The Changing Reality of B2B Buying

The modern buyer is self-educated and self-directed, with high-expectations. Brands that understand the needs of who they’re talking to will earn trust and gain the reward.

The following article is an excerpt from our inaugural issue of The Empowered Buyer™ Magazine.

Click Here to read the full article, ‘How B2B Brands Can Reach Today’s Empowered Buyer™’.

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In the digital age, it’s become simultaneously easier and vastly more difficult to reach any given target audience. Of a certain generation, we remember the billboards, yellow pages, and ‘Mad Men’ before the colliding comet — the internet — extinguished all our most reliable assumptions.

But perhaps ‘The Internet’ wasn’t the cosmic event that blew up marketing as we knew it. Perhaps what changed everything wasn’t the tool itself, but what sprung from its blast radius — the Empowered Buyer™. 

Today’s buyer is self-reliant. They’ll go around you as they go around all brands. They don’t need you, and they’ll dodge your pitch. They’re unconvinced by a monologue, no matter how eloquent. They’ll seek out their own verification, and will either self qualify or disqualify you entirely on their own. Which may leave us — the Marketers — with a one-word response. Yikes. 

The reality of the modern buyer dictates all buying and selling in the internet age. 

In 2015, the Content Marketing Institute polled over 5,000 B2B Marketers and found that while the wide majority (86%) use content, just 38% find their content to be even marginally effective, and only 8% find it to be very effective. Could it be that in translating our broadcast from print, advertising, and traditional media to the internet, we forgot to change not only the channel but the message and its value?

Most Marketing executives of today acquired their first email accounts in their early 20s or 30s. We may do research and order online, but have we really internalized how different life has been for Millennials and Generation Z? We like to think we get it, but if that’s the case, why do so many of us still plan and design our marketing as if the internet were simply another channel upon which to replicate a billboard?

How can we better reach today’s informed buyer?

Brands that understand the parameters and needs of who they’re talking to—think Casper mattresses, Amazon, or Dollar Shave Club—connect in entirely new ways, upending established, traditional gorillas we once presumed were unshakable. This is what those brands know, and what they capitalize on:

  1. For digital natives who grew up with the internet, ‘online’ is not an extra novelty, but the first place they go to fulfill their needs — from big and small consumer goods to friends, relationships, and entertainment. They didn’t grow up with the local mall as the community hub. They don’t even go to stores.
  2. These days, our friends and social feeds are the primary influencers of what we’ll buy (and about almost everything else, too).
  3. Online purchasing, warehouse access, and find-it-yourself big box stores have made experienced Salespeople completely foreign to digital natives. The moment an informed buyer feels led through a purchase — even with the best of intentions — an alarm bell goes off.
  4. Modern buyers don’t consciously bypass traditional shopping or advertising. To them, ‘we’ — traditional brands showing up in traditional ways — are dinosaurs. We are extinct, and completely outside their frame of view. They don’t see us at all.

In The Anonymous Buyer Journey, Steve Piper of the CyberEdge Group describes — even warns — that the modern buyer is self-educated and self-directed, with high expectations and a consultative nature. “Buyers do not want to be told what they already know,” he writes. “They desire meaningful insights and intelligent conversation that covers what matters most to them: the measurable impacts to their business.”

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Creating brand loyalty in the digital age

Twenty years ago, ‘marketing communications’ used to be announcements, event invites, and product datasheets. Content was dropped on the table not to earn a deal, but to help reps tick off feature boxes long after a lead had been qualified. Now, the modern buyer is quick to aggravate and move on if you’re not relevant, or only talking about yourself. Thoughtful, non sales-oriented content is the most critical marketing deliverable at the top of the funnel.

In 2010, the average buyer checked five sources before making a purchase. By 2013, that number had grown to 12, and continues to increase. Our definition of ‘source’ has likely changed, as well, with fewer trusted insights coming from brands and the media than from our social circles. With all the technology we have, what earns our attention, our trust, and our purchasing dollars is connection. We simply use that technology to find it for ourselves.

As counter-intuitive as it may seem, the best way to sell is not to sell, but to enable. With informed buyers at the helm, brands who offer genuine help get the reward.

‘How B2B Brands Can Reach Today’s Empowered Buyer™’

Click Here to read the full article

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