I know blog on the platform of www.tonyzambito.com where you will find the updated Buyer Persona Blog. Please go to this blog site:
Thank You! Tony Zambito
I know blog on the platform of www.tonyzambito.com where you will find the updated Buyer Persona Blog. Please go to this blog site:
Thank You! Tony Zambito
In the world of B2B management, there are numerous head scratching efforts going on as we peer ahead into 2012 and beyond. Primarily, it has to do with how to get from here to there. One of the issues faced by B2B companies with the high degree of uncertainty, global economic turbulence, and a rapidly changing buyer driven and social world is figuring out where the from here to there actually leads to.
Recent buyer and management interviews tell me a lot of head scratching continues to go on. Plenty of internal angst and debate is taking place on how to get from here to there, what is needed, what should be done, and what a lot of people think. The what to do aspects of internal planning usually center on strategy and tactical questions such as:
How do we grow revenues?
What can we do to generate more leads?
How do we expand business with existing customers?
What type of content will drive more traffic to our web site?
Should we get more active with social media?
Do we need to improve our product quality and offering?
Should we boost marketing and sales budgets?
Do we need to hire more people?
What should our pricing strategy be going forward?
What new technologies do we need to adopt?
As you can see, the list of questions for B2B organizations can be endless. And plenty of them have to do with what should we do – probably more so than how to get from here to there. What is striking however is that there is a tendency to dive into the angst over and debated questions without truly having clarity on where from here to there actually should end up. As they say in the venture capital world: sometimes there is no there - there. So in this riddle of thinking, to figure out how to get from here to there, you first have to figure out where the there actually is.
What is the one thing you can do to figure out where the there is and how to get from here to there?
You have guessed it by now, I am sure, if you have read my articles before:
Attaining deep qualitative B2B buyer insights.
Investing in deep qualitative B2B buyer insights means talking to your customers – and yes that sometimes means with the help of a third party. Let’s face it – in certain situations buyers are more revealing to a third party when the perceived wall of sales agenda comes down and the expertise level to conduct qualitative research is not in-house. However the point is this: to be informed on where the there is actually means your company needs to be talking with existing customers and prospective buyers deeply outside of a marketing and selling context.
Revealing buyer insights can tell you plenty about where your existing customers and buyers are headed. Deep buyer insights give you a clue on where the planning of how to get from here to there is suppose to end up. Giving you answers to the above mentioned type questions as well as what you should be doing to align with your buyers.
Collecting deep qualitative B2B buyer insights – before you get in over your head in angst and debate – can alleviate much of the headache that comes with strategy and tactical planning. Imagine a meeting with less I think we should debating going on and more discussion on how we need to help existing customers and prospective buyers get from here to there. Helping your customers and buyers to get from here to there helps you figure out how you and your company will get from here to there. The definition of where that is, if you are aligned with your buyers, should be a two sided coin. Helping buyers achieve their emblem of success on their side of the coin ensures that you will have an emblem of success on your side of the coin.
The one thing you can do is acquire deep qualitative buyer insights. The type of insights that inform you on the map you need to put in place that shows you, your teams, and your company how to get from here to there. Now – can you imagine getting anywhere in the world without a map?
(Image by Kenny Madden © All rights reserved)
Posted by Tony Zambito at 07:30 PM in buyer behavior, buyer decision model, buyer ecosystem, buyer experience, buyer experience cycle, buyer goals, buyer insight, buyer journey, buyer persona, buyer persona development, Buyer Personas, C-Suite, CEO, CMO, content marketing, customer experience, demand generation, lead generation, Marketing, marketing automation, qualitative research, social business, social buyer persona, social media, Strategy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Technorati Tags: B2B marketing, B2B sales, business buyergraphics, Business), Business-to-business, Buyer, buyer insights, buyer research, buyergraphics, buyerology, Consumer behaviour, goal centric, markeitng, planning, Qualitative research, Sales, Social Age, Social network, strategy, tactical planning, tony zambito, Value (marketing)
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For many in B2B sales, from senior leaders to sales representatives, it may be a discouraging time. If you follow conventional and social media closely, the storied demise of sales has been told many times. You probably could buy a few lunches if you collected a dollar for every time you heard that buyers are in control and don’t need sales. To you, this sentiment seems like it is taking on mythical proportions. I am not so sure. If I ask myself three simple questions, I think my answers are clear:
Have buyers changed? Answer: Yes
Does B2B Sales need to change? Answer: Yes
Will buyers still require the assistance of B2B Sales? Answer: Yes
I suspect many of you will answer the same way. B2B Sales will continue to matter very much and it will go through periods of redefinitions and transformations over the next few years. Although, in the Social Age, it may seem that people want to be devoid of actual interactions with others in such buying settings, I for one believe buyers are actually seeking more. However, more of what has not defined interactions and relationships in the past.
5 Ways B2B Sales Are Affected
New buyer behaviors are emerging and evolving. The rate of change will, without a doubt, continue to take place at a significant rate. B2B Sales will have to charter a new course that gets them rethinking about how interactions, engagements, and relationships are changing. Let’s take a look at new buyer behaviors and how they are affecting B2B Sales in particular:
Buyers Have New Knowledge Expectations
The instantaneous availability of information and knowledge at buyer’s fingertips puts pressure on B2B Sales to match their expectations when it comes to what we can call knowledge readiness. If buyers are truly able to access information and knowledge for researching as well as assessing potential opportunities and resolutions, then B2B Sales needs to bring more to the table when an actual engagement takes place. B2B Sales needs to pick up where the buyer left off. Let an actual buyer voice be heard:
“Okay, so what gets my goat more than anything is that after I do all the research and such, I finally get to talking to a sales rep. And what happens? They just regurgitate all the stuff I found online. They are not telling me anything new. Just telling me what I already know.”
For B2B organizations today, not only is sales readiness important but so is knowledge readiness.
