To win in B2B, you need to rethink the buyer’s journey

3 things you must change to align sales and marketing with your prospects

January 21, 2016

Rethink Buyers Journey

Recent years have seen seismic shifts in the way that businesses buy – and the tools available to marketing and salespeople to influence what they buy. The game has fundamentally changed. And the question any B2B marketer should be asking themselves is this: have we changed our approach enough to keep up with it?

You probably already know some of the key stats in this story: B2B buyers spend up to 90% of the decision journey educating themselves; CMOs are forecasted to spend $120 billion per year on marketing tech by 2025; 55% of businesses already invest in digital sales enablement tools like Sales Navigator, Salesforce or Marketo. Everything about the intersection of buying, marketing and sales is in flux. But it’s one thing to know what’s changing, it’s another to understand how you need to update your strategy to respond to it.

LinkedIn has just completed a piece of in-depth global research that explores precisely how the buying journey is changing for different verticals, across a range of different markets. The question we wanted to answer goes to the heart of B2B marketing effectiveness: are the approaches adopted by marketers and sales teams aligning them more closely with the buyer journey, or leaving them out of step with it?

Some of our findings were very positive. Buyers value their vendors a lot more than you might expect, for example, with 84% rating their relationship as good or very good. However, we also found some key gaps between what buyers want from potential suppliers – and what sales teams and marketers focus on giving them. And we found that whether you are effective as a B2B marketer depends hugely on which channels you choose to engage buyers through – and which content you deliver through those channels.

It all pointed to one inescapable conclusion: the businesses that are succeeding haven’t just updated their contact strategy for reaching buyers; they’ve taken the opportunity to rethink the entire nature of the buying journey.

We’ve put together an in-depth Ebook, Rethink the B2B Buyer’s Journey, that’s designed to help B2B marketers adjust to the new reality. In it, we explain the three areas where vendors need to rethink their approach to get in step with the changed B2B marketing game:

Rethink the B2B buying team

B2B marketers can no longer settle for building brand awareness and credibility within just one department. In all the sectors we surveyed, at least three different departments had a key role in buying decisions. We also noticed that influencers in those departments increasingly expect their potential vendors to act as business consultants. They value them, above all, for their knowledge.

Rethink content marketing and social media

As we all know, today’s buyers educate themselves – and smart marketers have moved quickly to give themselves a role in this process. They’ve often done a good job of creating and  delivering thought leadership content that demonstrates their expertise. However, they sometimes neglect simpler forms of content that are just as important to empowering buyers in the later stages of the journey. For example, sales and marketing prioritise case studies and testimonials – but buyers value spin-free product info and demos a lot more.

Delivering content through the right channel makes a huge difference to its impact. Social media is amongst the top three channels preferred by buyers at every stage of the buying journey, and so is word of mouth within their organisation (information passed onto them by their colleagues). Marketers need more focus on social, not least because that’s the channel through which colleagues are increasingly likely to share content with one another. It all helps to explain why buyers are 62% more likely to say their relationship with a vendor is getting stronger if that vendor uses social media to engage with them.

Rethink sales and marketing alignment

The good news is that 80% of salespeople and 86% of marketers think their two departments are aligned. The less good news is that 38% of sales people still think marketing doesn’t deliver enough qualified leads. The problem, we discovered, lies in the definition of what lead nurturing involves – something that sales and marketing are often a long way from agreeing on. Our research does point to a clear solution though. When sales teams are equipped with lead nurturing technology themselves, they are 51% more likely to say that their relationship with marketing is improving. Multi-channel nurturing strategies help to bring sales and marketing together – and they align both of them more effectively with buyers as well.

Our Rethink the B2B Buyer’s Journey Ebook has more on all of these areas, plus all the key findings from our research into the buying journey across different sectors. Click here to download your copy for free.