Written by Chris Pemberton
The B2B buying journey has changed and marketing needs to realign content to this new reality.
Sarah is a business-unit director in the midst of a complex enterprise software purchase who can’t help venting about the process to a colleague, “It’s taking forever. I just need to get to my shortlist of vendors — and fast.”
Her plight is all too common for today’s B2B buyers — how to quickly whittle down the universe of potential suppliers to a workable shortlist. The task is called a “job to be done,” and is at the core of effective B2B marketing.
“An alternative approach to content marketing and sales support is buyer enablement, which guides customers through the critical buying tasks”
The linear representation of buying no longer reflects the reality of purchasing a B2B product or service, from either the seller or buyer perspective. Many marketers focus too heavily on quickly moving prospects toward a sale and ignore the complex, nonlinear reality of B2B buying and the jobs that need to be done. This overwhelms buyers with information and sets up purchase regret.
“An alternative approach to content marketing and sales support is buyer enablement, which guides customers through the critical buying tasks where B2B buyers frequently struggle,” says Martha Mathers, Managing VP, Gartner for Marketers.
The new B2B buying journey
For the past five years‚ Gartner researchers have worked with marketing leaders to better understand typical purchase paths and crystallize various customer journeys. Many of these journeys still lack the tactical details needed to reduce buyer pain points.
Virtually every B2B purchase spans six distinct “jobs to be done” that buyers must complete to their satisfaction to successfully complete a complex purchase:
- Problem identification
- Solution exploration
- Requirements building
- Supplier selection
- Consensus creation
Purchase ease matters
Many of these buying jobs will be visited often throughout the journey. Such nonlinear looping and bouncing around from one job to another means that buyers value suppliers that make it easier for them to navigate the purchase process. Purchase ease has a significant impact on the value customers perceive from their purchases, along with the level of regret they might experience. High levels of regret dramatically reduce customer loyalty and sharply cut the chances a customer will advocate for a supplier.
“Customers who engage with buyer enablement content are three times more likely to make a high-quality purchase”
Nearly two-thirds of the learning in any B2B buying journey comes from whatever information the buyer can find, so the type of information a buyer encounters matters. In fact, information matters more than a specific supplier capability or individual sales conversation. Customers don’t have a preference between seller and digital channels — they just want access to the right information to complete their job at hand.
In other words‚ information — not individuals — makes the purchase process easier.
Help buyers buy
Buyer enablement describes a very specific type of content marketing consisting of information that enables customers to complete critical buying jobs.
“Rather than focusing content marketers’ efforts on a constant generation of thought leadership, white papers, infographics and videos, marketing leaders should rebalance their content efforts, capitalizing on their deep industry knowledge and customer empathy to develop and deploy information to help buyers buy‚” says Mathers.
Buyer enablement falls into two categories:
- Prescriptive advice: Largely takes the form of “do this” or “don’t do this” recommendations specifically designed to ease customers’ buying burdens across the six jobs
- Practical support: Represents the actual tools customers use to follow through on prescriptive advice
When buyer enablement combines prescriptive advice and practical support at multiple points across jobs‚ it becomes a powerful tool for commercial teams to drive customers to buy their solutions. Customers who engage with buyer enablement content are three times more likely to make a high-quality purchase — a solution more ambitious than they’d planned, at a premium price.
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