B2B Strategy: Build a Superior B2B Customer Journey
Do you want to identify B2B customer journey problems and opportunities? Find out how to develop a consistent B2B customer experience across all channels.
November 30, 2023
Creating a superior B2B customer journey is no longer an option. Businesses that don’t invest in developing the journey experience risk losing customer relationships to competitors that do. On the other hand, a well-constructed B2B strategy that addresses the client’s pain points and assists them in decision-making will build affinity.
In this blog, we share the best way for B2B companies to build a customer journey.
With over 40 years of combined experience in brand strategy and marketing, we've helped countless mid-sized and enterprise-level clients get sustainable growth with a customer journey framework. And we’ve personally tested these strategies in real-world scenarios.
What Is the B2B Customer Journey?
The B2B customer journey refers to the process a business customer goes through, from the initial awareness of a product or service to the final purchase and beyond. It typically involves stages such as research, evaluation, decision-making, and post-purchase support.
This journey (also called the buyer journey) is a series of customer interactions with a brand. This process unfolds through different touchpoints and interactions, on- and offline. The journey can be broken into stages. Each customer journey stage represents where the buyer is in their purchasing decision.
A study by McKinsey found that businesses that skillfully manage and streamline the buyer’s journey and ongoing service improve customer retention, lead acquisition, and generate higher revenue.
The B2B customer journey isn’t just a sequence of events. It’s an opportunity to serve them better, customize your offers to their needs, and build relationships beyond transactions.
Analyzing the B2B Customer Journey
The stages of the customer journey in B2B marketing are similar to the standard buying experience. However, its complexity is unique because it often involves multiple decision-makers and stakeholders, longer sales cycles, and high-value transactions.
Throughout this post, I'll use a healthcare provider in search of a data management solution as an example to illustrate the B2B customer journey.
B2B Awareness: The Initial Touchpoint
The awareness stage begins when a potential business customer realizes they have a problem and starts looking for solutions. At this point, your brand must quickly establish a relationship with the buyer because competitors will also be vying for their attention as well.
Brands can generate awareness through various marketing efforts, such as digital advertising, websites, and content marketing. These marketing campaigns are most effective when messaging focuses on the buyer’s pain points or desired outcomes.
In this step, B2B companies should educate and nurture potential clients to prepare them for the sales process.
Almost 70% of the B2B buyer’s journey is completed before a prospect ever reaches out to sales.
B2B Customer Journey Example: Awareness
Scenario: A healthcare provider is looking for a software solution to improve their data management process. After recognizing the problem, they enter the initial awareness stage. From here, they may engage with your company's online content, exchange emails with a sales representative, or even read a LinkedIn article about your product. This interplay is all part of the awareness touchpoints designed to bring them closer to a purchase decision.
The question to ask here is, “Who discovered the problem?”
Perhaps it was a doctor who noticed inefficiencies in the data management system, an administrator who received complaints from staff, or a patient who experienced delays due to incorrect information. The origin of awareness is vital because it provides an initial point of reference that salespeople can use to connect with the customer. When you can speak to a specific pain point or desired outcome, you show the customer you understand their situation. This is a building block for affinity.
Here are some examples of content for potential buyers in this stage:
- Educational resources (i.e., blog posts and videos) discussing common problems in data management for healthcare providers. Be sure to use specific examples.
- Whitepapers or case studies showcasing successful implementations of software solutions in similar organizations.
- Webinars or online events featuring industry experts discussing the benefits of using software for data management in healthcare.
From Recognition to Consideration: The Evaluation Stage
Once a potential client has become aware of their problem and possible solutions, they move into the consideration stage. In this stage, customers research and evaluate different options.
This phase of the buying journey is critical for your brand because customers begin to narrow their choices. So, staying in contact and providing valuable information (without being too aggressive) is essential if you want to remain an option.
B2B Customer Journey Example: Consideration
Now aware of their problem, the healthcare provider begins to explore several data management solutions. Senior management reviews case studies and contacts vendors for demos. They also discuss the situation with the various stakeholders involved, such as department managers and team leaders. This input will give leadership the information they need to help them decide which software is best for the organization.
The most successful organizations in the consideration stage are those that understand the hidden desires or root causes of the customer’s current problem-even if the customer doesn't. Market research, existing customer data, and industry experience can provide valuable insight.
In this stage, B2B companies must understand how their clients operate and their priorities. This knowledge can help sales teams customize the sales process to align with the client’s decision-making process.
