The Shift in B2B Buying Behavior: Essential Insights for Founders and CEOs
As the world becomes increasingly more digital, the way businesses approach selling their products and services needs to evolve. With B2B buyers now often having access to all of the information needed to make a purchasing decision from multiple sources they trust, they prefer to execute most (if not all) of the process independently without engaging with vendors. According to research by Gartner, "75% of B2B buyers prefer a rep free experience". In this article, we will explore how this shift in B2B buying behavior is affecting traditional GTM models and what every founder and CEO needs to know in order to stay ahead of the curve.
The challenges many businesses are facing
Historically, many B2B GTM models have focused on creating demand primarily using solicited outbound sales outreach to buyers that aren't actively in-market. However, this approach has become less effective over time. We believe this is in large part due to the fact that procuring the tools to launch outbound at scale has become significantly easier and cheaper, so the volume has increased. It's noisy.
That and, the evolved B2B buyer has greater access to conduct research independently, leveraging sources they trust more than vendor representatives. This is particularly true in the early stages of the buying process. They are leveraging things like review sites, peer communities, product documentation and on-demand demos, etc. This makes it more difficult for sellers to align with buyers' needs, leading to longer sales cycles, lower win rates, and higher customer acquisition costs.
Start by analyzing your buyer journey with all key stakeholders
One of the first things you should do is inspect and analyze your customer journey with all key stakeholders (marketing, product, sales, and customer success). A Customer Journey Map is a visualization of your customer’s experience with your brand from awareness to purchase and beyond, from their perspective. Customer Journey Maps include touchpoints, customer sentiments, emotions, motivations, pain points, and actions plotted in sequential order. The goal of creating a Customer Journey Map is to better understand the customer’s perspective and optimize your processes to ensure the best possible experience.
- What are they thinking? What questions do they have?
- What is motivating them to keep going in the sales process? What is blocking them?
- Do they have the tools and assets necessary to sell the change internally?
It sounds simple, but too few companies spend the time necessary to truly identify areas they can improve their messaging, content, and user experience. The more you can accurately predict and preemptively provide the resources your buyers need, the more success you'll have converting deals. We recommend making this an annual practice to revisit and adjust as your product, buyers, and industry evolve.
Refine your targeting and positioning
It's essential to get hyper specific with your targeting by revisiting and refining your ideal customer profile and buyer personas, as well as your unique positioning to those parties. While your product might solve the needs of many different people in different roles, it's highly likely the specific reason that each persona is motivated to buy is slightly different. You want to create positioning for each unique ideal customer and buyer persona combination you sell to that speaks to their unique value received from using your product.
It's also important to note that your positioning may and likely should evolve over time. Your positioning is affected by changes in the market, industry, and your competitors.
Adjust your strategy to align with current buyer behavior
Businesses should adapt their GTM strategy to support this shift in buyer research, education, and decision making.
Leverage buyer intent data and technographics to improve outbound
Leverage buyer intent data and technographics to improve the effectiveness of your outbound outreach. Buyer intent data allows you to identify which organizations are actively shopping for a solution in your category or researching 'alternatives' to your direct competitors. Technographics is information related to a company's technology stack that you can leverage to better target potential customers. For example, if your solution has a native integration with Google but not Microsoft, it would benefit you to only target organizations already using Google.
Increase your focus on driving and converting inbound
Increase your focus on driving inbound through keyword research, content marketing, SEO, and social media. Spend time to understand how you can improve your ranking in search engines and your discovery through content and social. Within your content strategy, focus on developing content that helps your buyer at every stage of the sales process.
Here is some guidance on the best type of content to produce for each stage of your funnel:
Improve your website, your 24-7 salesperson
In this digital age, every medium in your GTM strategy is driving people to your website, your 24-7 salesperson. That's right, every medium. Your prospect gets a cold email....they are going to your website and likely your social accounts before they reply. Your prospect gets referred to you by a peer or business advisor...they are going to your website to check you out before agreeing to that introduction or getting on a call with you. Your prospect finds you through a search engine...they are locating you through keywords on your website and directed to open that page.
Therefore, you cannot underestimate the importance of the overall design and architecture of your site. Your homepage should clearly articulate what you do and who you do it for. It should also include evidence of credibility (client logos or testimonials). Your architecture should clearly direct your visitors or buyers to a specific path like this example from Calendly below.
Invest in customer reviews and case studies
Online customer reviews are one of the top cited references for B2B buyers per Gartner with 41% of buyers confirming that was a key artifact in their decision making process. You can create an account on sites like G2 and Capterra for free and start collecting public reviews from your customers. Bonus, you'll benefit from their investment in SEO by having a profile as well.
It's also important to continuously build case studies to serve as evidence of your impact. Make a goal to capture 1-2 new case studies per quarter. The recency of your case studies and online reviews is important as well. Buyers are going to trust reviews and results from the last 6-12 months much more than those that are 12+ months old and may not be an accurate reflection of your current state anymore.
Focus on building trust
To win over the new independent buyer, businesses should focus on establishing trust through personalized communication. Providing valuable educational content that addresses pain points and challenges faced by the buyer can go a long way in building their trust. Customizing content to meet the needs of different buyer personas also plays a critical role in this process. By doing so, buyers feel heard and their unique challenges are addressed, which increases the chances of closing a deal.
Don't sell features, sell solutions
Another important way to adapt to the new B2B buying behavior is by shifting focus from products to solutions. Modern buyers want more than just a product – they are looking for a solution that solves their problems. Businesses should move away from the traditional product-focused marketing strategies and aim to position themselves as solution providers and partners. By adopting this mindset, businesses can differentiate themselves from competitors who solely focus on product or feature offerings.
Measure and iterate
Finally, utilizing technology and objective metrics is the key to understanding the buying behavior of modern B2B buyers. This includes tracking buying patterns and preferences, such as the time of day they most commonly interact with your content or where in your sales process you are losing the most deals. Are you seeing more drop off after the demo or the proposal? Do we think that is because of a personnel problem, a product problem, or a pricing problem? By analyzing this buyer data, businesses can deduce where buyers may be struggling and tailor their strategy and product accordingly.
In conclusion, the shift towards independent B2B buying behavior requires businesses to adapt their GTM strategies to stay competitive. Data, analysis, personalization, trust-building, and solution-focused marketing are key to engaging the new independent buyer. Understanding the buying behavior of modern buyers through the use of technology and metrics is crucial to creating a successful customer journey. By embracing this change, businesses can maintain their competitive edge and increase their chances of success in today's marketplace.