The B2B buying journey is more complicated than the B2C buying journey; there are more decision makers involved, and the entire process is less linear. Nevertheless, buyers have come to expect the same elevated experiences in their B2B buying journey as they do in their B2C experience.
So how can you as a manufacturer continue to evolve the experience you provide? There are several steps to evaluate your current buying journey that will help determine how you’ll begin to change it in the future.
1. Identify the Key Players and their Touchpoints
While there are many people who play a part in the B2B buying cycle, not all these roles will be relevant to your business. Start by evaluating the internal and external players who will interact with your organization and determine what their experience will be.
How are people getting to your website? Are they buying from you through a distributor or directly? At what points in their journey to they physically engage? Are they interacting on a mobile device, on a desktop, through an app, or in person?
To answer these questions, you have to dig deeper into the experience you’re providing and learn how buyers are moving through your sales funnel. Triggers such as downloadable content and product specifications are considered engagement, but where does the buyer go from there? Where in their buying journey do they physically make a purchase, and how can you seamlessly move them from your experience to your buying channel?
2. Determine the Roadblocks
You should evaluate every single touchpoint each of your key players experiences to really dig deeper and find where the pain points are. It’s about looking at your journey from the outside in. This can be difficult as a manufacturer, and unless you’re actively interviewing customers and prospects, it’s nearly impossible to understand what the real journey is and where it falls short.
In addition, gathering customer data internally is most likely going to yield results that may not be wholly accurate, as customers will be less likely to be completely honest in their feedback when they’re interacting with the company they’re criticizing. Using a third party partner to get that unbiased, honest feedback is often the most efficient way to find out where your experience is lacking. Having information that honestly outlines the roadblocks customers face in your experience is critical in moving forward to decide how you’ll design your technologies, your interactions, and your future experience.
In addition, a third party partner is able to examine your organization and experience from the outside-in. Internal teams may fail to recognize evolving customer needs because of their inside perspective, and may be more apt to miss opportunities for growth than a third party.
3. Use Data to Justify Strategic Changes
Gathering honest and unbiased data on your customer experience is only valuable if you can make it actionable. The data you gather is the information that will help identify the next steps and provide justification for change. Often times, change is met with resistance internally, and having the data to prove the necessity of those changes will be helpful when handling objections.
In many cases, automation and technology improvements are a large part of improving the buying journey as a manufacturer. Many believe automation means a loss of jobs. In reality, it can be an opportunity to look at how those jobs can evolve and change. Use your data to understand the areas where customers want to see change and improved self-service, and look at how the roles within your company can evolve to provide that elevated experience and channel your manpower into other areas of your organization.
It’s important to remember that the B2B buying journey is a cycle; it’s not a one-and-done interaction. As a manufacturer, you’ll have to continue to evolve your experience for your clients and the roles that interact with your business. When outlining a plan for building a better buying journey, it’s crucial to consider when you’ll need to go back and reevaluate your experience again. Through continual interaction, you can evolve your business, helping you meet and exceed your customer expectations as their needs, wants, and experience expectations grow.
To learn more about the B2B buying process and how you can improve the experience you provide, check out our guide The People of the Manufacturing and Distribution Buyer Journey.
Senior Commerce Consultant for Perficient Digital, a leading digital transformation consulting firm. Experience includes more than two decades in digital commerce, product management, business development and marketing for manufacturing and distribution organizations. Has provided strategic leadership for global suppliers and brands resulting in innovative techniques for improving the customer experience overall, reducing cost of sales and accelerating efficiencies within complex buying and selling scenarios. Authored articles for leading publications in the manufacturing, distribution and ecommerce industries.