The B2B Buying Journey Explained

The sales landscape has changed drastically in recent years. The B2B buyer journey certainly isn’t what it used to be, and that’s a huge challenge to to B2B marketers and salespeople.

Guiding potential customers from awareness to purchase isn’t straight-forward. There’s so much information freely available online to influence decision-making. If you’re considering a purchase, do you pick up the phone to ask the vendor about it or ask a search engine?

Truly understanding the end-to-end B2B buyer journey can reveal opportunities and customer pain points. Taking action on these opportunities and issues can lead to the creation of enhanced customer experiences. And that can be the difference between a B2B purchase and losing the potential buyer to a competitor.

What is the B2B Buyer Journey?

The B2B buyer journey comprises the entire purchase process a buyer experiences from the initial awareness stage to the purchase decision stage. It starts with the B2B buyer recognising that they have a problem, then they consider the potential solutions available to them before making the decision to purchase a new product or service that will resolve their issue.

This purchase journey doesn’t only relate to new buyers. It includes retaining existing customers and encouraging them to make repeat purchase decisions.

What are the Different Stages of the Buyer Journey?

The B2B buyer journey has three main stages, each of which can be quite involved and lengthy:

Awareness stage: the potential buyer becomes aware of your business, products and services. This is generally from content marketing on digital channels, such as social media messaging and website content. The sales team will leverage these hooks to start conversations with the interested parties.

Consideration stage: the next stage is to show the B2B buyer how you can resolve their pain points. Prioritize educational content like expert guides, white papers, articles, webinars and case studies to inform them. In-person communication will nurture the lead and, ideally, guide them further along the customer journey.

Decision stage: the aim here is to convince the potential customer to make a purchase. As they weigh up their options, content including product demos, testimonials and product reviews can influence the buying decision.

A robust marketing strategy is important here. It will identify the key buyer personas, their pain points that your business can resolve, and the best initiatives to convert leads to customers.

Who is the B2B Buyer?

Remember, it’s not a faceless organization that’s considering purchase decisions. It’s a real life human. You need to understand their motivations, needs and pain points. Then you can figure out how your solutions can fix their problems and meet their business needs.

B2B customers can become very engaged with, and connected to, the sales person as their relationship builds over the lengthy sales process. It’s really important to nurture this relationship over time.

The buyer will have a business point of view, even though it’s from their individual perspective. The ultimate decision-makers may well be other people within the organization. And you may never had the opportunity to meet all of the decision-makers on the buying committee. Hence, you’re really selling to a team rather than an individual.

All of this information can be distilled into buyer personas. You may need to create some individual and some group personas given the team decision-making process.

What are Some Challenges of the B2B Buying Journey?

The B2B purchase journey is rarely simple or linear. It can take a considerable time to progress the potential customer from the awareness stage to the decision stage. Understanding this complex process is the first step to improving it and reducing points of friction. Some of the key issues include:

Lengthy decision making process: a typical buying group for a B2B buying process involves between six and ten stakeholders from across the B2B company. All of them will have opinions, motivations and differing levels of information about the product solution.

Self-service research: the availability of online information means that potential buyers are less reliant on sales reps for their information. Each decision-maker’s likely to have gathered four or five pieces of information to bring to the process. Gartner research shows that when B2B buyers are considering a purchase‚ they only spend 17% of that time meeting potential suppliers.

Long and complex B2B sales cycle: there can be a lot of back and forth between sales teams and B2B buyers. With so many parties involved, there can be many needs to be met, questions to be answered and issues to resolve. Evaluating their shortlist and weighing up options takes time.

Why Launch a B2B Buyer Journey Mapping Initiative?

Due to all these complexities, a customer journey map can really help to understand how your potential customers make the decision to purchase. Once you visualize the customer journey, it can help to:

  • identify customer needs
  • discover customer motivations
  • deepen awareness of issues (even those you’re unaware of)
  • track how customers discovered your potential solutions.

By tracking your potential customers’ journey, you can truly understand their path. That will include your marketing content and outreach, your digital and social media platforms, and onto initial contact with the sales team. With this valuable knowledge gleaned from actual customers, you can optimize the buyer journey, reducing friction and pain points to create a more seamless process.

Case Study

We worked with Creative Group, a corporate travel and events consultancy looking to grow through a more strategic, holistic, and compelling offering.

At that time, their corporate travel, event, and experience business often arose from employee and customer incentive programs. Creative Group wanted to expand to design and deliver those incentive programs themselves. They engaged Highland to help design and launch a product that would stand out from the status quo and drive growth for the company.

Solutions were very focused on the buyer of the platform, delivering marketing websites that promoted the message the company wanted to send, but offered very little to the employees or customers involved in the incentive program. We set out to understand the needs and behaviors of workers and customers in the industries where incentive programs are most common.

Understanding the B2B customer journey was a game-changer, providing valuable insights to inform our concept creation. Drawing on creative thinking, outside inspiration, market research and user insights from our respondents, we could craft the building blocks of a promising product concept.

The outcome was a distinctive new digital product that could out-compete established providers. It resulted in a critical new revenue stream during the pandemic when Creative Groups' travel and event business paused.

“Working with Highland has elevated our creative process, pushing us in a more strategic direction. Compared to similar platforms on the market, Highland built a fast, competitive version that will give us an upper hand.” Janet Traphagen, CEO, Creative Group

Read more about this case study

Customer Knowledge is Power

The increasingly complex customer journey is a key aspect of the overall customer experience. Understanding this B2B buyer process can help many aspects of your business, in particular the sales and marketing teams.

Marketing teams play an important part in helping to move buyers along the sales journey. Defining an effective content marketing strategy, informed by real customer insights, will enable businesses to provide potential buyers with the best information at the right stage of their journey. It will arm salespeople with the levers to pull to answer buyers questions and encourage them through the sales cycle.

Gathering customer information is key to understanding their needs, motivations and pain points and enabling you to deliver the best buying process possible.

Get in touch to find out more about how we can help you with B2B buyer journey mapping

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