According to a Google / Millward Brown survey, close to half of all B2B product researchers are now digital natives, and that number is increasing each year.
This shouldn’t come as a complete surprise. Generations get older and leave the workforce, and younger people join and move up the corporate ladder.
In fact, a Merit survey found that 73% of 20-35 year-olds are involved in a product or service purchase decision at their company, and one third said they are the sole decision-maker for their department.
What this change in age dynamic within B2B buyers means is that the way this generation searches and discovers a potential product or service has changed.
And that means your B2B marketing has to change.
B2B buyers think digital first, and last
Today, when they have a need for a new product or service, most B2B buyers head straight to Google.
Close to three-quarters of buyers start their search with a generic product or service query, rather than your company name.
Where does your brand rank in Google for generic queries? Is it on the first page? On the second? Does it rank at all?
On top of this, young B2B buyers today often turn to social media as a source of information.
LinkedIn recently published research which showed that:
- Over a third of B2B buyers engaged with thought-leadership content every week
- 52% use thought-leadership content to qualify an organisation
- 41% have shortlisted an organisation to RFP as a result of their thought-leadership
- 48% have given business to an organisation on the strength of their thought-leadership
But beware – more than a third of B2B buyers say they’ve removed a business from consideration because of poor quality thought-leadership.
Interestingly, buyers today are not only relying on digital channels during their initial research, they are also using them to validate the information they receive from your organisation. Gartner found that 83% of B2B decision-makers actually do this.
With the majority of B2B buyers using digital channels for research from start to end, your marketing strategy needs to focus on being found, and producing helpful content that will influence purchase across the entire customer journey.
B2B purchase decisions are taking longer
Gone are the days when B2B brands whose actual sales occurs offline can see an instant return from their marketing activity.
Not only is there more competition in the market, but the time it takes for a B2B buyer to make an actual purchase decision is taking longer and longer.
A lot of this is down to the fact there are more people involved in the decision-making process these days.
One of the annoying things many B2B organisations face is that you may not know every person involved in the purchase decision, you don’t know what’s important to them in their own role and the reasons they will use to select or deselect your company – you may not even meet them!
But there’s another element at play that is increasing the time it takes for organisations to make purchase decisions. Despite increased access to information in order to research, qualify, and make a decision, B2B buyers today are feeling overwhelmed by it all.
Gartner has found that 15% of the B2B customer purchase process is actually spent validating claims and seeking out the truth from conflicting information.
Personalisation and contextual content is everything
Faced with more people to influence, across multiple channels, in order to secure a purchase, B2B brands today need to produce more, better, bespoke, personalised content.
In a survey conducted by the Content Marketing Institute, 62% of B2B marketers said producing engaging content is their greatest content marketing challenge, and 70% are focused on creating more engaging content.
Not only do you need to make sure that your product or service is appealing to the main researcher, but also appeals every single individual in the decision-making team. This will mean different content, different content types, different messages, and a lot of research.
This means investing in your marketing team and marketing efforts, rather than sales or business development activity – unfortunately many B2B organisations get this wrong.
The fact is that today’s B2B buyer most likely does not want to meet someone from your commercial team. They want to conduct their own research via online channels, identify a shortlist of potential vendors, and wholly control the process. A sales person getting involved at this juncture will just annoy your potential buyer, and probably do more harm than good.
Your website needs to contain relevant information and personalised content for all the potential B2B buyer decision-maker personas at every stage of their journey, from research and evaluation to reviews and claim substantiation and beyond.
Research has shown that organisations that personalise the digital experience see a 19% increase in their key digital conversions.
In partnership with offline account-based marketing (ABM) efforts, focusing your brand’s digital experience on personalisation is an approach can reap real rewards.
Today’s B2B buyers are overwhelmingly moving away from a salesperson-led purchasing journey, to a journey they fully control from research to evaluation and shortlist; a journey in which personalisation can become the difference between success and failure for the B2B vendor.
How Codehouse can help
The case for investing in the right technology and website platform to deliver the personalisation which B2B buyers need and want is staring B2B brands in the face.
Brands who create personalised experiences achieve revenue increases of between 6-10 percent (Qubit)
When it comes to personalisation, B2B brands need to invest in technology to:
- Collect customer data down to the individual level;
- Gather real-time insights into customer behaviour and interactions as they happen;
- Automate responses based on customer interactions;
- Automatically identify customer segments.
We have years of experience designing and delivering personalised websites and digital experience solutions using the Sitecore Experience Platform, which can do all this and more.
We’ve helped numerous brands around the world deliver personalisation at an individual customer level, integrated various systems to allow organisations to have a 360 degree view of customers and their interactions, and helped set them on the path to ongoing marketing automation and optimisation.
Take a look at our B2B marketing case study with Colt DCS to see how personalisation and Sitecore helped them dramatically increase their sales pipeline.
If you would like to talk to us about how we can help your organisation deliver personalisation and content with context, to deliver better marketing and business results, we'd love to hear from you.