The modern B2B buyer – younger, more digitally enabled and socially connected than ever – is better equipped to make smart decisions, with up to 70% of the journey now done digitally. It’s hardly surprising, given that we all research personal purchases online, use price comparison sites, read reviews and seek recommendations on social networks. The trend towards self-service in B2B means the sales rep is no longer the most influential channel , as buyers may turn to their peers, analysts, professional networks and industry publications for education and endorsement before approaching any vendors.
The traditional funnel is dead
This behavioural and attitudinal shift means today’s buyer no longer slides predictably and inexorably through the funnel, ushered along by marketing messages. In practice, it’s more like a game of pinball – once the ball bearing is launched, it’s impossible to anticipate where it will go or for how long it will bounce around. It’s a matter of reacting to events in the moment, using various flippers to influence the ball’s direction but never expecting to be fully in control of it.
Taking back control of the game
Of course, that doesn’t mean Sales should sit passively and wait for the phone to ring. Marketers must look to data-driven prospecting strategies to uncover buyers before they’re actively interested in the brand. That means identifying intent from website visits, purchase history and CRM, as well as external data such as search activity, browsing patterns, historical trends and social interactions. Today’s complex environment demands a cross-channel engagement strategy – both digital and human – mapped to each step of the buyer journey.
In response, we need to challenge the conventional siloed approach to creative campaigns – a legacy of marketing budgets funding separate initiatives based on departmental priorities or niche agencies. There is still a place for campaigns with a fixed endpoint, based on a theme or central hook, when a defined objective needs a special push. But to align activity to the entire path to purchase, B2B organisations need an always-on marketing reservoir, fed by a spring of relevant content that blurs the boundaries between traditional disciplines.
Building the modern demand centre
Our ongoing multi-channel initiative for Oracle’s “Digital Bank of the Future” is an example of how an always-on “demand centre” can enable brands to extend reach and deepen penetration. At its core is a research programme which draws on the expertise and clout of a community of leading thinkers in the banking space. The nurture programme comprises hands-on digital bootcamp events, videos, blogs, infographics and an online digital banking benchmark tool; it harnesses email, paid media and social channels to deliver engaging and informative insights. As a result, Oracle has been able to tap into a highly relevant new audience and generate pipeline worth $25 million.
Think people, not platforms
In essence, B2B marketers need to start thinking in terms of the target audience, rather than platforms. They must be prepared to meet buyers in whatever spaces they hang out. And at the end of the game, they need to understand how each flipper in the pinball machine contributed (or not) to the sale.
Buyer Behaviour Infographic
Modern buyer behaviours have changed beyond comprehension for many marketers. But whilst this shift presents a challenge for B2B brands to quickly re-align their thinking, it offers great opportunity for the ones that get it right. Download our infographic for some handy stats and tips on getting your thinking right.