Buyers Seeking Advisement, Not Ready-Made Solutions
A generalized assumptive statement can be made, based on numerous surveys conducted over the past two years, that buyers are generally 50% to 60% into the buying process before having direct engagement with sales. They’ve done the spade work in looking at potential solutions, scoping out what might be a good resolution, and approximating budgets. This changes the game significantly for B2B Sales. Buyers already know about your ready-made solutions found in their researching. What they seek is skills and knowledge in advising them on how solutions – modified, customized, and most definitely altered – will help them to achieve the specific goals and outcomes they seek. The implication for B2B organizations is B2B Selling organizations must have talent that reflects excellent advisory skills.
Buyers Including More People in Their Ecosystems and Networks
Driven by social and Enterprise 2.0 technologies, buyers are able to expand their ecosystems and networks in complex situations. The degree of interdependencies between not only users and influencers but partners, suppliers, and their customers as well makes for more complexity. And once again – more knowledge needed. Decision-making is getting more participative within ecosystems and networks. B2B Sales will need to adapt and address complexity as well as possess knowledge that makes them an important participant within a buyer’s complex ecosystem and networks. I believe this will be B2B Sales toughest challenge over the next few years. Why? I believe wired into the DNA of selling organizations are systems, training, processes, and the likes all oriented towards the tunnel vision of a single buyer making a non-sophisticated decision. Today’s realities tell us otherwise.
Buying Cycles Are Getting Longer
Counterintuitive to today’s hyper-connected and hyper-speed world is the acknowledgement that buying cycles in complex B2B Sales situations are actually getting longer. Increasing need for more knowledge, more advisement on problem-solving, more modifications and customizations, more participants in buyer networks, and more complex global environments all point towards why buying cycles are getting longer. This means B2B Sales will need to exercise patience in serving in the advisory role and slow down the train on ready-made solutions selling. What we will see here is boiling tension points begin to emerge. Many organizations are still wedded to pipeline thinking and management. Mandated for decades has been to push sales opportunities fast and furiously through the pipeline to meet quarterly projections. Readjusting thinking around this tension point is very much akin to turning a freight ship around in a harbor – it’s going to take a while and some tug boats are definitely going to be needed.
Buyers Are Relating Differently
Emerging generational differences are beginning to sprout into the workforces. A generation is rising that has little knowledge of a world without an Internet, email, social networks, ubiquitous smart phones, and always on connectivity to their social and professional networks. How interactions takes place and how relationships are formed are undergoing major transformations. The implications for B2B Sales is that it will need to look at their buyer groups and determine how advanced they are along these lines and are they impacted significantly with generational differences. Causing a reexamination of what the coveted ratio between field and inside sales should be in the future. Which is better suited to interact with and relate to the social buyer will be the new determining factor on this ratio – as opposed to some arbitrary cut off line between large accounts and small accounts.
Where Is B2B Sales Headed?
These emerging new buyer behaviors will contribute towards the changing face of B2B Sales. They will impact traditional vanguards such as sales planning, sales strategies, pipeline management, sales training, and sales hiring. Solving the decades old marketing and sales alignment issue will need to be reexamined as well. Much of the debate has been around functional definitions as opposed to how an organization best coalesces around changing buyer behaviors and dynamics.
There are three things we can be sure of in the future. One, new buyer behaviors will continue to impact B2B Sales. Two, how we define B2B Sales will undergo drastic change. And lastly, B2B Sales will continue to play a vital role in how organizations engage with buyers in the future.
How is your organization being impacted today? What changes are taking place that you see?
(Image by Kenny Madden © All rights reserved)
Posted by Tony Zambito at 04:30 PM in buyer behavior, buyer decision model, buyer ecosystem, buyer experience, buyer experience cycle, buyer goals, buyer insight, buyer journey, buyer persona, buyer persona development, buyer persona ecosystem, buyer persona network, Buyer Personas, buying process, content marketing, content strategy, CSO, Customer Insight, demand generation, Marketing, Sales, social business, social buyer, social buyer persona, social media | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Technorati Tags: Business, Business-to-business, buyer decision models, buyer experience, buyer persona, buyer persona development, buyer personas, buyergraphics, buyerology, buying process, Consumer behaviour, Decision making, goal centric, Kenny Madden, Marketing, Marketing and Advertising, Social Age, Social network, tony zambito B2B Sales
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Asking good questions was seared into my mental consciousness by several mentors early in my career. This notion was further influenced by prodigious reading of Peter Drucker. The premise being that good questions help you to focus and to get to the heart of what matters most. Here’s what I’ve learned over the years: it is hard to do and it takes practice! As I think about the future for B2B Marketers, these questions ring the loudest:
Who Are Our Customers?
We are undergoing the most significant changes in buyer behaviors in several decades as well as seeing the rise of connected social buyers, albeit younger, who behave much differently than traditional buyers. As simple as the question sounds, it is still the hardest question for businesses to answer. With existing buyers, new buyers, and expanding markets constantly in transition - getting insight into answering this question will need to be on top of the list.
Where Did Our Customers Go?
If we randomly picked a ten page year-end report, it would be a good bet that somewhere on page eight or nine in the third paragraph there is mention of it. You know what I am talking about. The one about, in management speak of course, losing existing customers or prospective buyers dropping out of the pipeline. If you don’t have solid answers on where they’ve gone – and why – then it is a safe bet you might see increases in next year’s ten page report.
How Do We Create A Better Buying Experience?
With distinctive differences between products and services narrowing substantially, experience-centered marketing and relationships will be the coveted playing field to win on. When was the last time your organization reviewed processes, systems, departments, and the likes to determine whether they added value to the buying experience? Were processes or systems put in place, now in hindsight, to address an anomaly that occurs in less than 3% of all situations? Meaning, the remaining 97% of existing customers and prospective buyers have to go through hurdles that in the end may cause them to say: forget it!
What Is The Best Way To Interact Directly With Customers?