For example, if the healthcare provider values data segmentation, highlighting the segmentation aspects of your product may be more persuasive than focusing on its advanced features. It’s also helpful to provide multiple touchpoints that accommodate the preferences of different stakeholders.
Being available for potential clients during this stage can impact their decision. You might offer free consultations or personalized product demonstrations at times that are convenient for them. It’s also crucial to establish credibility during this stage by highlighting your expertise in the industry through thought leadership content and collaborations with reputable organizations or experts in the field.
Conversion: The Crucial B2B Journey Stage
The conversion stage of the B2B customer journey is where the potential client makes a purchasing decision. During this stage, they have decided to become a paying customer.
B2B Customer Journey Example: Decision
After getting input from everyone involved in the decision, the healthcare provider settles on a vendor that best meets their needs. They appreciated the company’s knowledge of their industry, experience, and how their product minimizes errors. The vendor’s credibility and a money-back guarantee also made an impression.
The orientation and onboarding process sets the tone for future customer relationships. This stage allows you to demonstrate the value of your product, validate the customer’s purchase decision, and build the foundation for a long-term partnership.
Customers may have concerns at this point, such as uncertainty about integrating the new services or products into their existing workflow or doubts about the return on investment. B2B companies must be proactive in addressing customer concerns. Comprehensive training, resources, and support can help customers gain confidence and get the most from their purchases.
Your company should give prospective customers all the information and support they need in this stage to solidify your brand as the ideal choice.
One way to do this is to make the client’s purchasing process as easy and efficient as possible. To avoid confusion, delays, or misunderstandings, provide clear and concise information about pricing, contract terms, and implementation. Also, offering user-friendly tools such as online contract signing, payment options, and implementation guides can make the process seamless for clients.
Once the deal is closed, the B2B company will work closely with the client to ensure successful integration. So, they must have a well-defined plan, including timelines and key performance indicators (KPIs).
B2B Customer Journey Example: Implementation
Once the healthcare provider purchases the data management software, they must train staff, integrate it with existing systems, and troubleshoot issues.
Integrating a new product or service into an existing business can be stressful for new customers. Company leadership and department managers share several concerns during implementation. Delays, unexpected expenses, or liability issues are examples. Buyer’s remorse is another.
To ensure smooth implementation, B2B companies should provide the customer with comprehensive training to help build their confidence while using the product. Training could include virtual or in-person sessions, access to online resources such as a knowledge base, and ongoing support from your customer success team.
After the Purchase: The B2B Customer Support Stage
As a B2B customer moves out of the implementation phase and into use, companies must continue to support them. This support can include technical assistance, product updates, bug fixes, access to user communities, and prompt responses to service requests. The brand’s customer service quality in the post-purchase stage solidifies loyalty.
B2B Customer Journey Example: Post-Purchase Service
If the software meets expectations, the healthcare provider will continue to use it. And if they’re particularly pleased with the product and the vendor’s post-purchase support, they might even recommend the software to other businesses.
In B2B, excellent service is as crucial as product quality. Customers should feel valued throughout their entire experience with your company, not just during the initial implementation phase. This is especially true in highly competitive industries with many options and low switching costs.
Here are some strategies used to leverage the power of post-purchase support:
Omnichannel Support: Customers expect support across multiple channels, including phone, email, live chat, social media, and more. To control costs, survey your customers to discover their preferred channels when accessing support.
Proactive Service: Don’t wait for customers to reach out with problems. Instead, anticipate common issues and reach out to them first. A proactive approach shows customers you care and can help prevent issues before they arise.
Personalized Service: Address customers by name, understand their history with your brand, and develop your interactions to align with how they prefer to communicate. Customer relationship management software (CRM) is a tool you can use to do this.
Employee Training: Your support staff are the face of your brand. Ensure they’re well-trained in handling issues, communicating effectively, empathizing with customers, and upholding your brand values.
Feedback Loop: Encourage customer feedback and act on it. Asking for feedback shows clients you value their opinions and are committed to improving. Plus, it provides valuable insights that can help you refine your support strategies.
Developing B2B Customer Journeys
According to a study by Gartner, 80 percent of a company’s future revenue will come from just 20 percent of its existing customers. Companies can leverage customer journeys to serve fewer clients better and increase profit.
B2B customer journey maps enable marketers to develop a consistent, seamless experience for their target audience at each stage.
Customer segmentation models help businesses understand the problems and desires of their audiences so they can connect with more potential buyers.
