Live Webinar: Michael Brenner on Rethinking Your B2B Buyer’s Journey

April 6, 2016

The shift of the B2B buyer’s journey from offline to the Internet over the past two decades has led to the rapid rise in digital marketing’s importance. Understanding the B2B buyer’s journey has never been more critical to creating effective marketing programs.

New LinkedIn research, distilled in “Rethink the B2B Buyer’s Journey,” provides insight into exactly how the buyer’s journey has changed. Among the takeaways from this recently released ebook:

  • Buyers want knowledge from vendors, which highlights the need for marketers to create useful content.
  • 3.1 to 4.6 additional departments, such as information technology, finance, and business development, influence buying decisions.
  • Buyers rely social media at every level of the funnel — awareness, scope, plan, select, and implement —which means that the most effective marketers are leveraging social at every stage of the buyer’s journey.

In an upcoming webinar, “Rethink Your B2B Buyer’s Journey,” Michael Brenner, CEO of the Marketing Insider Group, and I will be delving into changes in the buyer’s journey and how marketers like you can take advantage of them. Join us for this illuminating webinar, which takes place on Tuesday, April 12, at 11am PT/2pm ET.

In our preparations for the webinar, I quizzed Michael, who is also the author of The Content Formula, on his perspective on the changing buyer’s journey. Here are his answers, which can help any of us leverage the changes in the buyer's journey to create more effective marketing programs.

Sean Callahan: What's the biggest shift you see in the buyer's journey over the past few years, and what's driving it?

Michael Brenner: The biggest shift we've seen in the buyer's journey is the amount of self-directed search. Maybe there was a mythical time when buyers made deals on golf courses with their buddy the sales person. But that has changed. All buyer journeys start with a search. All buyers discover content they need in the decision process on social channels. And one thing many people forget is that email is still really important. We ignore the email we don't need. But we subscribe to newsletters, because we know that some day, we may need what's being sent to us. 

Callahan: How should marketers be using content to get a better handle on the buyer's journey?

Brenner: Search, social, and email are important so vendors have to continuously create effective content to be discovered on one of those three channels. How? I believe that content marketing doesn't have to be that hard. Just create content that matches up to the questions your buyers are asking, at each stage of their journey. And buyers will find it, read it, and share it, if it effectively answers their questions.

Callahan: Our research showed that delivering knowledge was crucial for buyers in terms of what they expect from vendors. How do you think that impacts the buyer's journey and content marketing?

Brenner: Let's assume for a second that vendor marketing budgets are flat or down. How do you start creating new, buyer-focused content with no incremental budget? Vendors have to stop creating content that no one wants. Vendors have to start thinking in terms of how well does their content focus on customer needs at each stage of the buyer journey. How well does it answer buyer questions? And what should they stop doing in order to fund it?

Callahan: How important of a role does social media (organic and paid) play in the new buyer's journey?

Brenner: Social media is one of the most important channels for buyer content discovery. But vendors can't just create promotional product literature and blast it out on social. The thing that makes social media so powerful is that it allows for nearly instant feedback on the kind of content that works. So vendors need to create content that is effective, and social media engagement is one of the best ways to measure that. If a certain topic of type of content works on social, vendors need to create more of it.

Another important role of social media is in paid distribution. You can create a bunch of content, and pay to distribute it on social. But then you miss the gold mine of insights around what worked organically. My advice: publish your content, measure organic social engagement, then put paid promotion behind the winners. I've seen two, three, even as much as fives times the lift in awareness and reach of "winning" content by brands that put their promotion dollars behind their best content. Bet on the winners.

Callahan: Has the number of influencers on the buying decision increased or decreased or stayed the same? And what tools help marketers reach these influencers?

Brenner: There is a ton of research on this. They point to different numbers: 6, 9, 11.5. I think the main point is that no matter how big or small the price tag may be, there are more people involved in the buying process then ever before.

To hear more of Michael’s thoughts on how marketers can leverage changes in the buyer’s journey, register for the webinar, “Rethink Your B2B Buyer’s Journey,” which takes place Tuesday, April 12, at 11am PT/2pm ET.

And for a deep dive into LinkedIn research examining how the buyer’s journey has changed, download the new ebook, Rethink the B2B Buyer’s Journey today!

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