If we totaled all of the articles written in 2011 in the B2B world, it would make you think that there is nothing happening after this so called 70% window where buyers don’t want sales interaction. Well, ignore at your own peril. What has happened is that it has raised the stakes on the remaining 30-40% where direct interaction from sales is still needed. In service what is the best means for direct interaction? In sales, what resources should be dedicated to field sales versus inside sales? What in the world is social selling and what do we do about it?
How Do We Best Equip Our Employees For The New Way Of Business?
If you haven’t noticed, buyers are a changing. Meaning your organization cannot stand pat without changing also. Buyers are expecting their suppliers and vendors to change with them. If there is a growing perceived gap between how much they’ve changed and how much you haven’t – could mean they will go elsewhere. It is time to look at the talent needed and the equipping technologies needed to have employees ready to do business in a new way.
How Do we Best Assimilate Social Media Into Our Business – The Right Way?
Enriching experiences with social media is here to stay. The cabling has been laid out and becoming hardwired into the mainstream conscious of every business. If you resisted, it is time to take a fresh look and ease up on the tight grip you’ve had on social media expenditures. Granted, the hype was spectacular and some companies bet their whole marketing budget on social media. Those who did will probably rethink that idea and be much the wiser going forward.
What Exactly Is Doing Content Marketing The Right Way?
Many B2B companies are grappling with the ideas behind content marketing and content strategy. It all sounds good – give existing customers and prospective buyers’ great content and that should result in gains in customer loyalty and buyer conversions. How to make that happen is where the grappling is taking place. When does too much content do more harm than good? When does too little content hurt conversions? What exactly is good content versus bad content?
As you see, the questions could never end. The important take away is to be sure to ask them. Ignoring them and sweeping them under the rug will only make the rug a little bumpy. And one day, buyers will simply pull the rug out from underneath you.
(Image by Kenny Madden © All rights reserved)
Posted by Tony Zambito at 08:44 AM in buyer behavior, buyer decision model, buyer ecosystem, buyer enablement, buyer experience, buyer experience cycle, buyer goals, buyer insight, buyer journey, buyer persona, buyer persona development, buyer persona ecosystem, buyer persona network, Buyer Personas, C-Suite, CEO, CMO, content marketing, content strategy, customer experience, demand generation, Marketing, qualitative research, Sales, social business, social buyer, social buyer persona, social commerce, social customer, social experience, social influence, social media, Strategy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Technorati Tags: Business, Business, Business-to-business, Buyer, buyer decision models, buyer experience, buyer persona, buyer persona development, buyer personas, buyergraphics, buyerology, buying process, Consumer behaviour, Content marketing, Content strategy, Customer, Decision making, goal centric, Kenny Madden, Marketing, Marketing, Marketing and Advertising, Peter Drucker, Sales, Social Age, Social media, Social network, tony zambito
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Changes in buyer behaviors continue to march on as new social technologies take root into the mainstream of B2B businesses. Uncertainty on how best to understand buyers today as well as engage buyers is on top of the list for many B2B organizations as they look ahead to 2012 and beyond. During the past two years, we’ve seen new tactical attempts come and go while some are sticking. With clear determination of changes in buyer behavior remaining elusive, B2B organizations are struggling to find the right mix of buyer strategies and tactics that result in a winning formula. Looking ahead, more and more B2B organizations will seek to find a formula that works specifically for them. (Image "Breathe the sames air as your prospects/customers" by Kenny Madden © All rights reserved)
5 Ways B2B Marketers Are Affected
New buyer behaviors means B2B organizations have to rethink many of their existing ways of engaging B2b buyers today. This is certainly problematic when rethinking often entails looking at such building blocks as strategy, tactics, systems, and infrastructure. Let’s take a look at new buyer behaviors and how they are affecting B2B Marketers (note – when using the term B2B Marketers, I am referencing both marketing and sales):
Buyers Expanding Their Decision-Making Networks
The advent of social technologies is allowing B2B buyers today to expand not only their social network but their collaborating network. While we have been conditioned over decades to focus on a single target buyer, or as I have written about often, a target buyer persona, we are beginning to see that this will no longer be adequate for B2B Marketers. The expansion of these buyer ecosystems and networks is changing who is included in new buyer decision models. Buyers are less and less representing themselves or behaving as individual buyers but more and more as a buyer network. B2B Marketers will need to get grounded in figuring out what buyer ecosystems and buyer networks exist for their respective industries.
Buyers Are Seeking Intelligence, Not Content
I’ve covered this recently in several articles. In qualitative efforts I’ve been involved with recently that included conducting buyer interviews, I can tell you that the overwhelming amount of content that buyers are dealing with is an issue. Buyers are essentially being forced to be more selective and to “junk” perceived non-relevant content. I use the word perceive here because it is very much like Malcom Gladwell’s theory of Blink. They are making the perception of non-relevance in a blink of an eye. B2B Marketers then must focus on standing out and offering intelligence that buyers seek and not mere push messaging content.
Buyers Want Humanized Buyer Experiences
Let’s face it, many B2B buying experiences still feel, look, and are acted out in very transactional ways. Buyers today are basically saying: why should I settle for less! I still stand solidly behind Paul Greenburg’s mantra that “buyers want to be a subject of an experience, and not an object of a sale.” B2B Marketers will need to focus on how to make humanized buyer experiences happen. The margin of difference between products and services is narrow so the playing field of experience is gaining in prominence.
Risks Continues to Play Big Role in Buyer Decisions
Risk aversion and risk avoidance continue to affect B2B buying decisions. The uncertainty created by a tumultuous global economy and uncertainty about the future means B2B buyers give extra attention to driving down costs and putting more pressure on reducing price whenever they can. The affects of buyer perceived risks is enormous. It is resulting in more problem solving research, longer sales cycles, and the expansion of buyer networks in decision-making as mentioned above. B2B Marketers then must not only determine what these perceived risks are, but address them early on in buying cycles and buyer decision models.
