For most of today’s digital marketing experts, the modern B2B buyer is the white whale.
You’ll always be pursuing the buyer in one way or another, and it might be difficult to know what they’re thinking at any given time. You’ll have to watch carefully for signs and diligently follow wherever the buyer leads if you want to nab the ultimate prize.
The key is simple: This isn’t your granddaddy’s B2B buyer.
When marketers go online for information about B2B buying behavior, a lot of what they’re reading is from the world of the Sony Walkman and the evening newspaper: A bygone era that doesn’t really take into account how people consume today’s digital media.
Luckily, you can get a long way by correcting a few simple misconceptions.
Here’s what you need to know to make your relationship with the modern B2B buyer work.
1. Today’s Buyers Are Mobile
About 50% of today’s B2B search queries are made on a smartphone. At the same time, most of today’s searches for B2B products and services begin with a generic query on a major search engine.
Raising visibility on search – and ensuring a good mobile experience – will help you capture B2B decision-makers in the Awareness and Consideration stages of their research, when connecting is easiest.
2. Today’s Buyers Are Social
Compared to the fun and freewheeling world of Facebook and Twitter, social media has a more complex relationship with B2B. A huge proportion of B2B decision-makers in the U.S. are found on LinkedIn.
Experts say about 80% of social B2B leads ultimately come from LinkedIn. That means if you have no bandwidth for any other network, you should still make time for it.
3. More of Today’s Buyers are Millennials
The future is now ... Millennials make up the majority of the workforce, and within just a few years, they’ll be the majority of B2B buyers as well.
Brand authenticity and a connection with core values are now more vital than they’ve ever been in the B2B context. When price and core features no longer differentiate, values help clarify whether a relationship is founded on solid ground.
4. Purchases Take a Long Time
Nobody agrees on exactly how long the average B2B sales cycle takes, since it varies based on industry and client cycles. For the most part, though, insiders agree that more buyer-facing information has not made the process any faster.
In general, B2B purchase cycles have lengthened over the last decade. Inbound marketing helps keep the connection alive for months or even quarters.
5. Purchases Are Consensus-Based
Sophisticated B2B solutions have always had many different stakeholders involved. Nowadays, though, buyers recognize that making a strong purchasing decision isn’t enough on its own.
For a buy to yield real value, they need to achieve smooth implementation and enthusiastic adoption. That brings at least IT and a representative of the end users to the table, and content must speak to them.
6. Existing Customers Want Long-Term Value
A retention-focused approach to B2B sales simply isn’t enough: Sales and marketing must work together on a long-term plan to continuously add value after the sale. Today, that means using targeted web content and a clear follow-up strategy to offer customers a vision for improvement. When buyers understand the potential ROI of an opportunity, they are more likely to take action.
7. Web Content is Key to Serving the Modern B2B Buyer
If one single concept brings all of these factors together, it is this: web content.
Helpful, informative, useful content must be available at every stage of the buyer journey. It must be mobile-optimized so it can be accessed anywhere, and it must be published in sufficient quantity to follow the twists and turns of a buyer journey that’s anything but linear.
That content must also propose value that goes beyond price and features, emphasizing a long-term relationship that supports success as market conditions change. Ideally, a core mission should tie it all together so decision-makers feel a deeper connection with brands.
Finally, content must address the different stakeholders in the decision-making process and do so in ways they trust. Your website and blog are the center of a wheel with spokes that should reach out, distributing your message on social media and in trusted publications.
Adapt your sales and marketing strategy around these six points, and you’re more than halfway to doing things the inbound way. Inbound marketing with web content is the surest way to build the long-lasting relationships B2B firms need to hook today’s decision-makers.
With great content behind you, you’ll have a way to net the big fish without feeling like you’re chasing the white whale.