The start of a new year always means time for reflection, what have we done well? What haven’t we done well? But more importantly, how can we change?
As millions of us make New Year’s resolutions to join a gym or eat healthily, business executives are thinking about how they can develop relationships with current and potential clients.
In order to do that, you must be ahead of the game and part of that is noticing how your customers are behaving.
Persuading someone to work with you is all about having a positive influence on them, so here we’ll take a look at how the B2B Buying Cycle is changing and how to put your business on the lips of company decision makers.
5 to 10 years ago, B2B Buying Behaviour was different. You need something, you call a few companies, get the best quote and restock as you see fit.
The buying process is evolving and we are starting to see a new trend. A trend where company owners and executives want more creative control over what they buy, and more importantly, who they are working with.
B2B buyers are more demanding, they are buying something that has to have a considerable ROI, and are usually looking for a long-term relationship, as moving from company-to-company isn't time or cost effective.
This model of buying is complex, as many different employees can meet your sales and marketing teams at various stages of the B2B Buying Cycle. If done correctly, it can be very rewarding.
It is estimated that around 50% of B2B buyer purchases were made digitally in 2015.
What Are My Customers' Buying Habits?
Wouldn’t it be great to be a fly on the wall in an office meeting? You hear every little detail about where your customer is struggling, where they are thriving and why they don’t like certain suppliers.
B2B Buyer Behaviour is becoming more consumer-like, and why not. If individual consumers can sift through hundreds of different products until they find the right one, why can't business people?
It is estimated that around 50% of B2B buyer purchases were made digitally in 2015. Buyers are adapting to the web and so should you. Online web chats and calculators offer quick solutions to problems and can speed up the buyer's journey if done properly and consistently.
Businesses are also more social now, with most having access to various social media accounts where they publish information that is relevant to their industry. They will see online advertising for products that are relevant to them and will almost certainly conduct some brand research on potential companies. So present yourself well.
They will also take recommendations from reviewers and influencers, although they will calculate whether the information is truthful and relevant more than the individual consumer.
Changing B2B Buyer Behaviour means businesses are now more scrupulous. They research and cherry pick certain companies, and whether they want to get quick answers on the phone or submit an official RFP (Request for Proposal). Not understanding their needs could put them off.
This is why it is imperative to know who is buying from you and how to target them at each section of the sales process.
Try to notice the buyer's problems before they do.
How Do I Become Aware of My Customer’s Problems?
That is a question that reverberates around business meeting rooms all over the world, what do our buyers want? Now there’s never going to be a concrete answer to that.
You can pick up certain pieces of information on an assumption, for example, if you sell tools then a large proportion of your customers would be tradesmen.
In order to get more detail, it's important to get a little more context and ask yourself more probing questions. When visualising your target market, what do you think their B2B Buying Behaviours are?
Are you informed of industry trends? For instance, a Polish supermarket owner may be worried about how the EU exit will affect their tax rates. Try to notice the buyer's problems before they do.
It's useful to note what the pitfalls are if they ignore the issue. If tax rates were to increase then the shop could incur penalties for not paying the increased rate.
It’s also important to address any misconceptions a buyer may have about a service. A company may hold the perception that accountants are expensive and unnecessary.
Offering help and useful resources help to change that perception.
Your buyer will also have an idea of when they plan to prioritise the issue. This may be immediate or it could be a long-term solution. This is why it is important to ensure you are providing the correct information for your clients at the right time.
How is B2B Buyer Research Changing?
Once a company is aware they need a product or service they will start to research it, and you want to be in the draw, don’t you?
For example, a start-up hospitality business is getting ready for launch and they need to hire some staff members.
However, the company do not have the time, resources or knowledge to go out and recruit them. At a business meeting, it is decided they will hire a recruitment agency to do this for them.
What’s their first port of call? Are they going to ring the first agency that appears in a search engine? Highly unlikely. So they will move into the consideration stage of the B2B Buying Cycle. Naturally, when you need something you want answers to certain questions.
- How many staff members do I need to take on for a start-up business?
- How do I hire a chef to create a menu for me?
- What are the biggest strengths of a hospitality team?
These questions will probably be typed into a search engine, and whoever provides the most accessible and helpful answer is laying the foundations for a customer relationship.
