Marketers today are dealing with a much different B2B customer than in the past, thanks to new technology, digital natives and changing expectations.
As Harvard Business Review reports, 73 percent of 20- to 35-year-olds are involved in making purchasing decisions at their companies, according to a study of Millennial buyers by Merit. In fact, one-third say that in their department, they are the sole decision maker.
This new generation of B2B customers are digital natives, which means marketers must have a strong online presence to connect with them and influence their purchasing decisions.
“Eighty percent of all web traffic begins with a search engine and that if your target audience can’t find you on Google, you may as well not have a website,” noted Kaysha Hanock and JoAnna Dettmann in an article for Chief Marketer.
Once they find you, B2B customers have high expectations of customer experience.
“By addressing the B2B buyer’s unique needs while including some elements of B2C like emotional engagement, a B2B company can create an experience that customers will love,” Blake Morgan wrote on Forbes.com.
One way to address those needs is to avoid the hard sell. It’s well known that B2B customers want to begin their research process online, rather than engaging a sales rep at the start.
“There’s nothing more annoying than a salesperson who doesn’t listen,” says Blake. “According to Forrester, 59 percent of B2B buyers prefer to do research online instead of interacting with a sales rep because they feel reps push their own sales agendas instead of actually listening to the buyer and finding a solution that solves their unique problem.”
How can B2B marketer and sales reps do better? Work to instill confidence in the buyer that they are making the right decisions for their brand.
“Be more proactive,” says Blake. “Instead of simply pushing a one-size-fits-all sales agenda, work to fill an advisory role so buyers know they can trust your company to meet their functional and emotional needs.”
Of course, to do a good job of this, marketers need to get to know their customers well, looking at demographics as well as firmographics. As Sanjay Castelino of Spiceworks wrote in a recent Chief Marketer article, in B2B, marketers often define customer segments and personas based on firmographics, but the personas within those segments need to include demographic data as well.
“We have to get to know our customers as people by understanding their roles and helping them accomplish what they need professionally and personally,” he says. “B2C does a good job of understanding the customer, why they buy, and what they’re getting out of it. In B2B, we typically only talk about business value. We rarely attempt to get to know the person at a level that goes beyond their job. B2B can do a much better job of that.”