B2B buying behaviour is changing. How is it changing? What do buyers need? What should our strategies be to take advantage of that? There are four big changes that need to be made.

The four big changes are:

  1. The commoditisation of industries;
  2. The rise of procurement kind of related;
  3. The changing nature of the active selling that’s changing a lot;
  4. The rising role of risk.

There’s a link between point three and point four. Buyers want less content, more one on one, more insight, and they want collaboration and co-creation. Therefore, we should segment according to the customer behaviour; make customer insights accessible to every employee. Align with the buying process, not the selling process, and ensure our digital experiences are consistent with and reinforce traditional ones.

I read four excellent articles on B2B buying behaviour. What I just showed you is what those four authors suggested we need to do. Obviously, I’ve tried and smashed it together. What I want to do now is show you those four articles very quickly. Then I want to show you the aggregate view that they formed, the pattern in that view, and then I am going to show you why I think there is a slightly different conclusion that we need to reach, and some different actions that we need to take compared to what those four authors have suggested.

Four articles about B2B buying behaviour:

Tony Zambito

Our first article is from Tony Zambito, a regular contributor. Tony argues there are five behaviours we need to keep an eye on.Buyers embrace collaboration. They want co-creation. They want less content. They want one-on-one and they want more than insight. I’d argue co-creation is mainly through new markets or emerging product categories. Including new users or new users of old categories, but it is all about when things change when it is new. That’s when they want co-creation. I do agree with Tony’s net view, though. Question, however, do you as a buyer, want less content or do you want to less bad irrelevant content? I think it’s the latter.

Bob Apollo

Next article is from Bob Apollo. Now Bob is a funnel coach of ours. He represents us in the UK and knows our methodology extremely well. I can see minus signs within here, but he is not writing about us on this article. He is writing about something from McKinsey and it is a great article. He concludes that we need to align with the buying process, not the sales process. That we need to segment according to customer behaviour. That we need to organise and optimise the customer experience and we need to really know our customers.

Laura Ramos

Our third article is by Laura Ramos from Forrester. She argues that we need to do a few things. Make custom insights accessible to everybody. Good point. Ensure the digital experiences are consistent with the physical ones and even reinforce them. Good point. Help the direct sales teams and others, channel partners in her point, engage in more relevant ways and invest in producing customer relevant content that can be repurposed. I go with all of that. It does sound pretty much like the advice that might be given to a consumer marketer except that we have to make sure the sales teams can be part of the process.

We are big fans of a tool called Postwire. Go to Postwire.com and check it out. It is a tool for doing explicitly what Laura is arguing, because what it allows us to do as marketers is to curate great content and set it up for the right context. By context, I mean the buyer’s journey as well as the market segment, but it allows sales to choose when and with whom to use that content. Great hybrid, great connection mechanism. Check out Postwire. I am quite a fan of it and we use it quite a lot at align.me.

Rain Selling

Our final article is from Rain Selling. Another really good source. There are five conclusions talking about the rise, these are basically changes.

  1. The rise of procurement,
  2. The quest for collaboration,
  3. The changing nature of the act of selling,
  4. The raising role of risk and finally,
  5. The commoditisation of virtually all industries.

Whilst they were valid points, I think it needs a context and that is that Geoffrey Moore did a fantastic job back in the ‘90s talking about market maturity. A concept we knew since the ‘40s but had kind of forgotten the key points of that, and his key point is that as markets change, the way we need to market needs to change. I think that whilst these conclusions may well be true, what they need is a context to say basically as markets mature, this is the case. Perhaps Ago Cluytens is looking at mature markets when he makes the point about the rise of procurement yet immature markets when he is talking about the quest for collaboration.

I’d argue they are fundamentally different markets and our approach likewise needs to be different. For all that, great points and well put. Thank you. As I mentioned to you at the top of the show, I am going to synthesize what I think those four authors have said. I’ll show you the pattern and then I am going to give you a very different spin on it. Let’s start though with the synthesis of their view about B2B buying behaviour. If you’ve watched the show for a while, you know that I like to cut out all the duplication and really just point out the highlights, but I really think the four authors have made these 15 points quite genuinely.

What they said about B2B buying behaviour:

I didn’t read all 15 of those conclusions about B2B buying behaviour because I want to use them to show a pattern and then use that pattern to draw some different, simpler, and hopefully more actionable conclusions for you. Here’s the pattern in a combined view.