Buyers Adopting New Self-Enabling Technologies
If we think back ten to fifteen years ago, it was very common to think that mid-level managers to senior executives probably would privately break down and cry if the administrative assistant called in sick. Fast forward today, new technologies have caused a major mind shift. B2B buyers from mid-level managers to senior executives are efficient at using newer technologies to be self-enabling. Meaning they want more self-enabling technologies and services from B2B Marketers. With 60% to 70% of purchase decisions being made before there is direct sales involvement, this is the new frontier in B2B Marketing and Sales. B2B Marketers then will need a mind shift themselves. In the past three years, we’ve seen a considerable increase in marketing technology investing with some producing measurable success while some are questionable at best. The shift needs to be towards investing in buyer enabling technologies. Meaning B2B Marketers will have to think more about how they can create self-enabling buying experiences that buyers customize on their own. Experiences that don’t necessarily follow what we think are normal buying processes or stages.
Investing In The Two Sides of Buyer Insight 2.0
Enriching insights on existing customers and prospective buyers is rising to the top of the agenda for C-Suites in B2B organizations. The above mentioned buyer behaviors and their impact on B2B Marketers mean that making assumptions about existing customers and potential buyers is risky business. While investments in BIG data surged in the past two years, investing in BIG insights will gain more attention as B2B Marketers continue to struggle making sense out of data and analytics. In 2012, B2B Marketers will begin to incorporate the two sides of buyer research and analysis into Buyer Insight 2.0 – data and context. There is a symbiotic relationship between the two and B2B Marketers will discover in 2012 that to understand buyer decision-making behaviors - data or analytics cannot exist without context and that context cannot exist without data or analytics.
Without question, there is a lot to think about in 2012. One thing B2B Marketers can think about consistently is that new buyer behaviors will affect them and it will not be the other way around. Those days are long gone indeed.
Posted by Tony Zambito at 02:13 PM in buyer behavior, buyer decision model, buyer ecosystem, buyer enablement, buyer experience, buyer experience cycle, buyer goals, buyer insight, buyer journey, buyer persona, buyer persona development, buyer persona ecosystem, buyer persona network, Buyer Personas, Buying Cycle Scenarios, buying process, C-Suite, CEO, CMO, content marketing, content strategy, customer experience, Customer Insight, customer strategy, demand fulfillment, demand generation, Marketing, marketing automation, qualitative research, social business, social buyer, social buyer persona, social customer, social influence, social media, Strategy | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
Technorati Tags: Business, Business-to-business, buyer decision models, buyer experience, buyer persona, buyer persona development, buyer personas, buyergraphics, buyerology, buying process, Consumer behaviour, Decision making, goal centric, Kenny Madden, Marketing, Marketing and Advertising, Social Age, Social network, tony zambito
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This final article looks at how buyers desire above all else – a rewarding buyer experience and how businesses today and in the future will need to focus on enhancing as well as humanizing the buyer experience. (Image "people not numbers" by Kenny Madden © All rights reserved)
Buyer Trend: Buyers desire rewarding human experiences
The concept of Experience in business has undergone a roller coaster ride during the past ten to fifteen years since it was first introduced. Both the terms customer experience and buyer experience taking on different meanings in this time period. For buyers in general, there has been a slow but progressing convergence of desiring B2C like experiences in B2B market worlds. Without question, the rise of the Internet and Social Technologies has shaped and reshaped our concept of Experience in general. I believe we are at a pivotal moment in business history with respect to buyer behavior and experience.
This pivotal moment is centered on the idea that buyers desire human experiences in the business world and see experience as a two-sided coin. The two key principles of experience in the modern Social Age are:
Buyers today are redefining the meaning of business experience. Consequently, integrating their business experience into how buyers are reshaping their human experience in general as a result of the Social Age. Buyers not only want to “feel good” about the business experiences they undergo, but now also have a higher expectations they will take away knowledge they did not have before.
The seven buyer trends in this article series point to what I call The Buyer Circle of Experience. As they reshape their definition of what a business experience means and integrate it into their human experience, buyers are expanding their circle of experience in a business context. The totality of their humanized buyer experience including what has been covered in this Buyerology Trend series:
What Must CEO’s, CMO’s, and CSO’s Do?
A place for C-Suite leaders to start is to rethink their own concept of what experience – customer and buyer experience – means in today’s Social Age. Guiding the organization to adopt a two dimensional view of experience – contextual and learning – as opposed to one dimensional views. It will take hard work and deep customer and buyer understanding to turn B2B business engagement into humanized social experiences. This becomes a new imperative for the C-Suite. Undergoing think shift - viewing every interaction as one that must become an engaging and fulfilling experience and represent a learning experience for existing customers and prospective buyers.
The implications affect every area of businesses – talent, training, functions, technologies, operations, marketing, and sales. It will test the resolve and capabilities of business leadership as we know it today.
In the future, buyer expectations for experiences that engage them contextually and provide learning opportunities will grow. The open systems of new social technologies fueling the rise in humanizing the buyer experience. Buyers will be looking to integrate their business experience into their personal human experience.
As the millennial grows into leadership, we will see metamorphoses take place around the concept of business, organization, leadership, and shared values. This will drastically affect our notions of what is thought of as a business experience. We may very well begin to see a narrowing gap between the business experience and the human experience happen sooner than we think.
Key questions to ponder for the future are: What is your organization doing today to rethink experience and what it means? How capable is your organization of providing both engaging as well as learning experiences? How will your organization be impacted by this evolving trend?
