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3 Ways To Connect With Today’s B2B Buyers

Pamban Bridge ~ Connecting Rameshwaram Island
Image via Wikipedia

This is part 4 of a limited series on why buyer choice modeling is the new view B2B Business must adopt to improve revenue performance and develop long lasting relationships with buyers.

Connecting with today’s B2B buyers is on the minds of most CEO’s and their teams today.  Not too long ago, reaching and connecting with B2B buyers was a straight forward proposition.  Depending on surveys from such sources as IDC, IDG Connect, DemandGen Report, Forrester, and more, we know that buyers are remaining invisible to B2B businesses and spend only a quarter of their time talking directly to sales when making purchase decisions.  The idea of connecting to B2B buyers has gone from straight forward to major league complex.

There are plenty of debates regarding the best tactical means to connect with B2B buyers.  The effectiveness of these tactical means, as reported by once again the likes of IDC and etc., show that many B2B leaders believe these tactical efforts such as content marketing and marketing automation may only be effective about a quarter of the time.  It does represent a big gap and it begs for a rephrasing of the challenge – this a big disconnect with B2B buyers.  Enough to keep any sane B2B CEO and their senior management team scrambling for answers.  Part 1 and part 2 of this series pointed out that conventional funnel thinking is woefully inadequate in today’s B2B buyer landscape and is limited in the ability to address new and evolving complexities.

Determining new strategies as well as tactics that can meet the challenge of connecting with today’s B2B buyers revolve around understanding new buyer psychology and dynamics that are in a state of continuous evolution.  B2B businesses can do three things to help grasp the connection issue and make plans that close the gap:

Buyer Modeling To Understand Buyer Choices and Scenarios

Business executives today are using the concepts of buyer modeling to understand as well as visually illuminate buyer choice.   Buyer modeling incorporates the elements of attitudes, beliefs, values, goals, perceptions, needs, and motivations.  By modeling buyers, buying scenarios, buyer experience, and decision journeys, B2B executives can then map strategy as well as tactical marketing and sales activities that enable them to connect with B2B buyers on a relational level.  Buyer modeling is based on qualitative research that addresses choices being made versus inadequate interviewing that is done in the context of the funnel.

Focus On The Total Brand and Buyer Experience

B2B businesses are learning how to think outside the context of the funnel and how to encompass the total view of the brand and buyer experience.  The invisibility of buyers who are in explore and network mode of the buyer choice model makes it an imperative for B2B businesses to better understand how different buyers interact with different channels that create impressionable brand and buyer experience.  The emphasis here is on identifying critical Buyer Moment of Truth™ impression points that contribute to the overall brand and buyer experience.  For example, does the web channel brand and buyer experience stay true to form when buyers interact with either the social media, sales, resellers, partner, or service channels?  HP, for instance, has a strong ecosystem of reseller and partner channels where the brand and buyer experience has many potential pitfalls and has several challenging Buyer Moment of Truth handoff points that can make or break their involvement.  B2B leaders today can conduct buyer experience mapping that identifies critical Buyer Moment of Truth and ensure that the brand and buyer experience stays true to form throughout.

Descriptive Buyer Segmentation Based on Buying Behavior and Opportunity

By integrating the benefits of predictive analytics with that of predictive buyer modeling, B2B leaders are gaining smarts on taking segmentation to a new level.  With the use of visually illuminating B2B Buyergraphics, buyers can be segmented descriptively by explore and buying behavior and also by modeling buying scenarios that identify where the organization can reach a “best fit” level with buyers.  This can be especially useful in industries where there is a strong company or account focus as well as complex buying scenarios that involve lengthy buying cycles.  Descriptive means of segmentation helps to illuminate the many elements related to choice, needs, goals, attitudes, behaviors, values, and experience.  This approach enables both marketing and sales to focus on resonating with buyer segments that have similar goals and buying behaviors where knowledge in doing so is dynamic and enriched with each company or account interaction.  In essence, allowing B2B businesses to build strong connections with B2B buyers in buyer segments that have higher winning percentages.

When B2B leaders can do these three things, they can be better informed on how to guide the overall trajectory of their organization.  Their focus is on identifying the buyers and buyer segments that they can best establish a connection within the context of understanding choices being made.  More importantly, they can learn how to connect with B2B buyers today in ways that resonates and invites participation into the buyer driven world of goals, challenges, issues, uncertainties, and growth objectives that orbit them continuously.

Next up: Transforming B2B Business

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One Thing That Can Get You From Here to There in 2012 and Beyond

image from www.flickr.comIn the world of B2B management, there are numerous head scratching efforts going on as we peer ahead into 2012 and beyond.  Primarily, it has to do with how to get from here to there.  One of the issues faced by B2B companies with the high degree of uncertainty, global economic turbulence, and a rapidly changing buyer driven and social world is figuring out where the from here to there actually leads to.

