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The Customer Journey Of A B2B Buyer

June 13th, 2016

The Customer Journey Of A B2B Buyer Is Slow And Cautious… and Lasts Beyond The Purchase

Every content strategy includes a map that lays out the customer journey. It shows where the buyer will stop on their way towards making a purchase, where their experience might be positive or negative, and what they’ll undergo as they move from problem through consideration to the purchase of a solution.

B2B buyers undergo a similar process but their map will look very different. While a retail buyer’s customer journey might include experiences such as waiting in line or completing a form at the checkout desk, both of which can be enhanced by the seller, a B2B buyer’s journey might also include budget meetings and pitches to other department heads, moments over which the seller has limited control. The journey will be longer, more arduous and more complex than that of a retail buyer with decisions that have to be taken by multiple stakeholders, all of whom need convincing, although the final purchase may also be significantly larger.

That extra complexity poses a challenge for content marketers, but it’s also producing new opportunities. A survey by LinkedIn of 6,000 buyers, marketers, and salespeople in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, the United Kingdom, and the United States found that for B2B buyers in particular, the customer journey is now extending beyond the sale. As the buyer’s journey has moved off the golf courses, out of the Martini bars and even away from the inbox, nurturing, a part of customer relations that used to be managed by the sales team, has become the responsibility of marketing teams. “Effective marketers are moving their nurturing efforts beyond email nurturing to display and social advertising and other forms of multi-channel nurturing,” LinkedIn said.

The survey also found that the greater the understanding among salespeople of that multi-channel nurturing process, the greater the alignment between marketing and sales. Seventy-one percent of salespeople who used multi-channel nurturing said that their relationship with marketing was growing stronger. Less than half of salespeople who didn’t use multi-channel nurturing were able to say the same of their relationship with the marketing staff.

Some businesses have already recognized the need to give their sales teams those broader skills, and they’ve understood the need for their sales staff to work with the marketing plan. One task that we’re often asked to undertake is to produce a content strategy aimed not just at company’s B2B customers but at its salespeople, improving their ability to use the best sales methods available. For the Migdal and Generali insurance companies, for example, we used a number of specific content methodologies to enhance the use of digital tools among the companies’ insurance agents and brokers.

Content marketers have long planned the customer journeys of prospects from interest through information to enhancement and purchase. They do the same for B2B customers, however complex those journeys might be, extend them, and enable B2C sellers to improve their buyers’ customer journeys.

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