Posted by Tony Zambito at 07:30 AM in buyer behavior, buyer decision model, buyer ecosystem, buyer experience, buyer experience cycle, buyer goals, buyer insight, buyer journey, buyer persona, buyer persona development, buyer persona ecosystem, buyer persona network, Buyer Personas, buying process, C-Suite, CEO, CMO, content marketing, content strategy, customer experience, customer experience management, demand generation, lead generation, lead nurturing, Marketing, marketing automation, Personas, qualitative research, Sales, sales enablement, social business, social buyer, social buyer persona, social commerce, social customer, social experience, social influence, social media, User Personas | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Technorati Tags: b2b marketing, Business, business experience, business-to-business, Buyer, buyer experience, buyer persona, buyer persona development, buyer personas, buyergraphics, buyerology, Chief executive officer, Chief marketing officer, Complex network, Consumer behaviour, content marketing, Customer experience, customer experience, Demand generation, goal centric, human experience, Social Age, social experience, social media, tony zambito
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This article looks at how buyer’s values are changing and how organizations can utilize a values-based versus outmoded needs based marketing and sales approaches. (Image "Go where your buyers are" by Kenny Madden © All rights reserved)
Buyer Trend: Buyers are changing their values and they are changing decision-making
Product centricity has been the driving force behind marketing and sales for decades and practically all of the 20th century. As we entered into the 21st century, roots were planted that have created a shift towards customer centricity centered around initiatives such as customer experience, customer focus, voice of the customer, and numerous other phrases that describe customer centricity. However, this shift continues to occur at a slow pace in the B2B marketplace and many B2B organizations have product centricity wired into their organizational DNA.
Product centricity causes selling organizations to not only focus on the merits of their product but also to have prescribed views of existing customer and prospective buyer needs. Products, in general, are designed and produced to fulfill needs. This thinking has spawned the functions of product management and product marketing – all designed to fulfill needs. To be sure, products must fulfill needs. A key buyer trend that is occurring is that buyer values are changing rapidly while buyer needs have more constancy. This trend, along with the introduction of new values spurred on by the convergence of the Internet and the Social Age, is having a drastic affect on buyer decision-making.
Needs-based thinking, as the dominant driver, has been a focal point for marketing and sales for a few decades. Efforts to correlate products with needs that relate to fulfilling tasks or an objective that buyers undertake permeate much of marketing and sales. The focus on identifying what buyers use as criteria for decision-making still relate heavily on a product’s performance ability to fulfill a task or reach an objective. What is not so surprising is that buyer needs and objectives having a high degree of constancy built-in. For example, a constant need or objective is to grow revenue. While the metric may change yearly, say from 2% to 5%, the need or objective remains constant. Another example related to tasks is a product fulfilling the need of ease of use. I doubt we would ever hear a buyer change that criterion to harder to use.
The impact of the changing world related to the Internet, social technologies, global economic uncertainty, and shifting marketplaces is having a direct impact on buyer values as they relate to buyer goals. These values extend far beyond decision criterion based on needs related to tasks and objectives. Values correlate strongly to buyer goals and thus have a big impact on why buyers are making organizational as well as purchase decisions. Buyers desire more reflection of their values in products or services. Oftentimes, these are difficult to ascertain and for buyers to articulate clearly. But be sure – they are there. A simplified example can be that a high-tech organization has a value related to being “green” and environmentally friendly. How this value gets articulated and expressed may change significantly year-to-year and even be supplanted by another value due to a global event – while needs such as ease of use and revenue growth will remain constant.
What Must CEO’s, CMO’s, and CSO’s Do?
C-Suite leaders today can play a role is shifting organizational thinking from solely needs-based to that of value-based thinking. The leaders of today will need to work in concert to put into place efforts that not only focus on creating value but places a premium on keeping a pulse on the changing values on the part of buyers. While needs will have more constancy, individual and organizational values will be more transitory and influenced by internal as well as external factors. This means organizations will need to consistently engage buyers qualitatively to understand how values are shifting. Doing so will be no easy feat since buyers characteristically have difficulty in clearly articulating values and goals – oftentimes they are couched in the unarticulated world of thought.
This difficulty places an imperative on organizations to invest in as well as establish a foundational understanding of their buyer’s values – supported by ongoing engagement with buyers to help them realize these values. The ongoing engagements including efforts to learn how these values are being modified as well as how they are affecting decisions. Grounded in informed qualitative business insights on values, the modern C-Suite can take a “Value Leadership” role in helping existing customers and prospective buyers to articulate as well as define values more clearly and turn them into actionable strategies.
Buyers in the future may very well adopt a commoditized view themselves of needs and objectives. Establishing expectations that require selling organizations to be well aware of what these needs are well before any direct relationship. The dominant driver affecting purchase decisions will be transitory values that change over time significantly. What we can expect is that new world events, social technologies, market conditions, and buyer behaviors will not only alter values but alter the way business is conducted in the future.
Key questions to ponder for the future are: What is your organization doing today to shift from only needs-based thinking to that of incorporating value-based thinking? Do you know your buyer’s values and can you help them to articulate more clearly? Are buyer values reflected in your products, services, marketing, and selling efforts?
Posted by Tony Zambito at 12:38 PM in buyer behavior, buyer decision model, buyer experience, buyer experience cycle, buyer goals, buyer insight, buyer journey, buyer persona, buyer persona development, buyer persona ecosystem, buyer persona network, Buyer Personas, C-Suite, CEO, CMO, content marketing, customer experience, Customer Insight, customer strategy, demand fulfillment, demand generation, Marketing, qualitative research, Sales, sales enablement, social business, social buyer, social buyer persona, social customer, social experience | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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This article looks at how buyers are seeking to further their intelligence on challenges and goal achievement and how organizations can model intelligence seeking versus content mapping. (Image by Kenny Madden © All rights reserved)
Buyer Trend: Buyers are seeking to further their intelligence, not read more content
A growing need for existing customers and prospective buyers today is that of furthering their intelligence on how to tackle problems, meet challenges, and accomplish goals. While many may have college degrees or M.B.A.’s today, nothing has prepared them for the avalanche of rapid changes, tumultuous economic conditions on a global scale, and technological advancements on a scale never seen before. These global, economic, technological, and market conditions are changing the very nature of how people search and what they learn. Knowledge and Intelligence Search is becoming more prominent.
The growing surge of content as a strategy and a marketing tactic has resulted in the unintended consequences of content proliferation and a burden on the part of buyers to sort through a continuous stream of messaging in various forms. Messaging has been the dominant practice of marketing as well as sales for decades and despite the new label of content marketing - continues unabated. It is a habit that does not fade easily. Push messaging is clearly still happening through content marketing as one buyer interviewed suggested:
“The amount of incoming emails and information nowadays is just too much. There is just not enough time in the day to go through everything. And frankly, it still amounts to marketing promotions that I just don’t need. Way too busy for that!”
