The missing insight into the B2B buyer journey

A blog post from Forrester Research recently caught our eye. Lori Wizdo, an analyst at Forrester, provided her insights into the B2B buyer journey, suggesting that most of today’s research flips common B2B marketing “truth” on its head. For example:

  • Old truth: B2B buyers don’t have contact with sales until 57% of the way through the buyer journey
  • New truth: 2/3 of B2B buyer journeys include a sales representative from the start

Her advice: forget the factoids and focus on your buyer. She cautions against running your marketing program on averages; rather, map your buyer journey and engineer a cross-channel engagement strategy to meet them where they proactively go to find the information they want and need.

It is about the buyer journey. But what we’ve experienced in our 40+ years of business is that the question is not whether your buyer is B2B or B2C. Today that distinction has become nearly irrelevant. Instead, the question now is what type of purchase your buyer is making.

All buying (and, thus, selling) decisions fall along a spectrum of complexity, from impulse buys to highly considered purchases

Many consumer products are highly considered purchases: long-term care insurance, home security systems and recreational vehicles, to name a few. Many CMOs manage consumer brands that fit the definition of a considered purchase, yet apply traditional B2C marketing principles and work with traditional B2C agencies. Such simplified approaches overlook the impact channel marketing, extended purchase timeframes, competitive comparison and lead nurturing can have on those buyer journeys.. Interspersed along this spectrum are various B2B and B2C buyers. Traditionally you would place most B2B buyers on the “considered purchase” end of the spectrum, and vice versa for most B2C buyers. But it’s not that simple.

On the flip side, many CMOs manage B2B brands that require less deliberation than a highly considered purchase: certain office supplies or cleaning products, for example. Many of these brands deploy traditional B2B resources and techniques that are too often antiquated and fall short of today’s buyer expectations and behavior.

Yet other CMOs manage brands that fit both commercial and consumer markets, but have a “one size fits all” approach to marketing. Consider Harley-Davidson motorcycles, a brand that must appeal to both the direct consumer and the extensive system of dealers across the world. Here, different marketing principles apply to each audience, and a specialized approach is the only way to achieve optimal results.

At the end of the day, I agree with what Lori concluded in her blog post: that it’s all about the customer. But I also challenge all of you to start to think differently: often we’ve focused on the wrong aspect of the equation. Eliminate B2B and B2C from the conversation for a moment; focus instead on the type of purchase your customer is making, then consider how to intersect with that buyer’s journey. 

Read more from Dan Nelson Jr. 

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