How does the B2B marketer today understand, engage, communicate with and sell to the so-called “super-savvy buyer”?
Joel Harrison, B2B Marketing’s editor-in-chief has described this breed of B2B buyer as “increasingly self-driven” and demanding a “conversation on their terms”. This commercial animal is, he added, “harder for brands to get under the skin of”.
Today’s more discerning buyers, according to data consultant, Tony Lamb, have “reasonably high expectations” of the content they’re exposed to and what engagement/value it can add to their buying process; in other words, “what can you do to help me rather than just sales messages” and demonstrate “an understanding of my needs”?
Content needs to be compelling
B2B marketing consultant and complex sale marketing leader, Maureen Blandford, sees content as “one of the great friction points” between marketing and sales: the former wanting to be more educational with the buyer, the latter more direct. Notwithstanding the different opinions, she’s adamant that informational content needs to be compelling and focus on the outcomes for the buyer.
There is also, Blandford said, a spectrum of behaviour for the super-savvy B2B buyer when investigating potential purchases: for example, a relatively simple product, such as a photocopier, probably involves online research before making a buying decision. However, more complex choices – such as a data warehouse – still requires interaction with salespeople. Blandford is unconvinced that the more expensive/complex B2B products will move into e-commerce territory just yet.
And buyers self-educating is a journey of various stages, Cheri Keith – head of strategy at ON24 – commented. The problem is where companies to “fail to evaluate where the product falls within client need”. Equally, it’s not possible to “just saunter into the room” to sell with the “same messaging” as 10 years ago.
She also sees the ongoing value of human-to-human contact for more complex B2B sales, though the buyer might want a more diverse set of views from the vendor, including the technical team.
The message versus martech and metrics
How much value have marketing technology and metrics added to the process for B2B marketers?
“I think we’ve lost focus on the message,” Blandford said. She suggested we do an audit of the messaging across the multitude of sales emails in our inboxes and prepare to be “mortified”.
“We have neglected meaningful words for the humans we’re interacting with,” and being fixated on numbers such as conversion rates was immaterial if the message itself was effective, she added.
The traditional, automated approach of “batch and blast” has to be replaced by better engagement, according to Keith. Empathetic messaging – which doesn’t mean that adding someone’s name qualifies as “personalisation” – will help engagement and earn trust for marketers. Also, Keith added, not all metrics are created equally: “Most people are good at tracking the counts of actions but should focus more on impact metrics – behaviour, registering, showing up, taking a piece of content and reading it.”
Putting the human factor into B2B
Distilling the problem down to simple terms, Tony Lamb said: “A lot of B2B organisations forget they’re selling to people. It needs a glimmer of personal interaction that sets you aside from someone else to get the sale.” The principles of account-based marketing (ABM) apply here, Lamb thinks, by understanding buyers’ needs and adding to the conversation as opposed to “trying to flog something”.
Indeed, Blandford pointed out, the ability to interact with B2B buyers in a human way should be something marketers develop and which would give them a method that’s transferable to any industry they work in.
“The way tech companies need to sell to VCs to get funding is hugely different to selling to the market,” she observed, adding that the “word vomit” sloshing around the tech ecosystem does a “big disservice to B2B”.
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