hours researching before they even contact a vendor, according to a recent Showpad survey . If the content available online fails to add the value they seek, they may never get as far as meeting with a rep. One third of UK B2B buyers said there wasn’t enough information available for the last purchase they made, while 39% said the information provided wasn’t relevant. This represents a lot of lost opportunities.
Vendors need to understand the way buyers want to buy, and adapt the experience they deliver to meet and exceed expectations at every stage of the sales cycle – both when the buyer is interacting with a salesperson, and when they’re doing their own research.
Deliver valuable content
Content should provide value buyers can’t find anywhere else. Sales reps must come to meetings with unique information and resources which address the prospect’s specific questions, needs and use cases.
The first step is to map out the typical buying journey for customers. This will need to involve collaboration with internal teams to find out how customers interact with the organisation at various touchpoints, as well as interviews with existing customers to establish the purchase process they follow.
It’s also important to identify the different buyer personas, including characteristics such as job title, level within the organisation and industry. Focused content can then be developed to target each persona.
Mapping the buyer journey can be made easier with a technology platform that helps decode what content is being used at which stage in the sales cycle, and what is proving most effective with each type of buyer. In addition to improving the effectiveness of the sales team this will help marketing produce more focused, relevant content.
Customers don’t want to be overloaded with content, however, with 45% of buyers saying they feel overwhelmed when there are more than five pieces to look at. This means that sales teams need to make their content choices wisely. Case studies, technical specs and white papers top the list of types of content buyers find most valuable, followed by infographics and streaming video demonstrations.
Measure its impact
Marketing teams use detailed data and analytics to inform the investments they make, but these are primarily focused at the top of the funnel. There is little or no data about what content is helping sales teams to close deals, which means the bottom of the funnel is a black hole to most marketers.
Sales teams give plenty of qualitative feedback on the content they’re given – along the lines of “I don’t like this; we don’t tend to use it” or “Why don’t we have something like that?”. While this type of direct feedback is important, it isn’t data and it’s not scalable. Marketers need to diligently measure the use and impact of the content they develop, to determine which is used by sales and which is tied to closed revenue. From there, they can invest more in the most effective content, and direct reps to use the pieces that are proven to have impact.
Personalise the selling experience
When you watch a TV show on Netflix, it serves up recommendations of other shows you might like. If you buy a book on Amazon, the next time you visit you see a list of tailored recommendations based on previous purchases.
By customising content and experiences to the individual buyer’s needs and industry, reps can create something dynamic and interactive that shows they’re not just there to sell, but to help the buyer solve their biggest problems.
Provide content experiences that will accelerate the process
Respondents to the Showpad survey said that the use of augmented reality (AR) to showcase a product in context, an ROI calculator, and a personalised content portal would be most helpful to reach the right information quickly.
Other elements that will enable reps to add value to the buyer experience could include:
- Component/product builders, to visualise the product the buyer has in mind.
- Animated explanations that allow the buyer to see the direct impact of their decisions and processes.
- Offer builders, which provide an easy way to create offers and estimates on the fly at a meeting.
Make content accessible and shareable
B2B buyers want easy access to exactly the information they need to make purchase decisions. And this must be easy to share: 21% of UK buyers say that more than five people are involved in B2B purchase decisions at their organisation. However, they currently find content difficult to share internally, and also hard to understand – and they say this slows down purchase decisions.
To avoid putting the deal in jeopardy, the buyer experience, content and messaging must be targeted to accommodate multiple stakeholders. Information should be easy to navigate, and also to share. The gold standard is to invest in a centralised platform that makes it easy for sales reps to share information and resources with all decision makers.
Content also needs to work across all devices. As well as carrying out research on their office laptop, buyers explore their options on their smartphones while queuing for their morning coffee and on their tablets before calling it a night. Vendors must consider screen size when developing materials to ensure a great selling experience, regardless of the device the buyer is using.
B2B buyers are coming to the table more informed than ever, and they increasingly make purchase decisions based on the experience they receive. Vendors need to adjust their strategy to start selling the way buyers want to buy. This means delivering the content customers need, when they need it – making it findable, presentable, shareable and trackable, and measuring and optimising its usage and impact. It’s all about empowering the modern seller and driving the confidence that leads buyers to make the right decision.
Authored and contributed by: Stuart Small, UK managing director, Showpad