Empathy and the B2B Buyer Journey

Empathy is typically not the first word that comes to mind when thinking about marketing. Yet, when it comes to mapping the B2B buyer journey, marketers may find that taking a walk in their prospects’ shoes can make a critical difference. Recent Gartner research reports that B2B buyers are overwhelmed by the quantity of information they encounter during the purchasing process. Add in the perspectives and opinions of multiple stakeholders, and it’s easy to understand why B2B buying is described as ‘complex’ and ‘difficult’. 

With B2B buyers independently seeking information on multiple platforms en route to making a purchase – and marketers having more influence on the buyer process than ever – it’s important to map your buyers’ journeys to ensure their needs are addressed at the right time with the right content. Mapping the buyer journey empowers marketers to create relevant, timely touch-points during the consideration process that speak to key stakeholders. 

Here are some tips for mapping the B2B buyer journey that help Marketers better understand their customers and, in turn, generate higher quality leads:

Tip #1: Start Where Your Buyers Are

Taking a buyer-centric perspective can get complicated in B2B, where the “buyer” may often be a team of individuals that must make decisions collaboratively. An IT department, for example, might require input from a legal team in order to purchase new software. Identifying key buying centers, and the personae that populate these groups, will give you a clearer view of who needs to be influenced to drive a purchasing decision forward. Speaking directly to your end customers about their purchasing experience can be a valuable source of knowledge here: these conversations can help determine whose input matters during the buying process. The more complex the buying cycle, the more stages there may be. 

Targeting buyer personae also enables marketers to build trust with their prospects long before they make any real contact with sales. Whether it’s tailoring content that speaks to the specific concerns of their job roles, positioning your brand digitally on websites or social media platforms your buyers frequent, or having reps present at an event they are likely to attend, marketers can use early stage mapping to facilitate awareness long before actual brand interaction begins. 

Tip #2: Map the Buyer Journey with Sales

Aligning Marketing with Sales may seem like a well-worn cliche in B2B, but the insights sales teams acquire from their experiences with clients can support the efforts of marketers as they map the buyer journey. With over 50% of the buying journey completed digitally before sales is contacted, marketing teams are now  typically held responsible for an extensive section of what was previously understood as the sales funnel. Companies, in other words, are using other channels to gather information about their purchases without necessarily getting sales reps involved. Despite this relatively recent shift in buyer behaviour, sales teams are often absent from internal conversations where mapping the buyer journey is concerned, resulting in a loss of valuable knowledge that can support marketing efforts. Excluding the sales perspective may also compound the tension that surfaces when sales reps perceive they are being sent low quality leads because their marketing counterparts do not fully understand how their buyers buy. 

Inviting sales to codify the buyer journey alongside marketing empowers both groups to identify pathways that generate higher quality leads. Sales hears authentic, visceral feedback from customers and gets to engage in live conversation with them about their experiences, frustrations, and successes with your brand and the entire purchasing journey. Sales can provide anecdotal observations about patterns in B2B customer behaviour and the considerations they make to obtain approval or allocate funding for a business purchase. With this feedback, marketing can develop a more comprehensive perspective of the buyer that can be used to map the purchasing process more effectively. 

Tip #3: Map the Right Content to the B2B Buyer Journey

Mapping content to the B2B buyer journey is about anticipating what information your prospects need at every step of their path to purchase. Content you are mapping early in your buyer’s journey should facilitate their awareness that business problems exist, or focus specifically on identifying and explaining those problems. In this early stage, the goal of marketing is to understand what captures the attention of buyers and leverage that knowledge to drive engagement and influence buyer decisioning at the right times. 

Having the buyer journey mapped out also helps marketers to determine how they can best nurture prospects “stalled” in a given stage so they can move forward. A buyer seemingly stuck in an early stage, for example, may actually already be aware of a problem and respond better to content that explains solutions or how other companies have solved similar problems. Consistently targeting your personae with information relevant to their stage in the journey will not only facilitate engagement, but build the relationship they have with your brand.

Each channel plays a role in keeping your buyer engaged. Wide-reaching social media, for example, is best aligned to awareness or pre-awareness content that grabs attention and drives traffic. Emails are a better conduit for content aimed at buyers further along in their journey: these buyers have placed a level of trust in your brand by sharing their contact info, and thus merit specific, needs-based content that will continue building that confidence. 

Every touchpoint the buyer makes with your brand should feel like part of a broader conversation they are having about their business problem. Keep in mind that the first attempt at mapping a buyer journey will not likely be the last: the level of engagement your prospects have with your content will help you evaluate success and identify gaps so the right adjustments can be made.

Enhance Marketing through the Buyer Journey

Mapping the buyer journey empowers marketers to enhance the rapidly evolving role they play in driving revenue for their companies. It helps marketers align the purchasing process of their customers with the sales funnel of their business, which ultimately results in generating prospects that are engaged, educated, and eager to connect with Sales. It also helps marketers shift from product-based messaging to a buyer-centred approach that is on point with today’s proactive and well-educated B2B buyer. 

Starting where your buyers are – knowing their problems, requirements, processes, and personae – is essential to helping them navigate major purchasing decisions. Getting your sales team involved in the planning process and strategically leveraging your content across channels will help you design buyer journeys that successfully anticipate what pathways your prospects make the best decision possible – choosing your product.