Contributing to this issue is the focus that’s been placed on content mapping. The idea of mapping content to the buying process or the trendy name of buyer’s journey has some inherent built-in problems. First, it suggests we presume to know exactly how buyers navigate decision-making through the prism of just the buying process. As mentioned in my previous article on buyer decision models – not only are decision models changing but so are processes. Buyer decision models and buying processes do not come in generic form. Second, mapping to the generic buying process has actually resulted, in some cases, in a constant stream of content that leave buyers gasping for air on intake. This is especially true when content marketing and content mapping are viewed in the context of sending out more messaging to buyers - with the presumption that they are relevant. Thirdly, there are in-house attempts as well as B2B marketing consultants who offer misguided knowledge of buyer personas as targeted profiles. This very notion embeds push messaging into plans that are created on the premise of content mapping to buyer personas. In many ways this misguidance is exacerbating the problem of content proliferation.
Previously, I had written about the relationship between buyer experience and intelligent engagement. What is happening when buyers find you? While labeled content marketing, the actual information amounts to disguised push messaging and does nothing to further the intelligence that existing customers and prospective buyers seek. Let’s hear from another interviewed buyer:
“Some of the sites I’ve visited can be annoying. What I mean is that I feel like I have to get through so much clutter and steps to even see if the information I am looking for is going to help me.”
Are your inbound efforts filled with clutter? Do they prevent buyers from finding the information they need that furthers their intelligence?
What Must CEO’s, CMO’s, and CSO’s Do?
These inherent problems however does not devalue mapping to being non-usable. Mapping has value if performed in a different context. That context relates to understanding as well as modeling the intelligence that existing customers and prospective buyers seek. The C-Suite of today can begin to spearhead efforts that are designed to not only model the intelligence sought but how intelligence found navigates through buyer decision models.
The modern C-Suite of today must guide efforts to acquire deep business insights into how companies approach challenges and specific goals. Gaining insight into why they matter and why certain decision models are used over others. The business insights then leading to offering Intelligent Content that supports the buyer decision models in use as opposed to the outmoded approach of mapping push messaging to generic buying process views.
There comes a new responsibility with this approach for C-Suite teams. That responsibility relates to accepting the role of offering learning opportunities that contributes to furthering buyer’s intelligence on how to tackle issues. What C-Suite teams can and must achieve is establishing capabilities and services that invite buyers into a learning experience. As one senior executive interviewed put it:
“We are confronted with new situations every month. Situations we’ve not encountered before. When working with a supplier for example, we want to be able to learn something about how to handle these new situations.”
In the future, organizations will have to take on some resemblance to ongoing education. They will offer unique learning experiences to existing customers and prospective buyers. To do so, more emphasis will be placed on gaining deep business insights that is focused on how to model intelligence as well as learning that address challenges, issues, and goals. Intelligent Content will become an irreplaceable aspect of building trusted relationships with buyers.
The focus on content as a strategy and as a marketing tactic will continue to undoubtedly grow. However, the future of content strategy and content marketing will hinge on adapting to the growing need for intelligence on the part of buyers. Does your existing content strategy translate into an intelligent learning experience?
Posted by Tony Zambito at 12:30 PM in buyer behavior, buyer decision model, buyer enablement, buyer experience cycle, buyer goals, buyer insight, buyer journey, buyer persona, buyer persona development, buyer persona network, Buyer Personas, buying process, C-Suite, CEO, CMO, content marketing, content strategy, CSO, customer experience, Customer Insight, demand fulfillment, demand generation, Marketing, Personas, qualitative research, social business, social buyer persona, social commerce, social customer, social experience | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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This is the fifth in a series of articles looking at buyer trends that will influence marketing and sales in the near and foreseeable future. We explored so far experience creation, BIG insights, demand fulfillment, and buyer networks. This article looks at how buyer decision models are changing and how marketing and sales can think beyond the buyer’s journey or buying process to adapt. (Image by Kenny Madden © All rights reserved)
Buyer Trend: Buyer Decision Models Are Transforming
Decision-making in business is undergoing its most significant changes in modern business history. For decades, business decisions were almost exclusively hierarchical. The convergence of the Internet and Social Interactions has produced a movement towards flattening models of decision-making. This is enabling more participants and more involvement in decisions that affect organizations. Buying decisions are not excluded from this profound movement.
The previous trend explored, Buyer Network, provided the first clue of how buyers are establishing networks for co-creation as well as co-deciding. In essence, new enabling technologies and the flattening of organizational decision-making are allowing members of buyer networks to have more “say” in purchase decisions. This is drastically changing buyer decision models. There are four elements of buyer decision models that are being altered as a result:
Context: new contextual scenarios are emerging in the modern business era that affects decision-making in general business – including purchase decisions. Business as usual no longer exists and buying as usual no longer exists as well.
Goals: buyer goals have become more elastic and buyers are considering more input and alternatives to overcoming obstacles to achieve goals. Additionally, what we are seeing is more interdependencies, made evident by expanding buyer networks, on achieving goals.
Process: the buying process, or the more recent trendy description of buyer’s journey, is undergoing change as well. Well documented over the past two years is how buyers are typically 70% into their buying processes before encountering direct sales interaction. This means that stages of the buying processes are not as clear as they once seemed and that the standard textbook views of buying processes or the buyer journey needs reviewing.
External: the global marketplace as well as the global economy is proving to be a disruptive force in buyer decision models. This is resulting in a more careful examination and scrutiny of decisions on an organizational level. The affects of higher degrees of uncertainty, risks, shifting markets, and changing buyer behaviors are becoming long-lasting.
What is clear today is that these four metamorphosing elements are directly impacting the how and why of buyer decision models in ways unimaginable just a decade ago. These elements also have a direct impact on buyer behavior with respect to purchase decisions.