Recent buyer and management interviews tell me a lot of head scratching continues to go on.  Plenty of internal angst and debate is taking place on how to get from here to there, what is needed, what should be done, and what a lot of people think.  The what to do aspects of internal planning usually center on strategy and tactical questions such as:

How do we grow revenues?
What can we do to generate more leads?
How do we expand business with existing customers?
What type of content will drive more traffic to our web site?
Should we get more active with social media?
Do we need to improve our product quality and offering?
Should we boost marketing and sales budgets?
Do we need to hire more people?
What should our pricing strategy be going forward?
What new technologies do we need to adopt?

As you can see, the list of questions for B2B organizations can be endless.  And plenty of them have to do with what should we do – probably more so than how to get from here to there.  What is striking however is that there is a tendency to dive into the angst over and debated questions without truly having clarity on where from here to there actually should end up.  As they say in the venture capital world: sometimes there is no there – there.  So in this riddle of thinking, to figure out how to get from here to there, you first have to figure out where the there actually is.

What is the one thing you can do to figure out where the there is and how to get from here to there?

You have guessed it by now, I am sure, if you have read my articles before:

Attaining deep qualitative B2B buyer insights.

Investing in deep qualitative B2B buyer insights means talking to your customers – and yes that sometimes means with the help of a third party.  Let’s face it – in certain situations buyers are more revealing to a third party when the perceived wall of sales agenda comes down and the expertise level to conduct qualitative research is not in-house.  However the point is this: to be informed on where the there is actually means your company needs to be talking with existing customers and prospective buyers deeply outside of a marketing and selling context.

Revealing buyer insights can tell you plenty about where your existing customers and buyers are headed.  Deep buyer insights give you a clue on where the planning of how to get from here to there is suppose to end up.  Giving you answers to the above mentioned type questions as well as what you should be doing to align with your buyers.

Collecting deep qualitative B2B buyer insights – before you get in over your head in angst and debate – can alleviate much of the headache that comes with strategy and tactical planning.  Imagine a meeting with less I think we should debating going on and more discussion on how we need to help existing customers and prospective buyers get from here to there.    Helping your customers and buyers to get from here to there helps you figure out how you and your company will get from here to there.  The definition of where that is, if you are aligned with your buyers, should be a two sided coin.  Helping buyers achieve their emblem of success on their side of the coin ensures that you will have an emblem of success on your side of the coin.

The one thing you can do is acquire deep qualitative buyer insights.  The type of insights that inform you on the map you need to put in place that shows you, your teams, and your company how to get from here to there.  Now – can you imagine getting anywhere in the world without a map?

(Image by Kenny Madden © All rights reserved)

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Buyer Perceived Value (BPV) Scorecard: Qualifying and Quantifying Value

ScorecardImage by J. McPherskesen via Flickr

As a follow-up to the article Influence of Buyer Perceived Value (BPV) on Buyer Behaviors and Decisions, offered is a perspective on how to implement a scorecard approach.  The Buyer Perceived Value (BPV) Scorecard combines both a qualitative as well as a quantitative approach to understanding the influence of buyer values.  An important disclaimer here is that there have been many scorecard approaches for measuring customer value over the past two decades.  My point is not to endorse any particular one but to endorse the notion that values are rapidly changing and that buyer perceived value is critical to understanding buyer behavior.  The understanding of buyer behavior is the central focal point of Buyerology© and understanding Buyer Perceived Value (BPV) is one key aspect.

Before jumping into a quantitative approach, it is important to emphasize the need for reaching an understanding of Buyer Perceived Value (BPV) qualitatively.  Perceived values are changing rapidly and will continue to do so as new buyer behaviors are formed – changes driven by the introduction of new technologies and business models.  Multiple and varietal forms of qualitative methods help to provide a unique articulation of value criteria that buyers may formalize or internalize for decisions.  Qualitative understanding is essential due to buyers, common to human behavior, having difficulty in offering a clean series of statements that accurately reflect their value sentiments.  Multiple qualitative methods assist in identifying un-articulated patterns of thinking and behaviors that can be translated into value attributes unique to your industry, markets, and organization.  Basing a scorecard approach on a generalized and presumed sense of buyer perceived value attributes mitigates the usefulness of a Buyer Perceived Value Scorecard severely for informing buyer strategies.   Now let’s take the academic speak out of the above and simply say that if you base the scorecard on what you think buyer’s value versus actually going out to talk to buyers and using qualitative methods to uncover values – it will be of no particular use.

As mentioned in the previous article on Buyer Perceived Value (BPV), value has been viewed conventionally around product and service.  The convergence of the Internet and the Social Age is resulting in new as well as evolving values that we may not fully understand at the moment.  Calling for qualitative means of discovering exactly what these values are and the meaning behind them.  This is the primary reason why I advocate strongly the need for qualitative research to understand Buyer Perceived Value (BPV) meaningfully.

Once value attributes have been identified, monitoring and using a scorecard approach can help to inform how an organization can improve as well as build new strategies to better align with buyers.  To make a scorecard purposeful for informing strategies, there are several key elements to incorporate:

Priority: Not all values are perceived equally.  Determining through qualitative means how much weight buyers place on certain value attributes is essential.

Ideal: After values are weighted, what do the values look like in a perfect world to buyers?  The goal becoming how to score a perfect 10 on all value attributes.

