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One of the most prominent forces of sociological thinking in the 20th century was that of symbolic interactionism. An interesting man and pioneer of this thinking was George Herbert Mead, an American sociologist, psychologist, and philosopher who developed his theories while at the University of Chicago in the 1920’s. Mead’s work concerned itself with human interactions and the symbolic nature of the world and languages. Mead theorized that how people view the world, as well as experienced the world, shaped human interactions and that our interactions with others also shaped our view of society. He also believed that to research this phenomenon, unstructured qualitative observation methods were the means to understand sociological human interactions. Mead was most certainly a forerunner to today’s modern methods of qualitative research.
Many of today’s modern movements related to experience design, social media, and digital engagement have in their DNA at least a molecule of interactionist theory. Brian Solis, a thought leader on social media and author of Engage!, has as one of his main premises in his fantastic book that we must engage in meaningful conversations with customers to make them true empowered participants in social media. Suggesting that how we interact with customers in the social engagement ecosystem cultivates customer loyalty and trust. Paul Greenberg, a prolific speaker and leading thinker on Social CRM and author of CRM at the Speed of Light has written and spoken often on the notion that customers and buyers are not expecting just a product but are expecting experiences. He offers us the insight that customers and buyers are saying no to being “objects of a sale” and yes to being “subjects of an experience.”
B2B executives who oversee marketing, sales, and support must think of how their organization should design corresponding interaction points along the Seven Phases of the Buyer Experience Journey. Determining how buyer interactions collectively will shape buyer experiences that cultivate the loyalty and trust that Brian Solis mentions and creates subjects of experience as Paul Greenberg states. The Buyer Experience Interaction Model offers seven aligning and human centered interaction points to the buyer experience journey that B2B executives can make actionable.
The Buyer Experience Interaction Model:
- Thought: The buyer experiences thought leadership and subject matter expertise when initiatives arise.
- Content: The buyer experiences accessibility to rich and robust content offerings that enables research.
- Engage: The buyer experiences multi-channels of engagement options that allows for adequate assessment.
- Value: The buyer experiences value-based solutions and justification that enables a buying decision.
- Expertise: The buyer experiences the expected level of expertise when implementing complex solutions.
- Access: The buyer experiences ease of access to expected levels of support for products, services, and complex solutions.
- Loyalty: The buyer experiences two-way loyalty when faced with considerations to renew products, services, or address new initiatives.
The “buyer” is a term used in the B2B context by which the “buyer” represents the target buyer persona and the stakeholders that represent the multi-disciplinary buying committees. What this interaction model does recognize is the complexity of the buying decision and the process by which buyers seek to mitigate risks associated with multi-faceted solutions. The buyer's views on implementation and support are critical to the overall buyer experience.
Aligning the Buyer Experience Interaction Model to the Buyer Experience Journey can address sales and marketing alignment issues by enabling a buyer experience continuum orientation. At the same time, including support along these same buyer experience continuums and ensuring it is not positioned as a separate adjunct function outside of the overall experience.
(In the Social CRM arena, Esteban Kolsky, who has a fantastic blog crm intelligence & strategy, with graphics help from Jacob Morgan of Chess Media Group came up with a wonderful graphic of a “loop” that represents the social customer experience continuum. Admittedly limited in my graphic design capabilities, I concur with Esteban on this point and advocate a loop overlay on the buyer experience interaction model and buyer experience journey to include feedback, end-to-end process, and actionable insights.)
The challenge for B2B executives lies in how well they can lead efforts to design and calibrate different buyer interactions for various target buyer personas, engagement channels, and segments along the Buyer Experience Interaction Model. Fueled by qualitative buyer insights that informs on buyer experience strategies, buyer interactions can be a significant part of the buyer experience design process and help to determine just how to design experiences for segmented buyers and channels.
What is still true nearly ninety years since Mead is that humans desire meaningful interactions. The rise of social media and the digital age has heightened the awareness on the part of B2B buyers to seek more meaningful ”buying” interactions on a humanized level. These drivers making buyer experience orientation on the part of B2B organizations an important new core competency.