What Must CEO’s, CMO’s, and CSO’s Do?
The C-Suite of today can begin to gather business insight into changing decision models of organizations and consequently buyer decision models. Using explored business insight to expand their sphere of understanding beyond that of just the buying process or buyer journey. The general pattern for decades has been to view the buying process or the buyer journey linearly or from a circumference viewpoint that appeared symmetrical. The reality today is that buyer decision models may have appearances akin to disparate networks and at times be very asymmetrical. This development is creating the need to understand how to connect these disparate networks of decision-making. C-Suites of today may find this occurring in their own organizations and can begin assessing how this is playing out in the marketplaces they serve.
In a recent qualitative study I was fortunate to be a part of for a Fortune 100 organization; four specific vertical markets were looked at. What business insight uncovered were four distinct buyer decision models for each of the vertical markets studied. While the buying processes or buyer journeys had consistencies across each of the vertical markets - with various stages being omitted by each, the models for decision-making were distinctly different. This led to senior members of the organization to focus marketing and selling efforts more proportionately on buyer decision models as opposed to a strict buying process orientation. This also meant shifting resources vertically as well as redesigning their conversations with existing customers and prospective buyers.
What CEO’s, CMO’s, and CSO’s can begin to ascertain is how buyers are making decisions (i.e. their buying processes) – what is even more important in today’s business climate is to understand why buyer decision models are transforming and to adapt accordingly.
Future trending suggests that buyer decision models will become more complex. While technologies characteristic of social business and Enterprise 2.0 enable more participative and flattened decision-making, they also create more complex buyer decision models. Subsequently then, more complex buying processes or buyer journeys emerge as an element of transformed buyer decision models. The C-Suite and organization of the future will need to become adept at understanding, through business insight, how purchase decisions are part of – as well as adhere to - newly forming organizational models of decision-making.
The implication for organizations is that new competencies will need to be developed in the future - both in terms of talent and processes – that can enable them to become participants of buyer networks and engage in new models of decision-making. And business schools and M.B.A. programs really need to start replacing some of the outmoded textbooks describing buyer decision models and buying processes of yesteryear. Otherwise, we will a have a very ill-equipped workforce in the future.
The future presents a very challenging question: How well do you know your buyer's decision models?
Posted by Tony Zambito at 04:10 PM in buyer behavior, buyer decision model, buyer ecosystem, buyer experience, buyer experience cycle, buyer goals, buyer insight, buyer journey, buyer persona, buyer persona development, buyer persona ecosystem, buyer persona network, Buyer Personas, Buying Cycle Scenarios, buying process, C-Suite, CEO, CMO, content marketing, CSO, customer experience, Customer Insight, customer strategy, demand fulfillment, demand generation, Marketing, qualitative research, sales enablement, Scenarios, social business, social buyer persona, social commerce, social customer, social experience, social media | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Image by cesarharada.com via Flickr
This is the fourth article looking at buyer trends that will influence marketing and sales in the near and foreseeable future. The first three covered experience creation, BIG insights, and demand fulfillment. This article looks at how buyers are developing more complex networks of interactions as well as decision-making and how organizations must adapt their view of buying.
Buyer Trend: Developing More Complex Networks That Collaborate On Decisions
As many B2B organizations know, when dealing with complex selling situations, identifying the influences on buying processes and the purchase decision is often the most difficult challenge faced by marketing and sales teams. This is doubly so as we enter a new world order of business models altered significantly by the convergence of the Internet and the Social Age. The traditional views of how business is conducted and the buyer-seller relationship operating in a vacuum are running out of steam.
A key trend that is altering the landscape of conventional buyer-seller models is buyers are developing complex networks that engage in collaboration whereby decisions are not made in isolation. The buyer network acts as a collective form of collaboration with each node of the network directly influencing purchase decisions. In addition, the buyer network is expanding. External collaborators such as partners, suppliers, communities, and valued customers are participating in the buyer network with direct influence on decisions. This emerging development makes each “node” not only an influencer but an activate participant in the purchase decision. While there still may be an ultimate buyer, the buyer is guiding each node of the buyer network in collaborating on meeting financial, technical, strategic, and productivity goals.
My work in originating buyer persona development led me to collaborate with three Fortune 100 companies on developing a Buyer Persona Ecosystem™ view of buyers. This is now evolving into what I call a Buyer Persona Network™ view. Understanding an ecosystem is the foundation for understanding how a buyer network is formed and how it behaves. One element we’ve come to learn is that a singular view of a buyer today is woefully inadequate in complex B2B marketplaces. Let me echo a recent interview with a head of sales for a large IT service provider:
“We had an opportunity with an existing customer where we knew they had about an $18m spend annually on our type of services. For the past two years we’ve been only getting about $2m of that spend. What we learned recently is that one of their key partners considered our services to be inferior. We had no idea and it really put us behind the eight ball.”
What Must CEO’s, CMO’s, and CSO’s do?
The implications that results from the emergence of buyer networks are no doubt enormous. They will shake the very foundation of our existing thinking on how buying gets conducted and how decisions are made. Today’s C-Suite will need to adjust their own views of existing customers and prospective buyers. The power of “group think” really does begin with the kool-aid organizations drink. If you are drinking a single view of a buyer and the mantra of pushing harder, then the organization will eventually pass out from this toxic mix. The modern C-Suite must enable an organization’s fundamental understanding of emerging buyer networks and adapting operations such as marketing and sales to account for this emergence. A place to start is to improve the organization’s insight as well as intelligence in two distinct areas:
For CMO’s and CSO’s in particular, working together on developing the mix of conversation and interaction that meets the goals of the buyer networks relevant to their industry is crucial to longevity. Buyer networks will continue to expand and grow. Not having a deep understanding of the tools used by relevant buyer networks, how buyer networks interacts, and the desired outcomes of buyer networks will in essence cause their own efforts of pushing harder to hit a brick wall. Long held perceptions about buyers and the role of influencers will begin to fade away as buyer networks and collective collaboration on buying and purchase decisions emerge.
