Welcome to the Dove Direct Print and Marketing Blog. Today's post, "How 2019 B2B Buyer Habits Are Evolving," offers an updated report on B2B Buyer habits that delineate the sales funnel process and how it is evolving.Most agencies and brands are well steeped in the elongated B2B purchasing funnel and are consistently looking for more efficient ways to shorten the cycle without negatively impacting new business opportunities. Marketing and advertising agencies are also cognizant of improving the content that speaks to the B2B communities, and most notably, content that can help shorten the B2B sales cycle.
B2B buyers will typically buy it if they want it. However, there are a ton of events happening between desire and sales conversion. For one, B2B buyers are engaging much earlier in the sales cycle than previously thought, while on their way to selecting a new solution. Keep in mind that B2B buyers also have goals to achieve, and to that end, the solutions they choose can have long-range implications for the brand, product, or service.
B2B Buyers Prefer One-Stop Shopping
Consumers will always be consumers, whether its B2B or B2C, and that sheds light on consumer preference behavior. What are those preferences? Well, let's see. Would you go to four or five destinations to purchase items that you need, or would you prefer to open Amazon and buy all the things you are looking for in one fell swoop?
Here's the kicker, regardless of a consumer deciding to purchase goods or services at a variety of retailers, including solutions required for their B2B businesses, the thinking process is similar. B2B buyers prefer the simplicity of an all-inclusive, comprehensive solution provider. VSA research reported that instead of concentrating on niche solution providers, B2B buyers stated that the services they are focusing on are those which are compatible with other products/services already in use or under consideration.
In addition, those product/service solutions must be user-friendly and contain the capability to solve multiple problems. Rather than one sales rep here and another over there, and yet a third somewhere else, B2B buyers are also inclined to select one-stop-shop vendors who can do it all.
From an efficiency statement, the time it takes to manage a single trusted vendor partner is much more efficient than having to juggle a plethora of vendors and the consequent relationships required by each vendor instance. In short, this makes a B2B buyer's life easier to manage.
Demand Gen Report's Annual B2B Buyers Survey
The following data and excerpts represent survey information compiled by Demand Gen supplied by 250 senior-level B2B executives. We also recommend cross-referencing the data against other notable data survey institutions. For example, with all the polls emerging in the political landscape, only one polling institution takes all the polls and makes an overarching poll, which is FiveThirtyEight. That said, the Demand Gen report is eye-opening nonetheless. Let's dive in!
"83% often accelerate or put purchase decisions on hold based on changing business needs and/or priorities." Now that's a loaded statement to comprehend. In other words, 83% will accelerate their purchase decisions, while simultaneously, that same 83% will hold their purchase decisions basis due to changing business needs or priorities. This number should be a warning flag for sales departments and sales reps to ensure that up-to-date information about an account is on hand for the sales call. If data is unavailable, then that question should be addressed during the needs assessment stage.
Continuing from the 83% accelerate or hold decision, "39% said that they 'strongly agree' with that statement. While the survey ultimately supported that B2B buying cycles are still lengthy and involve several stakeholders, the increasing focus on agility in the process underscores the reality that the buying journey is no longer a linear, predictable funnel."
B2B Executives Require Strong First Impressions
In television land, you sell impressions. In short, the number of impressions, which translates into what viewers see, are the measurements by which Nielsen uses for media buys in television. One should note that Nielsen does not make any guarantees as to the number of sales the viewer impressions generate. Similarly, the Demand Gen report states, "The B2B executives surveyed strongly stated that solution providers need to make a first impression with ads and websites, but also be responsive at all stages and ensure they are in front of prospects at all points to create a streamlined buying experience." Sound familiar?
Multi and Omni-channel marketing concepts are now front and center for almost all advertising and marketing strategies. All marketing and sales collateral must now be embedded and or published within the digital and physical mediums to ensure a streamlined, consistent customer experience.
B2B Buyer Engagement Numbers
The following numbers derived from the Demand Gen report further explain buyer timeframe variances:
42% said that they spoke to and engaged with reps from the vendor in the first month, compared to 33% in 2018;
33% accepted outreach from vendors for calls and demos in the first month, compared to 23% in 2018; and
25% sought RFP, competitive bids, and/or pricing information from vendors in the first month, compared to 20% in 2018.
The takeaway? "These findings indicate that a growing number of buyers are no longer looking to remain anonymous in the early days of researching a process, but are instead seeing more value when they bring sales reps early on to facilitate the journey. This is intriguing compared to past years' data, in which most buyers desired to remain anonymous in the early stages of a decision and did not engage with sales until they were ready to buy."
These numbers above suggest that personalization aspects between buyers and vendors are now on the table, as buyers are indicating they prefer for the sales reps and themselves, to establish a personal relationship at the beginning of the process.
Most agencies, brands, and marketing professionals are keenly aware of product endorsements from celebrities, influencers, and review sites. In the B2B world, external recommendations are equally important. In addition to B2B buyers engaging the sales process earlier, the study also found that buyers are developing an increasing reliance on peers, current users, and review websites. The following numbers demonstrate that observation:
61% of buyers said they agree that they rely more on peer recommendations and review sites
35% of buyers that said they sought input from peers and existing customers within the first month
37% of buyers said they sought input from peers between one and three months
Therefore, it is incumbent upon the B2B brand to impart peer and review information to B2B buyers. This can take place through their websites, ads, or during the initial stages of face-to-face, live chat, or direct email communications.
Marketing's Key Role
The Demand Gen report suggests that B2B buyer's first points of contact are of critical importance to uncover if any roadblocks are on the horizon. B2B buyers are also stressing the importance of the website experience, coupled with display advertising that plays into their decision-making process. The following numbers illustrate this perspective.
68% of buyers said they notice ads from the solution provider they chose during the research process
37% of the 68% of buyers said those ads positively impacted their view of the company
5% of buyers were not sure whether they saw ads from their selected vendor
Therefore, it is incumbent upon the B2B brand to impart content-rich ads that speak to the issues, challenges, and pain points a sector, industry, or market demographic is undergoing. While this report primarily targets the digital landscape, we note that the same sentiment exists for physical marketing collateral, such as direct mail marketing.
Vendor Website Expectations
Website expectations are becoming more seamless for both the B2C and B2B sectors. Consumers are expecting to gain knowledge, insight, and answers to challenges and problem-solving declarations at first engagement. B2B buyers echoed this sentiment from the Demand Gen report.
97% of buyers said that it was important to them that vendor websites have relevant content that spoke directly to their company — 68% considered this very important
96% of buyers said that it was important to them that the vendor websites spoke directly to the needs of their industry and demonstrated expertise in their area — 61% considered this very important
97% of buyers said that it was important to them that vendor websites offered easy access to content (i.e., no gates or minimal gates) — 56% considered this very important.
The data gleaned from the Demand Gen report suggests that B2B organizations need to ensure that all content, communications, messaging, and information on their website are easily accessible, buyer-relevant, and continuously on point. If these points are absent, buyers will not waste timepursuing a deeper, more meaningful engagement with your brand. Thanks for reading, "How 2019 B2B Buyer Habits Are Evolving."
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