B2B Buyers

B2B BuyersThe way B2B buyers are buying and budgeting solutions has changed. The internet era has permanently altered B2B buyer’s behavior. In today’s age, an abundance of information is available online via web pages, press releases, social media and blogs. As a buyer, all you need is time and a browser. A study, pioneered by DemandGen Report and Genius.com, titled “Inside the Mind of the New B2B Buyer”, shares insight on the rapid changes in buying habits. In summary, there are two prominent areas of change; the way B2B buyer’s purchases are researched and budgeted. We’ll discuss the implications these changes have on today’s B2B companies and recommend a course of action.

Probably the most alarming result of the study is the shift in control. Among the B2B buyers surveyed, less than 10% of recent buyers were contacted cold by the solution provider. More than 80% said they contacted the solution provider directly. Pre-internet, analysts and vendors maintained control; however, post-internet, the control shifted from the solution provider to the buyer.

Changes in the way B2B buyers buy

The reason for the change in control is the availability of information online and the opportunity for B2B buyers to conduct their research on their own clock. When the B2B professionals surveyed were asked about their research habits:

  • 78% started with informal info gathering
  • 59% engaged with peers who addressed the challenge
  • 48% followed industry conversations on topic
  • 44% conducted anonymous research of a select group of vendors
  • 41% followed discussions to learn more about topic
  • 37% posted questions on social networking sites looking for suggestions/feedback
  • More than 20% connected directly with potential solution providers via social networking channels

There are two calls to action for B2B companies. First, maintain an online presence where your prospects conduct their research. This includes social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and blogs. Effectively, vendors should participate in any social media channel providing full duplex communication, which allows prospects, as well as vendors, to have a voice. Medium to large sized firms commonly assign a single human resource to “social media strategy”. Second, businesses should leverage technology to help track the plethora of online leads. In fact, 95% of all website visitors do not fill out a web form and go unnoticed. Revenue generation software from Lead Liaison helps businesses measure the return on investment in social media by segmenting website visitors by lead source and tracks both known and unknown leads as well as their online behavior. The software also helps prioritize website visitors as hot, warm, or cold leads based on the visitor’s demographics and/or interaction with marketing assets such as a website, email campaigns and web forms. Sales people can be notified in real time when a lead meets certain criteria. Without technology like this, you’ll struggle turning your online audience into leads as they’ll simply fly under your radar.

Revenue generation software also provides lead nurturing. Lead nurturing helps companies automate responses and future communication with new leads, keeping them “warm” and interested. The study justifies the benefit of lead nurturing technology as it provides relevant and consistent communication, typically through email marketing, using various content sources:

  • 66% of respondents indicated that the “consistent and relevant communication provided by both the sales and marketing organizations” was a key influence in choosing that company as their solution provider.
  • Almost 95% of recent purchasers said the solution provider they chose “provided them with ample content to help navigate through each stage of the buying process.”

Changes in the way B2B buyers budget

Finally, the way B2B buyers define budget is changing. Gone are the days when budgets were carved out and locked in at the end of the year. Budgets have become more flexible and often times created on the fly; especially if there is a positive ROI. The study concludes:

  • Less than ¼ indicated budget was approved/allocated during the beginning of the year
  • Nearly half of the respondents indicated they determined “the potential impact through other adopters and built a business case for immediate adoption,” then received approval although the project was un-budgeted.
  • 23% noted that budget was allocated after ROI was proven
  • 9% indicated budget was taken from another line item

There’s one call to action for B2B companies. Build a rock solid ROI model for your solution. Use the ROI as a tool to broker interaction and discussion with your prospects. If you have something of value, the economics should support it. More importantly, you’ll end up making a strong case for your solution and possibly get something that was not in the budget budgeted.

In conclusion, businesses can adapt to these changes by using revenue generation software that emphasizes lead tracking, lead scoring, lead nurturing and marketing automation processes while building a solid ROI to support their solution.