Over the last few years, I have watched numerous companies stand motionless as large percentages of their marketshare have been whittled away by competitors that they never knew existed or didn’t exist a couple years ago.
There are certainly a number of contributing explanations but one common denominator: the way people in B2B companies source services has fundamentally changed. Golf games and long lunch meetings will likely always be some part of the regimen, but handshakes and well founded relationships are quickly moving to second string. As the millennial workforce moves into decision-making positions in organizations and as our collective buying and sourcing patterns increasingly move into the land of the URL, marketing has become essential for success in the B2B arena.
First Impressions Matter
Make no mistake about it: our contemporary consumer buying habits have heavily influenced B2B supplier decision process. And it's not confined only to sourcing patterns — our expectations of what we will find when we go looking have changed, too.
If I am looking for a solution for my problem, obviously my criterion starts with finding a reliable, state-of-the-art supplier. Then my accompanying desire/expectation when I search them online is that I will encounter:
- a contemporary visual sensibility
- a clear, concise message that addresses my problems directly
- a seamless user experience that leads me to find what I am looking for quickly and
- meaningful content that helps me understand how to do what I do better
These are ideas that have historically been considered unimportant for many B2B companies. However, research tells us that internet “shoppers” are expecting this when they visit a website—and it only take them between 8 and 11 second to judge if those expectations are being met.
Think about it: when you want to learn about a potential client, vendor or even a competitor, what do you do? You visit their website. Well, so do your potential clients. A study from the Corporate Executive Board Company learned that the typical B2B buyer in today’s market will make their way through nearly 60% of the purchasing process prior to engaging anyone in the sales team. Which begs the question: what is your company doing to engage those buyers before they engage you?
The New B2B Buyer
The new B2B buyers no longer relies on your salesperson’s initiative to get their information. Instead, they are doing extensive online research before making a purchasing decision. 78% of B2B buyers start their research with their search engine. Your prospects are seeking you out like never before. Make sure you’re providing them with the resources they need to make those decisions.
Over the past two years, the B2B researcher demographic has experienced a dramatic change. Decision-makers aren’t just hanging out in the C-suite anymore. 24% of non-C-suiters have the final sign-off in purchasing and 81% of them have a significant say in those decisions. Additionally, nearly half of today’s B2B researchers are millennials aged 18- to 34-year-old. These influencers are the digital natives: they have never known a world without the internet. If you're still using the marketing strategies that have been in place for the past decade, it’s time for a change. It’s time to get to know the new B2B buyer, understand how they roll, and how their patterns influence the way they are likely to find you (or your competitor).
Mobile is the new Golf Course
According to the Google/Millward Brown Digital’s B2B Path to Purchase Study (2014), 42% of researchers use a mobile device during the B2B purchasing process. They’re not just using mobile in the initial stages of research, either. Over the past two years, there has been 91% growth in use throughout the decision-making process and a 300% growth in mobile queries. B2B buyers are using their phones to check prices, read product descriptions, compare features and contact retailers. With buyers spending this much time on their smartphones, it’s vital that you provide them with a seamless user experience.
B2B in the land of the Digital Natives
Smart marketing today likely means shifting methods (and money) away from traditional tactics, like cold calling and advertising, and moving toward content focused lead generation and marketing automation that strategically funnels prospects into customers. These new methods attract prospects by meeting them where they are (online). In this new landscape, people stick around when they believe that you’re providing valuable, meaningful resources. Once you’ve gained their trust, sales and customer retention will follow.
So, here’s the big question: are you marketing to the new audience of B2B researchers and buyers? Are you providing the four criteria that we mentioned above: a contemporary visual sensibility, a clear, concise message that addresses problems directly, a seamless user experience and meaningful content?
These ingredients are essential to successful B2B marketing. Hit the mark and you will see results — Miss it and you will be passed over in as long as it takes to hit the “back” button.