The New Path of the B2B Buyer's Journey

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Intent, which tells you who, how, and when to target, is a common thread on the customer journey.

The New Path of the B2B Buyer's Journey
The New Path of the B2B Buyer's Journey

As marketing technology has evolved, we've learned to rethink the sales-funnel model of B2B marketing and CRM—treating the customer lifecycle as an ongoing journey rather than as a process that has a single goal in mind. However, we still have a ways to go when it comes to maximizing the methods in which we engage with our customers along that journey.

The age of Big Data has ushered in a new method of efficiently reaching out to our B2B audiences with effective messaging to improve our results. The wealth of data has enabled us to not only target based on demographics and demonstrated interest, but we also can now access information that tells us which customers actually intend to purchase our product or service, and how best to engage with them.

Today your B2B targets are on a new path, and there are many stops along the way. B2B, even more so than B2C, is all about cultivating long-term relationships with both organizations and the decision-makers within those organizations. You want to become the company's legacy provider, even as individuals move through the ranks and to other companies (and when they move, you want them to recommend you in their new role, too). B2B marketers need to not only keep an eye on the B2C space for insight into best practices, they need to do better than their B2C counterparts when it comes to listening to customers.

The great news is that your targets are broadcasting signals throughout their journey, and you should be sure you're listening carefully along the way. First, you have to be sure that you're focusing on the right people. The traditional approach starts with demographic data and may layer indicators such as search keywords and email/CRM program signups as a way to target decision-makers and companies in your space.

But this isn't enough if you really want to understand the full picture. The common thread along the journey is intent. Intent is what tells you not just who to target, but how and when to target them. The key takeaway is that a holistic view of intent unlocks a platform of marketing programs that will transform your engagement results.

Once you have a solid foundation of targets, then you can begin to layer intent indicators such as content consumption—e.g., what are they researching across the B2B Web?—influencer behaviors, and interactions within CRM programs to understand where your targets are in their journey and then nurture them appropriately along the way.

Imagine the buyer's journey as a professional auto race. In these races the drivers are operating a complex system within the cars themselves, but maintaining close communication with their pit crew to tell them precisely what is needed to keep the system running smoothly. Every time the driver comes back around for a pit stop, the crew is ready and waiting with the appropriate tools and materials to answer that need.

Just as in professional auto racing, precision timing and accuracy is crucial when it comes to engaging B2B consumers. Consistently listening and responding appropriately to your prospect will ensure that a quality lead doesn't skid off the path (toward your competitor), and will ensure that your sales team knows specific pain points that should be addressed during their communications.

Following the same philosophy of listening and responding post-sale will ensure that your customer stays well taken care of and happy, and that your relationship endures throughout the life of the customer journey.

Robert Armstrong is VP of product management at Madison Logic

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