In the future, the relationship between selling organizations and buyer networks will begin to look and relate differently than the buyer-seller relationship of the past. The buyer of the future will have a different set of skills to go along with a new mindset of collaboration. The connected buyer of the future will help to guide this new form of collaboration in ways that will no doubt change rapidly as new technologies are introduced. Engaging with such new technologies that enable collaboration amongst organizations and reshaping our thinking on existing models of business relationships.
One way for organizations to stay on top of this emerging trend is to earn a very special privilege. That privilege being to earn the right to be a participating member, or node, of relevant buyer networks. Whether it is as a supplier, partner, or even a customer themselves – there is much to learn in this new form of collective and connected collaboration. Are you ready to start learning?
Posted by Tony Zambito at 04:59 PM in buyer behavior, buyer ecosystem, buyer enablement, buyer experience, buyer experience cycle, buyer goals, buyer insight, buyer persona, buyer persona development, Buyer Personas, buying process, customer experience, Customer Insight, customer strategy, demand fulfillment, Marketing, marketing automation, Personas, qualitative research, Sales, Scenarios, social business, social buyer, social buyer persona, social commerce, social customer, social influence, Strategy, User Personas | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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This is the third article looking at buyer trends that will influence marketing and sales in the near and foreseeable future. The two previous articles looked at the future of experience creation and the rise of BIG insight. This article looks at how buyers are seeking fulfillment in their efforts to achieve goals and what this means to the future of demand generation. (Image by Kenny Madden © All rights reserved)
Buyer Trend: On A Quest to Be Demand Fulfilled
The conventional as well as social buyers of today can be said to be on a quest to have their demands fulfilled. Demand being, for the purpose of this article, the catchall phrase to represent a buyer’s desire to have their goals realized, challenges met, problems solved, and concerns alleviated. What the convergence of the Internet and the Social Age has proffered is the ability for buyers to chart the quest for meeting their demands with much more control, participation, and engagement than in any time in history.
The significant buyer trend of the past decade has become the blinding obvious – we know that buyers are self-directing 70% to 80% of their own buying process. This trend is profoundly changing the landscape of business in macro as well as micro level ways. It is the under layers of this trend that is having the most affect on marketing and sales in terms of the thinking towards demand generation. I have emphasized thinking in this series of articles due to how trends require us to reshape our thinking. When you change the way you think about things, the things you think about change.
One of the things we need to change our thinking on – and what is meant by the under layers – is what happens when buyers find you? If our thinking is still in the context of push and generation, then there will be little difference in whether buyers found you or you found them. Their thought processes are becoming more complex and intelligent engagement is what they seek to help them get their demands fulfilled. What do buyers find – when they find you? Do they find themselves akin to being in the middle of Times Square with flashing billboards, bright lights, and the consistent horns of taxi cabs? Are they bombarded by insistent push messaging – loaded with the conventional features and benefits dogma they’ve come to loathe?
Being in the business of buyer personas for over a decade now, I’ve seen organizations still have this thinking despite having personas right in front of them. The fatal flaw being buyer personas were developed as profiles with push messaging and demand generation thinking as opposed to how to fulfill the goals of buyers. Buyers today are developing a sixth sense and becoming fairly astute at knowing the difference in how an organization is thinking. The under laying aspect of this trend is this: what buyers are seeking today is to have their own demands fulfilled - not to have your demands for generation met.
What Must CEO’s, CMO’s, and CSO’s do?
The C-Suite today can begin to look at what really is going on in its’ interactions with existing customers and prospective buyers. Questioning whether the incessant need to hit short-term quarterly results is blinding them to the need to shift their thinking. In essence, finding that the drum keeps beating loudly on urging the troops to push harder and harder. Evaluations can be performed to look at interactions and determine whether they are being used as an opening to push message or are they being made into an available opportunity for buyers to have their demands fulfilled.
CMO’s can begin to look at how to develop fulfillment models based on the demands of their existing customers and prospective buyers. Fulfillment modeling will thus become an important new competency. By fulfillment, I do not mean the mere availability of information and content as in the early days of direct marketing – where collateral was king then. I do mean that CMO's will have to lead efforts to develop an appreciable deep understanding of the demand fulfillment goals and scenarios that drive purchase decisions.
When buyers are in the 70% window of self-directed activity or in the 30% window of direct engagement, CMO’s and CSO’s can ensure that buyers are able to connect in ways that allows them to continue their quests to have demands fulfilled. As opposed to push messaging, buyers find tools and logic available to them that help them in their pursuit. What CMO’s and CSO’s have to be on guard for, especially in light of the growing role of content strategy and content marketing, is if their content is more of the same – push messaging – or is it truly serving the purpose of demand fulfillment.
Perhaps I am playing on words and semantics. I think not. My many conversations while engaged in qualitative investigative efforts is telling me that the future will require a shift in thinking on exactly what takes place when buyers find you. How organizations think on whether they are performing demand fulfillment or demand generation will be reflected in how buyers find organizations to be when they do find them. Changing thinking and getting results from that change is one of the hardest undertakings an organization can go through.
The businesses of the future who think demand fulfillment first will find a new world of opportunities opening up to them. It opens the road to creative and innovative ways to engage buyers in helping them to have their demands fulfilled. Developing fulfillment models that no longer force buyers into the tired framework of push and generation – a framework that still exists and cannot be disguised with the label of content marketing or the technologies of social business.
Posted by Tony Zambito at 04:00 PM in buyer behavior, buyer ecosystem, buyer enablement, buyer experience, buyer experience cycle, buyer goals, buyer insight, buyer persona, buyer persona development, Buyer Personas, buying process, content marketing, content strategy, customer experience, Customer Insight, customer strategy, demand fulfillment, demand generation, innovation, lead generation, lead nurturing, Marketing, marketing automation, Personas, qualitative research, sales enablement, Scenarios, social business, social buyer, social buyer persona, social commerce, social customer, social experience, social influence, social media | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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