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5 Ways New Buyer Behaviors Will Affect B2B Marketers in 2012

image from www.flickr.comChanges in buyer behaviors continue to march on as new social technologies take root into the mainstream of B2B businesses.  Uncertainty on how best to understand buyers today as well as engage buyers is on top of the list for many B2B organizations as they look ahead to 2012 and beyond.  During the past two years, we’ve seen new tactical attempts come and go while some are sticking.  With clear determination of changes in buyer behavior remaining elusive, B2B organizations are struggling to find the right mix of buyer strategies and tactics that result in a winning formula.  Looking ahead, more and more B2B organizations will seek to find a formula that works specifically for them.   (Image “Breathe the sames air as your prospects/customers” by Kenny Madden © All rights reserved)

5 Ways B2B Marketers Are Affected

New buyer behaviors means B2B organizations have to rethink many of their existing ways of engaging B2b buyers today.  This is certainly problematic when rethinking often entails looking at such building blocks as strategy, tactics, systems, and infrastructure.  Let’s take a look at new buyer behaviors and how they are affecting B2B Marketers (note – when using the term B2B Marketers, I am referencing both marketing and sales):

Buyers Expanding Their Decision-Making Networks

The advent of social technologies is allowing B2B buyers today to expand not only their social network but their collaborating network.  While we have been conditioned over decades to focus on a single target buyer, or as I have written about often, a target buyer persona, we are beginning to see that this will no longer be adequate for B2B Marketers.  The expansion of these buyer ecosystems and networks is changing who is included in new buyer decision models.  Buyers are less and less representing themselves or behaving as individual buyers but more and more as a buyer network.  B2B Marketers will need to get grounded in figuring out what buyer ecosystems and buyer networks exist for their respective industries.

Buyers Are Seeking Intelligence, Not Content

I’ve covered this recently in several articles.  In qualitative efforts I’ve been involved with recently that included conducting buyer interviews, I can tell you that the overwhelming amount of content that buyers are dealing with is an issue.  Buyers are essentially being forced to be more selective and to “junk” perceived non-relevant content.  I use the word perceive here because it is very much like Malcom Gladwell’s theory of Blink.  They are making the perception of non-relevance in a blink of an eye.  B2B Marketers then must focus on standing out and offering intelligence that buyers seek and not mere push messaging content.

Buyers Want Humanized Buyer Experiences

Let’s face it, many B2B buying experiences still feel, look, and are acted out in very transactional ways.  Buyers today are basically saying: why should I settle for less!  I still stand solidly behind Paul Greenburg’s mantra that “buyers want to be a subject of an experience, and not an object of a sale.”  B2B Marketers will need to focus on how to make humanized buyer experiences happen.  The margin of difference between products and services is narrow so the playing field of experience is gaining in prominence.

Risks Continues to Play Big Role in Buyer Decisions

Risk aversion and risk avoidance continue to affect B2B buying decisions.  The uncertainty created by a tumultuous global economy and uncertainty about the future means B2B buyers give extra attention to driving down costs and putting more pressure on reducing price whenever they can.  The affects of buyer perceived risks is enormous.  It is resulting in more problem solving research, longer sales cycles, and the expansion of buyer networks in decision-making as mentioned above.  B2B Marketers then must not only determine what these perceived risks are, but address them early on in buying cycles and buyer decision models.

Buyers Adopting New Self-Enabling Technologies

If we think back ten to fifteen years ago, it was very common to think that mid-level managers to senior executives probably would privately break down and cry if the administrative assistant called in sick.  Fast forward today, new technologies have caused a major mind shift.  B2B buyers from mid-level managers to senior executives are efficient at using newer technologies to be self-enabling.  Meaning they want more self-enabling technologies and services from B2B Marketers.  With 60% to 70% of purchase decisions being made before there is direct sales involvement, this is the new frontier in B2B Marketing and Sales.  B2B Marketers then will need a mind shift themselves.  In the past three years, we’ve seen a considerable increase in marketing technology investing with some producing measurable success while some are questionable at best.  The shift needs to be towards investing in buyer enabling technologies.  Meaning B2B Marketers will have to think more about how they can create self-enabling buying experiences that buyers customize on their own.  Experiences that don’t necessarily follow what we think are normal buying processes or stages.

