Meet today's B2B buyer
More informed, self-reliant, always connected, and a pro at avoiding the #B2BS
It’s time to retire the old vision of B2B buyers as executives clustered at the top of the enterprise.
While the C-suite often has final sign-off, Google research found that executive influence on buying decisions has waned in recent years. Buyers today are often younger, connected, and more informed. More than ever, buyers are the ultimate end-users and are equipped to make their own business purchases.
According to Pew Research, digital-native Millennials are the largest generation in the U.S. workforce. With their swelling ranks comes considerable sway in buying decisions. According to marketing consultancy Merit, a whopping 73% of Millennial workers are involved in decisions to purchase products or services for their companies, and one-third are sole decision-makers. TrustRadius reported as recently as 2018 that 45% of B2B technology buyers were 25- to 34-year-olds, the largest purchasing demo, followed closely by 35- to 44-year-olds.
Buyers are leading their own searches
Today's B2B buyers are identifying and diagnosing their own problems, exploring and prescribing their own solutions, building requirements and product shortlists to match — all on their own terms, digitally, before ever speaking to sales.
Close to 70% of the buyer’s journey is completed before a prospect ever reaches out to sales.
According to Merit, a quarter of millennial buyers — whose habits tend to lead those of their more senior coworkers — begin business buying decisions in search. 20% start with vendor websites, and 17% look to peer reviews. Just 12% cite salespeople as their starting point. Fewer still cite social media, industry publications, and trade shows.
Marketers need to re-align by serving up valuable content on buyers’ preferred channels that accelerates, enables, and supports their needs, from thought leadership to product info.
Buyers are skeptics
Vendors face an uphill battle in winning buyer confidence even before they enter onto a buyer’s radar. Buyers these days default to distrust and seek during their research to find validation from a number of sources — including the vendor itself — that products or services are worth buying.
According to Salesforce’s 2019 Connected Customer Report, 54% of survey respondents said it’s harder for companies to earn their trust than ever before, and 73% said that companies’ trustworthiness matters more than it did a year ago. But research from Trust Radius suggests that businesses aren’t getting it: 87% of vendors believe they are transparent about their products’ limitations, but only 37% of buyers agree.
Sellers need to meet mistrust head-on with transparent sales and marketing collateral that draws the curtain on the post-sale experience, explains their product in detail, and allows potential customers to easily compare the offering with the competition.
of vendors believe they are transparent about their products’ limitations.
Buyers have higher expectations
Buyers are inundated with content day-in and day-out, but much of it is ignored. For example, Forrester Consulting’s Q1 2018 Global Marketing Content Credibility Study found that nearly 60% of respondents found vendor materials useless and went elsewhere for their information as a result. One solution? Provide better materials that meet surging buyer expectations.
Each time buyers are impressed by a piece of content, the bar is permanently and irrevocably raised. According to Salesforce, 73% of customers say extraordinary experiences raise their expectations of other companies. These days, businesses are not just competing with the experience their competitors provide—they’re up against media giants Spotify, Amazon, and Netflix. Businesses can adapt by thinking more like publishers: investing in high-quality content, offering up bespoke recommendations, and entertaining viewers.
Buyers also expect brands to understand their needs more than ever before. According to a recent survey by DemandBase, an account-based marketing technology provider, 97% of buyers said that it was important that vendor websites have relevant content speaking directly to their company's needs. Just as Netflix predicts what you’ll want to watch next, businesses should try to anticipate buyers’ needs as they browse.
of B2B buyers now expect the same buying experience as B2C customers.
Vendors have fewer — and shorter — windows to grab buyers’ attention
You are not likely to reach a modern buyer with outbound. But you have a shot with grabby, media-rich content.
Other studies have found that people dislike phone calls and prefer short bursts of visual information. That should come as no surprise considering the modern Millennial’s attention span ranges from eight to 12 seconds. Takeaway: Marketers should get right to the point and seek to create content that gives prospects a reason to pay attention.
Once you have a buyer’s attention, do everything you can to hold onto it. Just like news sites that recommend the next read, or like Netflix prodding viewers to their next show, your content should collect insights that help you lead engaged viewers toward another asset they might be interested in. Doing so can build trust and nudge prospects delicately toward purchase.