Understanding the customer journey – and your internal team’s journey – is critical in B2B industries like manufacturing and distribution. One of the most important roles in the B2B buying process is a researcher. This person understands their business, and is looking for a solution to a specific problem.
The researcher is the subject matter expert, but may not ever place an actual order. The more technical the job, the more likely she is to be making the product purchasing decision and selecting the products.
The Search for Information
When looking for the answer to her problems, it’s not uncommon that the researcher starts with a search engine. In fact, 71% of B2B researchers start their research with a generic search. She is searching by product name or capability, and typically does not search by looking for a specific manufacturer or distributor. In fact, she’ll typically conduct an average of 12 searches before visiting a specific brand or supplier site.
Knowing she’s starting her search online, you’ll want to provide her with high-quality information that helps her solve her problem and find the right product. It’s not enough to just create the content, it needs to be easily searchable. Consider using a combination of search engine optimization, pay per click, or a social strategy to drive a researcher to your information.
The good news is, once you’ve established a loyal relationship with her, she’ll continue to rely on you in the future, and skip the Google search.
In-person Interaction on Demand
If the researcher can’t find the information she’s looking for on your site, she may be forced to pick up the phone and call you. Not because she wants to, but because she has to. Your sales team may see this as an opportunity to get in front of the client, but the truth is, the researcher may not have time for that. Make in-person interactions with you something the researcher can choose to do, not be forced to do.
Support through the Purchase and Beyond
Before she’s ready to buy, the researcher may have requested samples, either online or from her interaction with you, tested them out, and made adjustments. But instead of actually purchasing, she’ll likely add products to a buying list or a Bill of Material.
At this point, the interaction may shift to a buyer, who will be charged with taking that list of products and purchasing them. How can you make providing that list even easier? Can you tie it directly to what you quoted the researcher? You want that handoff experience to be as seamless as possible for both personas.
The B2B buying journey never stops after purchase. It becomes a cycle of buying, re-buying, and ongoing support. If the researcher runs into challenges with the product, she should have installation guides and troubleshooting guides available on her mobile device, so she can easily access them on the job. Also, provide easy access to subject matter experts on your end to help her one on one with her purchase, whether it be by phone, online, or in person. Giving her access to interact via her preferred channel is key.
Interacting with the Researcher
What She Does
- She’s a subject matter expert in her field
- She selects, tests and specifies products that are used with her projects and jobs
- She doesn’t usually place orders for products but might if on a job or in a rush
What She Needs
- Searchable information that educates her on ways to solve her challenge and drives her to your site
- Access to information that helps her narrow her search and that is accurate and relevant to her buying journey
- An easy way to request samples or request a quote
- The means to move between an online and a personal experience without interruption
Where You’ll Reach Her
Depending on her job, the researcher may spend more time at her desk than people in other roles. However, she most likely moves between her desk and other locations, meaning she’ll need a seamless experience between her desktop and mobile devices.
What You Can Provide to Make Her Job Easier
- A good and intuitive search experience that starts at the search engine level and continues on your site
- Content that is relevant from the start of her buying journey to the end of her journey, including solution information sheets, technical specifications, MSDS, CAD and more to help her make the right decision
- The ability to create and manage lists allowing her to request a quote or order samples
- A user experience that is relevant to her needs across devices
To learn more about the other roles involved in the B2B buying process and how you can improve their experience, 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.