Google, Amazon and Facebook have changed buyer expectations across the globe—not just in the B2C world, but in the B2B world as well. Nowadays, when a buyer interacts with a company, they expect that company to know something about them and help them find and buy the right solution to their problem.
The classic example is Amazon’s “customers who bought this item also bought” section and how Amazon makes additional purchase recommendations to you based on your prior behavior.
Google does something similar by monitoring your past search behaviors and what they know about you from this behavior. When you conduct a search on a phrase—say, “fun things to do in San Francisco”—you get a highly customized set of results that will be completely different from the results another person gets. Google customizes the results based on everything they know about you…and they know a lot.
Facebook, on the other hand, is a mastermind at showing you ads based on the customer profile they’ve created for you from your Facebook page and interactions. This includes who you are, where you are, what you’ve done, who you know, what you’re liking, what you’re sharing, and so on. Everything you see from them is customized just for you.
B2B BUYERS WANT PERSONALIZATION TOO
Google, Amazon and Facebook have without a doubt changed people’s expectations about what they see online. Most buyers don’t think about this customization anymore—they just expect it to happen every time they browse these sites.
And the same goes for B2B buyers. They expect a vendor to know quite a bit about them at the very beginning of the conversation. Not only do they expect it, they react positively when it happens. According to the marketing publication The Drum, “nine out of 10 B2B and consumer audiences surveyed agree that brand experiences that deliver stronger personal interactions are more compelling.”
B2B BUYERS ARE YOUNGER
According to Google, the growth in B2B buyers found in the 18 – 34 year old demographic grew 70% from 2012 to 2014. While we don’t have more recent data, the trend is clear. The B2B buyer is only getting younger, and this younger buyer is much more digitally savvy, is extremely comfortable with how Google, Amazon and Facebook operate, and spends a lot more of their time on their mobile device.
We’ve known for some time that 60% or more of the buying process is complete by the time a buyer actively engages with a vendor. What’s changing is the amount of research being done before that first contact. Younger buyers go to Google more. Buyers are becoming a lot more educated before they reach out to a vendor. According to Google, a B2B buyer will engage in 12 searches prior to engaging with the brand.
Not only have searches increased, but so have the number of influencers in an enterprise sale. According to CEB, the number or people involved in B2B purchases has increased from an average of 5.4 in 2015 to 6.8 today, and most of those people are younger than ever before. Because the B2B buyer has changed, marketing has to rapidly adapt to these changes.
SIMPLE STEPS TOWARDS PERSONALIZATION
Using fairly simple technologies that collect data for us, we can know a great deal about the buyer such as: where they work, where they are (geographically), as well as something about what they’ve already done on the Internet. And that’s all while they are still anonymous.
Armed with this information, marketing should present the buyer with highly targeted, relevant content. If a buyer has read a blog post on your security solution, then you should feature that security solution when the buyer visits your home page. After they visit your website, you should be retargeting ads to them to keep your solution and other educational content top of mind as they navigate through other websites. You can even point them to a relevant event in their city because you know where they live. All these activities will help move your potential buyer forward in the sales cycle.
THE RISE OF ACCOUNT-BASED MARKETING
While the individual buyer needs to have their experience personalized, think of the company you are selling to as a buyer that also needs its experience personalized. That’s what account based marketing is all about. If, as a marketer, you are aligned with your sales organization, you can market very specifically to all influencers working for a particular company.
For example, you can alert a sales rep when a web visitor comes in from their target account, tell them who the visitor is and what they’ve done, and then log all of this information in the CRM.
Conversely, it means having the sales rep add key information (especially contact info) into the CRM so marketing can provide account-specific info back to the influencers within your target accounts. It can also mean alerting sales when a key event has occurred at a target account (e.g. an acquisition, layoffs, or product launch) and, teaching the sales team how to connect with their key influencers via social media.
ADJUSTING TO YOUNGER BUYERS
Millennials are a mobile generation. You can do no wrong with a mobile-first approach. If you get it right in mobile, you can make it the same or better via desktop. Even if people don’t do most of their research on mobile, you can be sure they’ll do some of it. You have to be ready when they do.
In addition to a mobile focus, you need to be where your younger buyers are. This includes social, SEO, SEM, content promotion, webinars, retargeting, marketing automation, YouTube, influencer marketing and an outstanding website.
One of the advantages of investing in digital marketing to reach younger buyers is you will have empirical evidence as to what is performing well and what is not. Even more importantly, you can test, and test, and test to continually improve. And you can do it more cheaply and more quickly than non-digital marketing.
WINNING THE SEARCH GAME
Because more and more buying is being done via search, you must win the search game. Google Search is a self-perpetuating cycle of goodness for both Google and buyers, but not so much for vendors. For vendors, the game is getting harder and more expensive.
The winners of SEO are the ones with the best content. And to win at SEO, Google requires great content. But not only that – buyers are also now demanding great content so they can find the content that’s most relevant to them much more easily.
As a marketer, you’re not just fighting the SEO war, you’re also fighting the war of producing the best content for your buyers. That creates an opportunity for marketers who can create excellent content. It’s a huge challenge for those marketing organizations not willing to make that investment in high-quality content.
Marketers need to think early and often about the commitment they will make toward content development and promotion. It’s not enough to create great content and hope Google will find it.
Your content becomes invaluable when you can get it front of buyers through email, advertising, syndication, social, and on your website. Doing content marketing well requires a serious commitment that not many marketers fully understand, although many are playing catch-up now.
If you are marketing to B2B buyers, recognize the significant changes these buyers are going through as individuals. While you may be trying to get a company to cut you a P.O., it’s people who ultimately buy from you. Think like Google, Amazon and Facebook when you market to your B2B buyers and you’ll make it easy for them to buy from you.