You Can’t Get Here From There
Remember the days when a road trip involved an honest-to-goodness map? There was perhaps a bit more adventure in hitting the open road when your navigating skills were put to the test, as opposed to your network coverage. No matter which way you prefer to navigate the open highway, the critical ingredient is the birds-eye view of your route from point A to point B. From there you can see detours and alternate routes in between. The buyer’s journey is a lot like that, and modern B2B enterprise marketers need to add “explorer” to their job description as a result.
We marketers like nice, logical step-by-step directions to map out the buying process, but the truth is that our buyers don’t really care about our carefully rendered charts and diagrams of how they buy. They’ll take whatever route makes the most sense to them. Our job is to make sure the information is available when and where they need it. Easier said than done, no doubt, but here are a few tips to create a buyer’s journey that guides your Demand Generation Strategy instead of sitting unused in some presentation you dust off once in a while.
There is no I in TEAM-
The number of people involved in a purchase for B2B has been expanding in recent years (5.4 on average according to CEB), and the research says that this number isn’t going to be decreasing anytime soon. When you’re mapping your buyer’s journey, you must know who your key stakeholders are and build personas with key purchase insights and content consumption preferences for each. You can’t boil the ocean, but ignoring the differences in purchase behavior between a finance director and a CFO, for instance, can be detrimental.
The quickest way to feel like buyer journey mapping is a waste of time is to start with your sales process as your navigational true north and spend the entire exercise trying to match your findings to fit inside that box. Talk to your sales people, customer service and account managers, but you also have to get out into the field and speak with customers and prospects to get the unvarnished truth about the way they buy your and your competitor’s products or services, including what happens before they ever interact with a sales person. This provides true buyer insight.
With all your buyer insights and content preferences in hand, you have the blueprint to build a content model that will align to the non-linear approach that your buyers may be taking. You will know what an early stage buyer cares about to create content that provides that information in the formats that they’re likely to engage with at that buying stage. You’re also going to need to build the mechanisms to distribute and expose the content in the right channels and the ability to appropriately assess and route the buyer based on what they’ve consumed and done. Sometimes they’ll go off-road and take a shortcut here and there, but with a lead management structure based on the buyer, you can get a full picture of all their behaviors. Building this structure is a new skillset for many marketers, but it’s critical that these processes become the underpinning of any technology, not the other way around.
B2B Enterprise Marketers, as the intrepid explorers we are, will be ready to take on the challenge of understanding the buyer’s journey if we acknowledge the realities of the environment, get outside our four walls and put on our engineering caps to build a solid infrastructure. You can’t get there from here-it takes more than a map.
Perhaps explorer David Livingstone said it best, ““I am prepared to go anywhere, provided it be forward.”
Author: Lee Anne Wimberly @lwimberly Director, Strategy, ANNUITAS