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.