The B2B customer journey is evolving, as traditional B2B players are following the same customer-centric strategies as their B2C counterparts. No longer are superior products or lower prices automatically a winning hand: buyer experience is becoming a differentiator.
In many ways, this makes perfect sense. Buyers are trending younger. They’re digital-first. They expect the same seamless journey across touchpoints that they receive outside the office, do more research on products and services, and have more outlets for that research. They may engage with an organisation far later in the buying process than previous generations of buyers. This means that the linear consumer funnel that was once at the heart of the buying process is in a transformative moment.
For B2B operators, this offers a tremendous opportunity to re-imagine their customer journey and deliver more personal and profitable experiences. It’s a chance to drive customer loyalty and build winning long-term relationships while reducing costs and improving efficiencies.
But in order to craft a B2B customer journey that not only meets new expectations but exceeds them, you’ll need to have a vision of what your ideal customer journey looks like – then create a map of how you can make it a reality.
Many buyers have to juggle a huge number of suppliers and buying teams with different needs and competing concerns, which can lead to a chaotic environment. Creating a good customer journey can help keep the buyer on ‘rails’, or a logical track towards purchase.
The customer journey has become especially important for B2B organisations, who have to deal with more complicated journeys with more people involved, higher-value transactions and longer relationships than B2C players. Perhaps, then, the reason why it took so long for the B2C customer journey to become a priority is the exact reason it needs to become one now: complexity. By creating a good customer journey, B2B players can lower costs, improve ROI and simplify the sales cycle.
A customer journey map is an illustration showing all the steps a customer has to take when engaging with your business. It’s a useful tool for tracking a purchase from the consumer’s POV, identifying pain points and looking for where additional value can be added. A customer journey map can help businesses create frictionless purchasing experiences while ensuring that any ‘moments of truth’ – points on the journey where customer impressions are most likely to be formed – are positive ones.
1. Create your buyer personas. Creating a buyer persona enables you to look at your journey through the eyes of your buyer. You can create different personas for different types of buyers from different types of organisations, and see how efficient your customer journey is for each persona. You’ll want to create personas that consider different demographics, pain points, technology preferences and overall needs.
2. Nail down your buyer’s goals. Buyers often have differing concerns and priorities. Some will be concerned most with price. Others with features or quality. Some buyers will want to be able to research products, while others will already know what they want and just want the buying process to be as quick and efficient as possible. Assign different goals to each persona, and see how well your customer journey accommodates them.
3. Create a flowchart showing the path of the buyer’s journey. By creating a flowchart, you’ll get a visual representation of the steps the customer needs to take to reach their ultimate goal. Your flowchart will likely include: 1) Awareness. 2) Consideration. 3) Purchase. 4) Onboarding. 5) Advocacy. Look at the resources and content you’re offering at each step of the journey. Is it working as well as it could be?
4. Evaluate the touchpoints on the journey (web, social media, chat, call centre, email, etc). Once you’ve created a flowchart of the journey, you can examine the touchpoints that different personas might use to complete those steps. Are all your touchpoints aligned? Are they all optimised to deliver an easy B2B customer experience? Have you created an omnichannel strategy?
5. Identify any bottlenecks and pain points you encounter. If your answer to any of the above questions is ‘no’, then you’ll want to note the issues you’ve found. Some of the most common bottlenecks include catering the wrong content to the wrong buyer, using the wrong tools for the wrong persona, and over-complicating buying processes. For instance, if the buyer just wants to set up simple recurring orders for a product, but they’re forced to go through sales or support rather than being able to use a self-serve portal.
6. Look at points where value can be added, i.e. chatbots, self-service options or upselling/cross-selling opportunities. Once your pain points and bottlenecks have been noted, set about fixing them. You can leverage AI to better personalise the buyer journey and introduce chatbots to provide more efficient service. But don’t just look at problems; look at what can be done better, as well. Are there opportunities to add value for your business and the customer through cross-selling? Are there places where you can simply provide moments that build better relationship and drive loyalty?
7. Solicit feedback about the customer journey from the workforce. Your workforce is dealing with buyers every day, so they should have some helpful insights into what’s working and what’s not. Ask them to identify any recurring issues that they see. Do they have suggestions for how the buyer experience can be improved? How about the employee experience? Do they have all the tools and training they need to deliver exceptional service?
8. Look at qualitative data from surveys and buyer feedback. Sometimes the most effective way to understand the B2B journey is to simply ask your buyers for feedback. You can deploy automatic surveys, or have your reps and agents follow up manually after interactions. These surveys can provide deeper feedback, with more granular insights. When looking at analytics, it can be easy to forget the ‘human’ behind the numbers. Feedback can help tell the whole story.
9. Review quantitative data from company analytics. Look at all the data you have about buyers’ patterns and the buyer’s journey. Are buyers often dropping out of the journey in the same place? Where are they disengaging or getting stuck? Look at the data from different channels. Do some channels appear to be a problem? What medium is best driving engagement? Is your marketing aligned with the length of your sales cycle?
10. Fix any roadblocks between your current B2B journey and your ideal B2B journey. You now have a good idea of the buyer’s journey, from the POV of your business, your buyer and your workforce. You have analytics that show you what’s working and what’s not. And you have a list of bottlenecks that can be fixed. After you’ve addressed any pain points, you can look at where you can add the personal moments that build better relationships and make your business stand out.
Creating a great B2B customer experience can increase customer retention and reduce inefficiencies. Introducing self-service options can lower service costs, CRM platforms can improve marketing activities and AI solutions like Einstein can help maximise ROI. In the end, you can create a customer journey that not only empowers the buyer, but empowers the business, as well.
To see more about how you can create extraordinary experiences to increase sales and drive efficiencies, check out our eBook, Thriving in the Experience Economy.