February 24, 2020

Navigating the Complexities of the B2B Customer Journey

by Carrie Scheetz

We are all familiar with the concept of the buyer journey. That path consumers take from awareness of a product or service to sale, and then hopefully loyalty and advocacy.
For context, think about what it might be like to buy a new pair of winter boots:

  • You get a heavy snowfall and realize your old boots aren’t cutting it. So, you search online for “comfortable warm winter boots.” You are in the research phase.
  • Up pops a wide selection and you zero in on that one pair. You’ve moved into the consideration phase.
  • You click through; you read reviews; you make sure they have your size; you put it in your cart. You are in the decision phase.
  • You decide you want to think more about it, so you move back to the research phase. You browse other sites, perhaps swing by a brick and mortar and meanwhile you keep seeing those boots everywhere online (this called retargeting).
  • Finally, you buy the boots in the aptly named purchase phase.
  • You receive the boots and they are everything you hoped they would be. The company also follows up with surveys and requests for online reviews, hoping to move you into the loyalty or advocacy phase.
As a consumer, this entire journey probably happened in a matter of minutes, hours or days. You have a need, and one company fulfilled your need and earned your business. However, as we all know, the B2B customer journey is not that simple – or that fast.
The B2B Journey
When it comes to business-to-business sales cycles, there are generally a number of “cooks in the kitchen.” In fact, the average number of stakeholders involved with making a purchase decision is 6.8 people. Additionally, the average number of touchpoints necessary for each stakeholder is six. So, to break down the math:
6.8 stakeholders x 6 touchpoints each = 40.8 total touchpoints
Indeed, the journey is more complex, involving more individuals. Relationships also go far deeper and have more influence on the final purchase decision.
So, how do you navigate the complexities of the B2B customer journey? You must create segmented customer journeys and drill down to customer expectations and needs at each stage. Here are a few tips to get started:
  • Prioritize your decision-makers. Which have the greatest influence over future decisions?
  • Know whom you are talking to and what motivates them. For example, a C-suite executive might be most concerned with price, whereas an engineer might care most about technical support and operational flow.
  • Develop content, presentations, etc., knowing that you will need to make refinements to cater to the needs of each stakeholder. In other words, don’t reinvent the wheel. Just modify it as needed.
And last, but not least—make sure your entire company rallies around providing exceptional service. According to a McKinsey research study, 65% of buyers will walk away due to inconsistent experiences in the journey.
Going back to the winter boots example, imagine that you liked the boots but they didn’t fit. You call customer service and arrange an exchange. You are promised a credit but must follow up with accounting three times over two weeks before you receive it. And you are routinely passed from representative to representative when you call. You like the boots now that you have them in the right size, but would you buy from this company again? Would you provide a positive review?
For B2B companies, this means aligning your sales and marketing teams first and foremost. Their efforts should complement each other, with a shared goal to move the customer from research to purchase to loyalty. Part of that is working together to determine what constitutes a “sales-ready” lead and the process for transferring a prospect from marketing to sales for appropriate follow-up. The entire process needs to feel seamless for the potential customer.
Additionally, truly customer-centric organizations involve accounting, supply chain, operations, production, R&D and more in customer journey mapping to ensure a seamless experience.
The bottom line is to take care of your customer throughout the journey. Give them what they need at each phase, and make sure expectations are set internally around service.
Questions or comments? Email me directly at carrie.scheetz@quanex.com.

For more information about Quanex visit www.quanex.com
Posted: February 24, 2020 by Carrie Scheetz Filed under: B2B, marketing, strategies