Today, B2B buyers are not the buyers of years past. Kiss your stereotypes good-bye! Today’s buyers aren’t conducting research in a simple, linear path the way they used to. Instead, they are zigging and zagging through a more complex, detailed and multi-platform journey, filled with exponentially greater volumes of information than consumed in the old model.
The Omni-channel B2B Buyer
B2B buyers today are discovering, researching and evaluating products and services in much greater depth and breadth than ever before. They are researching on their smartphones while standing in line at the coffee shop; they are reading blogs and review sites on their tablets; they are receiving direct mail pieces at the office; they are learning about new innovations at conferences; and they are reading emails everywhere. (And we mean literally, everywhere!)
These are the buyers of today. They are Omni-channel. It is critical for your brand to be a resource to these buyers through the full purchase path. Not only provide valuable information, but also make each interaction throughout the funnel a positive experience.
Mountains & Mountains of Information
Years ago, many B2B marketers were reluctant to even consider content marketing for their businesses. Silly people!
Today, it’s more than obvious that B2B buyers are consuming vast amounts of content in every stage of the B2B purchase funnel regardless of industry. According to The Corporate Executive Board (CEB), 57% of the B2B customer journey is complete before a prospective customer even reaches out to a vendor.
Furthermore, competition for your buyer’s attention is heating up, giving your B2B buyer more options. Eighty-eight percent (88%) of B2B marketers now conduct content marketing (Source: B2B Content Marketing – 2016 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends – North America by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs), while 76% say they will increase the volume of their content marketing in the coming year. The study reveals that although on average B2B marketers are allocating 28% of their budget to content, the most effective B2B marketers are allocating a whopping 42% in comparison. If you’re not already out there throwing content marketing punches, you risk being knocked out in the early rounds of the fight.
The New Role of Millennials in B2B Purchasing
A recent study conducted by Google and Millward Brown Digital will squash any preconceived notions you have about the B2B buyer. In just two years there has been a dramatic shift.
It is no longer only the older executive making decisions. Millennials are starting to gain a seat at the table, increasing their influence in the decision making process. According to the Pew Research Center, Millennials are currently the largest generation in the US workforce, accounting for more than one-in-three American workers! Their influence in the process will only increase in the coming years.
According to Google and Millward Brown Digital, Millennials are the ones conducting the majority of the B2B research, accounting for 46% of it! Those aged 35-44 conduct 22% and those aged 45-54 conduct only 19%.
Millennials are different than the generations that preceded them. They entered the workforce when the Internet was second nature. They had mobile phones in high school and were amongst the first to use social media.
Millenials may not yet hold C-suite or senior management positions, but they have some serious pull. While senior level employees may have final sign off, they rely on their team to conduct research and help make decisions. Eighty-one percent (81%) of non-C-suite employees have influence on the final purchase, and 24% of them have the final authority to make the purchase.
An Explosion of Smartphone Usage
And don’t think for a minute they are researching the way they used to. Forty-nine percent (49%) of B2B researchers are conducting research on their smartphones when they are at work. At work! That likely means there is a desktop screen somewhere readily available, yet they choose to use their smartphones instead. They are comparing prices, contacting companies, watching video AND making purchases. Purchase rates on mobile devices have increased 22% in just two years.
And the intense use of smartphones is across all ages of B2B buyers. According to Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report, individuals reach for their smartphones 150 times a day. Within this activity, business owners use their smartphones 21 times a day specifically to conduct business—meaning they are doing so more than 2 ½ times every 30 minutes (Source: PaySimple).
An Explosion of Video Usage
One of the most significant changes might be the rise in online video’s importance to the B2B buyer. According to YouTube data, 895,000 hours of B2B videos were watched in 2014.
It doesn’t stop there. These buyers are watching long form videos, with almost half of these videos 30 minutes or more, and 20% an hour. Holy cow!
And your competitors are taking note. According to a Demand Metric study sponsored by Vidyard, 82% of B2B marketers report experiencing success with their video marketing initiatives, and 63% are consequently increasing their video marketing spend. Bottom line? Expect more video!
Effectively Engaging the New B2B Buyer
These statistics illustrate that the path to purchase has changed significantly, with a more complex research and evaluation process, with a rising influence of Millenniels, and with a greater emphasis on smartphones and video. Today’s buyers are empowered. They have the means to discover and learn a great deal about products/services before purchase, and they are taking full advantage.
In order to grow, heck, to just maintain your business, you should aim to capitalize on every interaction a prospective customer may have with your brand across every touchpoint in the funnel. You should empower your prospects with the information they want across platforms and content formats, guide them through the decision process, and remain a resource to them through the final sign-off.
It’s a new B2B buyer, requiring you to market to them and engage with them in new ways. Are you ready?
Photo Credit: Roberto Tumini