As an elementary school student more than 20 years ago, one of my assignments was to raise money for the class through magazine subscriptions. Though our teachers no sales training, the accepted method for converting potential customers was to walk door-to-door or ask our parents to introduce us to interested friends. When sales were tallied up at the end of the campaign, usually the person who knocked on the most doors was the winner.
Such a sales tactic was once accepted across all industries – including elementary school fundraisers, but what was once the accepted buyer’s journey has now evolved. Magazines have faded away to other items and so have the sales tactics of yesteryear. With the rise of social media, customer portals, and mobile payment options, pursuing and converting leads now exists through a different approach that is more relationship-centric, digital, and on-the-go. Now the best magazine seller doesn’t necessarily need to walk the furthest, but rather only needs to have a large online reach.
Though different from selling door-to-door subscriptions, the buyer’s journey has transformed in similar ways for B2B enterprises. New digital technologies have transformed the building of relationships and development of pipeline in five different ways, which we cover in this blog.
- A Modeled Approach: The sales model for years past was relatively simple: Work the phones, walk up to the door, gauge interest, and move forward. Much of this was also ad-hoc, with buyer information gathered real-time within the conversation. Today, the modeled approach as described by inbound marketing software HubSpot and others is focused on gathering information before, during, and after contact has been made. HubSpot themselves even defines it as the Awareness, Consideration, and Decision stage in this blog post.
- Relationship-Centric: Rolodexes full of business cards were the norm for the pavement-hitting account executive just a decade and a half ago. Though business cards still remain popular as a way to offer contact information, the emergence of social networking sites has offered greater trust. According to LinkedIn, buyer-vendor relationships are strengthened through online connections. Their research indicates that buyers who use social are trusted 55% of the time, versus the 34% who do not.
- Research-Driven: Twenty years ago, the internet was still a fairly nascent landscape. Not all organizations had websites, so doing research was tough. Today however, the story is different, with Google and other search engines offering near-real time information on anything and everything. For buyers, research is a key portion of their journey with any solution. According to Forrester, 74% of buyers conduct more than half of their research online before making an offline purchase or contact with a vendor. Having available information is more important than ever.
- Customer Success: Even though the buyer’s journey may appear to cover everything prior to a sale, there are elements that come after, including customer success. Contrary to the past where software was sold as one-off licenses, the SaaS-driven subscription models of today have made their way into the buyer’s journey. Customer success is defined after the sale where accounts are assigned to representatives who are solely responsible for ensuring happiness as well as up-sell and cross-selling of features. According to research from UserIQ, customer success is a key part of B2B SaaS priorities this year, with 1% indicating that their goal is to increase retention rates and reduce churn.
Do you see these trends in your own buyer journey mapping? Let us know in the comments section below.
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Today’s organizations must be more connected to their customer than ever. As the buyer’s journey evolves, leaders must also adopt the right technologies to influence positive business outcomes. This post is a part of a series focused on helping enterprises develop the necessary strategies and best practices to better connect with their customers. Check out the other blogs in this series.