Perceived: Once value attributes have been identified and established, a combination of qualitative and survey methods can help in discovering how buyers perceive the organization abilities in measuring up to the ideal.

Differential: Using the scorecard approach can help in identifying the largest differentials between what buyers consider of high value and where the organization is falling short in the minds of buyers.

Below is a simplified version of such a scorecard:

Bpv scorecard

In the example below, you will see a red flag around implementation support suggesting improvement.  You will also note that 24 hour turnaround is prioritized highly and this can include the use of social networks.  The meaning behind each value attribute listed should be supported by qualitative interpretation.  For example, what exactly do buyers’ value in implementation support?  How much of a factor is social engagement behind 24 hour turnaround perception?

Bpv scorecard example

By combining the use of multiple qualitative research methods and quantitative analysis, an organization can begin to get a realistic handle on how well they measure up to the perceived values buyers base decision-making criteria’s on.  We are at a point in marketplace history where uncertainty reigns.  The importance of refreshing, qualitatively, the understanding of exactly what buyers perceive as values and how much weight is put on each is critical to being on the buyer’s radar of choice.  What we can count on is that new technologies, services, and business models will cause shifts in what buyer’s value.

How do you plan to stay informed of these shifts in buyer perceived values?

 

Creative Commons License
Buyer Perceived Value (BPV) Scorecard by Tony Zambito is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at www.goalcentric.com.

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Influence of Buyer Perceived Value (BPV) on Buyer Behavior and Decisions

value, not controlImage by Will Lion via Flickr

In my recent article, Buyerology: The New Science of Understanding Buyer Behavior, I introduced the concept of Buyerology and the need for a renewed focus on understanding buyer behavior in the Social Age.  A key component of understanding buyer behaviors and decisions is gaining a reality check on Buyer Perceived Values (BPV).  How well organizations; in relations to products, service, and brand; maps to Buyer Perceived Values will serve as the one of the primary influences that shapes buyer behaviors and purchase decisions.

Buyer behavior research, performed through qualitative means, can reveal many aspects of what comprises Buyer Perceived Values (BPV).  Buyer experience is now becoming one of the most important factors that contributes to and influences these values.  The convergence of the Internet and the Social Age, in fact, is introducing many new variables and factors that influence Buyer Perceived Values.  Some of the new variables include:

Buyer Experience: previous as well as in process buyer experience can have an enormous impact on how buyers perceive the value that organizations can bring to their challenges and environments.  This correlation is becoming stronger as more self-directed experiences by buyers evolve.

Engagement: I have written recently about social engagement as well as how buyers are internalizing their own Social Engagement Index.  Evidence is building that how involved and how engaged buyers are is shaping the buyer’s perceived value of making a decision to enter into a relationship as well as make a purchase decision.

Knowledge: shared knowledge related to informative problem solving can help influence positively buyer’s perceived values.  This is an area of improvement for the evolving areas of content strategy and content marketing.  Just as social media fatigue may be setting in, I am beginning to see signs of content fatigue also.  Content creation for the sake of content, especially with dramatic self-promoting marketing flair, is now getting filtered by buyers.  The old adage that too much of good thing can actually hurt you can be true in this case.

Network: a new evolving factor is the growing influence of social networks that extends well beyond peer influence.  A new dynamic that associates peer recommendations with something we can refer to as network buzz.  It is proving to be a tricky formula.  A formula that needs to be organic as opposed to imposed upon.

These are just four new and evolving, of sure to be more variables, that influence Buyer Perceived Values.  Dramatically calling for the need for further buyer behavior research that can help organizations today understand why and how buyers are making decisions today.  This does not minimize nor excludes other conventional type variables such as:

Brand: a strong brand is also a strong leverage point in influencing Buyer Perceived Values (BPV)

Loyalty: the cumulative value of previous buyer experiences and relationships can translate into strong customer loyalty

Quality: no amount of new efforts in social business and content marketing can make up for poor quality and service.  Another old adage applies here: make sure your house is in order before you move on.

Risks:  let’s face it – changing products or services in a B2B market can turn into an agonizing experience for buyers.  Buyers have to see the risks of changing mitigated in order to make a switch.  The degree of risks involved has a direct influence on Buyer Perceived Value.

Price: competitive pricing will always remain a significant variable in determining a Buyer’s Perceived Value.  The positive or negative impact of other variables can influence the tolerance level on pricing and how it directly influences a Buyer’s Perceived Value.

What we do know is that the above mentioned variables or factors, both new and conventional, translate into Buyer Perceived Values which directly affect the buyer’s behavior and decision-making.  How buyers experience these variables or factors throughout the buying process not only will shape their internalized Buyer Perceived Values but also determine how long they choose to stay in the buying process specifically with one organization versus another.

Understanding Buyer Perceived Values requires qualitative research means and constant monitoring as we now live in a hyper-connected and social world.  Not only will values shift over time, but we are bound to witness new factors or variables that evolve and further change the buyer landscape.

One place senior executives can start thinking about Buyer Perceived Value (BPV) in general is by asking: do I have any idea what our buyer’s perceived values are?

 

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