  1. Really know your market.
    • Organize to optimize the customer experience.
    • Segment according to customer behaviour.
    • The commoditisation of (virtually) all industries – embrace the challenge of becoming unique once again and differentiate yourself from competitors
  2. Create relevant content
    • Buyers want less content
    • Buyers want 1 on 1.
    • Invest in producing more customer-relevant content that can be repurposed for physical or digital uses.
    • Buyers want more than insight.
  3. Leverage the whole team
    • Make customer insights accessible to every employee – and partners – to enhance their interactions.
    • Help direct sales teams and indirect channel partners engage in more relevant, personal ways.
  4. Sell the way they want to buy
    • Align with the buying process with customer behaviours, not the sales process.
    • Buyers want collaboration and co-creation
    • The rise of procurement – look to build positive mutually rewarding relationships and gain their trust.
    • Ensure digital experiences are consistent with, and reinforce, traditional physical ones.
  5. Lead the buying process
    • The changing nature of the “the act of selling” – become knowledgeable in the latest trends in business and technology and provide insight for customers.
    • The rising role of risk – bring up and openly discuss risk and how it can be overcome.

What I think about B2B buying behaviour:

Now it is the same 15 that you saw before, but I’ve grouped them according to what I think the patterns are. Well, let’s re-spin that more completely. If those are the five big patterns let’s build something around those patterns.

  1. Understand how your target businesses want to buy
    • Maturity (see Chasm theory)
    • Business units drive early-stage purchases
    • Get procurement to drive mature purchases
    • DIY for much of the journey
  2. Shape the buying process
    • Trouble the right buyer about the problem you solve best
    • Segment to be relevant, and write copy talking to ‘me’, not ‘you’ or ‘them’
    • Get as micro as you can.
  3. Track and respect the buyer’s journey
    • Each individual in a buying group will need different content at different times
    • Leverage the whole team
  4. Share segment insights widely, and make sure your CRM tells the individual’s story well
    • Automate content for early stages of the buyer’s journey
    • Help direct sales teams and indirect channel partners engage in more relevant, personal ways.

We need to shape the buyer’s process. Trouble the right buyer about the problem that we solve the best and get really, really under their skin. Segment to be relevant but write copy to the individual, so specifically, I am writing copy for you. I am saying here in the bullet points me, but what I mean by you? I am writing copy for you. Not for a collective you all and not definitely for them. I am writing for you. That’s both a tonal comment, but that’s also you need to microsegment in order to be relevant, so I can actually talk to you. You, for example, are a B2B business person. If you are not in B2B, then what you are watching the show for? Because everything we talk about is B2B.

That’s my point about segmenting. Track and respect the buyer’s journey. Each individual even if there is a collective buying going on, each individual will be up to a different point in their journey and that will need different content that respects that. We need to leverage the whole team so certainly share segments widely. Automate, that’s marketing’s job for the early stages of the  buyer’s journey, but help the sales teams whether they are field or inside sales, as well as channel partners, leverage their content more relevantly. By that, I am referring specifically to using Postwire tool.  I nearly called in map marketing. Can’t get out of the old habit.

Continue using Postwire. It is a fantastic way for marketing to curate great content for use according to the buyer’s journey. I mentioned in the middle of the show that there was a little thing I was going to refer to called funnel plan and this is it. Inside funnel plan, it’s predominantly been built to help people build great go-to-market plans, whether you are in marketing or in sales to help you build a great go-to-market plan. We learnt something about that process and that is, that you’ve actually told us or multiple users of the plan have told us what they want. Hopefully, it is you. It is more than that. Build a plan, great, but then I want to improve the plan and make my process perfect.

So adding weekly coaching to that, it is all automated. It is driven from really deep data, so we look at your plan and we look at plans for other businesses like you. We tell you about patterns you might want to know about. This is the point I wanted to make about making content relevant for you and I really do mean you not collectively you. You individually you. How do I do that? Your plan, your funnel plan, by the way, if you haven’t got one, you can get a free one at funnelplan.com.

I can actually use the data in your plan to tell you things about your plan by looking at others’ plans. That’s how micro we can get. We think we can actually take this to quite an extreme, where we can give you extremely tailored content just about your plan in contrast to other plans that we also have. Obviously, it is all anonymised. The data protection is just obscenely strong, but we can still draw patterns and draw conclusions to help you with your plan. That was the point I was alluding to about getting really micro and about making content relevant for you. The person I am talking to, right now you.



Reference list for B2B buying behaviour