Building a Customer Journey Map
B2B customer journey mapping helps companies visualize and understand a customer’s path from initial contact with the brand through purchase and beyond. This map works as a problem-solution guide, highlighting areas where a buyer may encounter obstacles or frustrations. It allows marketing and sales teams to address issues and improve each customer touchpoint.
Follow these steps to do a B2B customer journey map analysis:
Identify Customer Personas: Understand customer segments, characteristics, needs, and motivations. Each persona could have different needs and expectations, so it's crucial to identify these differences.
Explore Touchpoints: Determine how customers interact with your business at each journey stage. This could be through direct or indirect channels. You can use customer research and digital channel analytics to discover touchpoints.
Plot the Journey: Once you understand the touchpoints, plot them onto a diagram. This lets you view customers’ paths from the first interaction to the last.
Identify Areas for Improvement: By mapping out the customer journey, you can determine where customers fall out of the sales funnel. This allows your business to correct any friction they may incur during the buying process.
Test and Update Customer Journey Touchpoints: A B2B journey map is not a one-time exercise. Customer behavior and expectations change over time. Your map should be updated at least twice a year to maintain accuracy.
In a B2B setting, different departments, like procurement, IT, and finance, are involved in decision-making. So, the map should also consider the purchasing processes of individual stakeholders.
Identifying Touchpoints in B2B Journeys
The first step in creating a customer journey map is to identify the stages and needs of customers at each stage. This enables you to provide them with the right information at the right time.
In this section, we'll explore what most B2B buyers require at each journey stage.
Identifying Touchpoints in B2B Journeys
In this section, we’ll explore what most B2B buyers require at each journey stage.
Information Hunting: At the awareness stage, customers have recognized a problem or a need but aren’t sure how to address it. Consequently, they’re looking for information, searching the Internet for articles, blog posts, and other resources that can help them better understand their situation.
Use of Generic, Problem-Focused Search Terms: Customers often use generic, problem-focused search terms to understand their issues in the awareness stage. For instance, they might search for “how to increase website traffic” rather than specific solutions like “SEO services.”
In the awareness stage, potential buyers often ask basic, broad questions about their problems. They’re not ready to get into specifics.
Lack of Brand Preference: Customers are usually not loyal to any brand at this stage and are open to all options.
Engagement with Comparative Content: Customers in the consideration stage will engage more with content that compares features, prices, benefits, and drawbacks of various options. Examples are comparison charts, product showdowns, or ‘best of’ lists.
Increased Product-Specific Queries: Customers often ask more specific questions about products or services. They’ve moved from asking, “What can solve my problem?” to “Can your product solve my problem, and how?”
Requests for In-Depth Material: People who download in-depth material like eBooks, case studies, and white papers show they’re interested in understanding your product. This is typical behavior during the consideration stage.
Product Activation: Whether it’s the installation of software, the initial login to a platform, the first purchase made, or the setup of a newly purchased device, these actions must be easy for customers.
Interaction with User Guides and Tutorials: Buyers need access to user guides, how-to articles, video tutorials, or FAQs. They’re trying to understand how to use your product or service effectively.
Increase in Product-Specific Queries: Customers in the use stage often ask more detailed questions as they navigate the nuances of your product or service. These questions may revolve around features, usage, customization, or troubleshooting. Your sales and support staff should know how to respond.
Regular Usage Patterns: Depending on your business, this could mean daily logins, frequent purchases, regular posts, or other recurring activities.
Engagement with Advanced Features: Customers may also explore advanced features of your product or service to optimize use.
Prompt Service: Customers want to know that a reliable team is ready to assist them if they encounter any issues. This includes live chat, email support, telephone helplines, and social media assistance.
Easy Return and Exchange Policies: No matter how great your product or service is, there will always be instances where returns or exchanges are necessary. Be sure to provide clear information about these policies and a hassle-free process.
Access to Additional Resources: Customers often use additional resources that help them get the most from their investment. This could include advanced tutorials, tips, and tricks, community forums for peer advice, or even software updates that introduce new features.
Proactive Check-ins: Customers appreciate when companies take the initiative to check in after the sale. This could be a simple email asking about their experience or a follow-up call to ensure everything’s running smoothly.
Opportunities for Feedback: People want their voices to be heard. They need avenues to share their product experiences, suggest improvements, or voice concerns. This helps them feel valued, enhances customer advocacy, and gives brands invaluable insights to improve.
Do you need help developing a seamless Customer Journey?
Connect with a brand strategist to find out how we can refine your customer journey.
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