Investing In The Two Sides of Buyer Insight 2.0

Enriching insights on existing customers and prospective buyers is rising to the top of the agenda for C-Suites in B2B organizations.  The above mentioned buyer behaviors and their impact on B2B Marketers mean that making assumptions about existing customers and potential buyers is risky business.  While investments in BIG data surged in the past two years, investing in BIG insights will gain more attention as B2B Marketers continue to struggle making sense out of data and analytics.  In 2012, B2B Marketers will begin to incorporate the two sides of buyer research and analysis into Buyer Insight 2.0 – data and context.  There is a symbiotic relationship between the two and B2B Marketers will discover in 2012 that to understand buyer decision-making behaviors – data or analytics cannot exist without context and that context cannot exist without data or analytics.

Without question, there is a lot to think about in 2012.  One thing B2B Marketers can think about consistently is that new buyer behaviors will affect them and it will not be the other way around.  Those days are long gone indeed.

 

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Buyerology Trend: Humanize the Buyer Experience

image from www.flickr.comThis is the final article looking at buyer trends that will influence marketing and sales in the near and foreseeable future. Let’s recap the significant buyer trends noted so far in this series:

This final article looks at how buyers desire above all else – a rewarding buyer experience and how businesses today and in the future will need to focus on enhancing as well as humanizing the buyer experience.  (Image “people not numbers” by Kenny Madden © All rights reserved)

Buyer Trend: Buyers desire rewarding human experiences

The concept of Experience in business has undergone a roller coaster ride during the past ten to fifteen years since it was first introduced.  Both the terms customer experience and buyer experience taking on different meanings in this time period.  For buyers in general, there has been a slow but progressing convergence of desiring B2C like experiences in B2B market worlds.  Without question, the rise of the Internet and Social Technologies has shaped and reshaped our concept of Experience in general.  I believe we are at a pivotal moment in business history with respect to buyer behavior and experience.

This pivotal moment is centered on the idea that buyers desire human experiences in the business world and see experience as a two-sided coin.  The two key principles of experience in the modern Social Age are:

  • Contextual: the overriding foundation of customer and buyer experience is engaging existing customers and prospective buyers in relevant contextual experiences – whether they are in social mediums, conversations, or interactions.
  • Learning: rising as an essential component of experience in business is the growing expectations on the part of buyers that undergoing an experience also mean they will learn from the experience.  Knowledge and practical intelligence will be gained by entering into the experience.

Buyers today are redefining the meaning of business experience.  Consequently, integrating their business experience into how buyers are reshaping their human experience in general as a result of the Social Age.  Buyers not only want to “feel good” about the business experiences they undergo, but now also have a higher expectations they will take away knowledge they did not have before.

The seven buyer trends in this article series point to what I call The Buyer Circle of Experience.  As they reshape their definition of what a business experience means and integrate it into their human experience, buyers are expanding their circle of experience in a business context.  The totality of their humanized buyer experience including what has been covered in this Buyerology Trend series:

  • To undergo rewarding and fulfilling experiences
  • To be understood qualitatively – in human terms and not data terms
  • To enable their quest to fulfill knowledge needed; not be seen as object for demand generation
  • To enhance collaborative experiences with expanding buyer networks
  • To be enabled to make informed decisions that align with organizational decision models versus generic buying process views
  • To grow their intelligence and in essence grow their knowledge and practical wisdom in their respective areas and beyond
  • To foster the ability to meet shared corporate values, in addition to needs, as part of the business experience

What Must CEO’s, CMO’s, and CSO’s Do?

A place for C-Suite leaders to start is to rethink their own concept of what experience – customer and buyer experience – means in today’s Social Age.  Guiding the organization to adopt a two dimensional view of experience – contextual and learning – as opposed to one dimensional views.  It will take hard work and deep customer and buyer understanding to turn B2B business engagement into humanized social experiences.  This becomes a new imperative for the C-Suite.  Undergoing think shift – viewing every interaction as one that must become an engaging and fulfilling experience and represent a learning experience for existing customers and prospective buyers.

The implications affect every area of businesses – talent, training, functions, technologies, operations, marketing, and sales.  It will test the resolve and capabilities of business leadership as we know it today.

The Future

In the future, buyer expectations for experiences that engage them contextually and provide learning opportunities will grow.  The open systems of new social technologies fueling the rise in humanizing the buyer experience.  Buyers will be looking to integrate their business experience into their personal human experience.

As the millennial grows into leadership, we will see metamorphoses take place around the concept of business, organization, leadership, and shared values.  This will drastically affect our notions of what is thought of as a business experience.  We may very well begin to see a narrowing gap between the business experience and the human experience happen sooner than we think.

Key questions to ponder for the future are: What is your organization doing today to rethink experience and what it means?  How capable is your organization of providing both engaging as well as learning experiences?  How will your organization be impacted by this evolving trend?

 

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