At this point, the researcher is really starting to think about what business they would like to work with and being able to provide them with the correct information is essential to capturing their attention.
Your SEO practices need to be high-quality so you appear in the first 3 organic search engine results. Once you’re there, you’re in a knockout with your competitors.
Familiarising yourself with this style of B2B Buyer Behaviour will put you ahead of the competition, and if you work effectively with the sales team you will be able to generate answers to various questions.
If used correctly content can be extremely effective; without it, you have no message to deliver.
How Do You Provide the Answers?
It’s one thing knowing the questions your customers ask, but having the answers is where the education process begins.
Generally, most companies will have some sort of buying process and are more likely to conduct extensive research than panic buy. Purchasing the wrong product could cost a lot of money and land someone in hot water!
This is where you apply your in-depth industry knowledge by planning and creating remarkable content that informs and engages your target audience.
Rather than pitching about why your company is amazing, you're building trust with the buyer by giving them honest information.
It's also worth giving the buyer the pros and cons of the service or product they are seeking. This does not mean you are doing your product a disservice. It means you have considered what the benefits and pitfalls of a service or product are and shows honesty and maturity.
If used correctly content can be extremely effective; without it, you have no message to deliver. Due to research development trends, it is even more important to make your content visible in search engines, around 32.5% of traffic is generated through the first organic result.
Great ways of initial contact are educational blogs, if people like your articles they may submit their contact details in exchange for resources like e-books and webinars. They’ll then develop into leads and potential customers.
Key Point: Remember, becoming a company’s resource and thought leader in your industry attracts companies that want to work with you.
Intrigued? Take a look at our 8 recommendations for driving B2B Growth.
B2B buyers do not want to hear a cold sales pitch and do not want to be seen as a statistic for the boardroom.
How Are B2B Customers Buying?
This is the most exciting part of the journey! The decision stage is where leads are converted into customers, after gently nurturing them through the sales process.
This is not a vintage hard sales push. Again, remember that B2B buyers do not want to hear a cold sales pitch and do not want to be seen as a statistic for the boardroom.
Get into the mind of the customer and analyse their behaviour and you will gain insight into how they are buying. They will have some sort of method of analysing each offer and deciding which one to take. This could be inclusive of things like price, delivery speed, customer service and just the general feel of the company.
It is also worth considering what the company may and may not like about offers. Every company's offer will have pro's and con's and the decision-making process will revolve around those points.
Using Google Analytics and data marketing will help to track which pages they visit and what offers they have an interest in.
As discussed earlier, there will probably be more than one deliberator or decision maker and whether you have managed to impress them all will be a key factor in their decision.
B2B Buyer Behaviour is constantly evolving and many like the idea of a product trial, or if the product or service is complex, some sort of training plan. Some companies will offer that as a prerequisite anyway and it’s a great incentive to get people to try products and improve them if there are any snags.
How To Convert Your Leads into Sales
This is the stage of the B2B Buyer Cycle where detail matters the most. The buyer is going over your offer with a fine tooth comb and your content needs to reflect your attention to detail.
More customer focused pieces of content could include testimonials and case studies. And more technical pieces of content could be pricing strategies or benchmark reports.
This is where you really get to impress your potential buyer and this part should be more focused on your product or service.
Your customer has been researching you, so do the same! Look at their behaviour on social profiles and reviews on the web. Get the technical details like company revenue, employee numbers and what they sell.
Take a genuine interest in the client and you'll build a natural rapport, look at their company news and try to use the terms they use.
Ultimately, what you need to remember is that you aren’t a pusher, you’re an educator and you need to remember that both companies need to fit before you sell anything.
Always ensure you are in the know before you make contact.
Delight and Repeat!
Before the internet, it was a little harder to track how well your service was received unless it was through direct feedback or word of mouth.
The web changed all that and peer-to-peer sites, product reviewers and review sites make it a lot easier for people to see how your business is rated.
B2B Business Buying has developed and is now it is necessary for businesses to keep on giving after an initial sale. Especially if you want to be part of future buying decisions.
This could be something as simple as providing easy instructions or giving the client exclusive access to one of your services.
If you follow these inbound marketing and content tactics then you will develop into an industry leader. Your knowledge will improve and you will acquire more business as you don’t just take, you reciprocate with all your clients.
Pro tip: All successful marketing starts with buyer personas