One of the most important relationships that a B2B company can foster is the one with its current and prospective buyers. Long-term success arises not only from making the initial sale, but also from establishing the kind of brand loyalty that breeds organic growth. That can only be accomplished when your customers are beyond satisfied with their buying process and their ongoing overall buying experience as a customer.
Overall buying experience relies on a variety of factors that can impact the buyer’s journey and, as a result, the customer’s mindset in different ways. For the B2B brand, an exceptional buyer experience is the culmination of marketing’s intrigue, the payoff of a well-designed user experience, and the lasting reward of a meaningful customer success strategy. For B2B buyers, this customer experience or the buyer’s journey is, essentially, what it feels like to hang out and do business with a brand. The buying experiences should be examined from the buyer’s perspective, first and foremost.
According to Gartner, a typical buying group for a complex B2B solution consists of six to ten decision-makers.
What is customer buying experience?
The buying experience encompasses the whole period a potential client goes through from first awareness to purchase to the first use of the product or service and on into the post-purchase phase.
The customer buying experience tracks the entire lifecycle of a customer interacting with a brand. This experience is fundamental to the success of any B2B company, as it embodies the way that a brand relates to and interacts with their existing and prospective customers. The buying experience also includes the stage following a first purchase (also referred to as just the customer experience), which involves the interactions based around customer retention, repeat purchases and continued customer satisfaction.
What are the different stages of the B2B buying experience?
- Awareness: Customer experience and the buyer’s journey begin when a buyer interacts with your product or becomes aware of your brand through any means (e.g. word of mouth, digital marketing, video, social media, online reviews). The customer journey not only encompasses the period of time in which prospective buyers first become aware, but also when they are re-encountering your brand in the world, before they are in an evaluating or buying decisions mindset.
- Evaluation: When the prospective customer is evaluating their purchasing options for a specific product or service. This is when the prospective buyers will weigh your brand against your competitors.
- Purchase: When the prospective buyers make a final purchasing decision on what and where to buy and become the customers of your brand.
- Post-Purchase process: When the customers continually evaluate the product or service they purchased from your brand and considering whether or not it meets or exceeds their expectations for a positive customer experience.
- Repeat Purchase: When your happy customers are making the buying decision to purchase your product or service again. It is a great signal that brand loyalty has been established with the customer.
B2B sales process can be a complex and time-consuming process, with multiple decision-makers involved in each purchase. As a result, providing an excellent buying experience at all stages of the sales cycle is essential for success.
B2B customers today expect a streamlined and seamless buying process and buyer’s journey. Marketers and sales reps need to focus on improving the buying process and providing a great buying experience, as a result they will enjoy shorter buying cycles and higher conversion rates. That is why sales and marketing teams that want to be ahead of the competition consider the buyer experience as one of the most important parts of their sales process.
How to create an exceptional buyer experience at all stages of the buyer's journey?
While buyer experiences can vary slightly from customer to customer due to personal preferences, a solid marketing and user experience (UX) strategy should ensure that, no matter who you’re selling to, your customers feel good about following through on their purchases. The buyer experience should be the top priority as it will help your team efficiently move prospective buyers down the sales funnel.
To better understand what sort of output creates the positive buying experience, let’s break it down by each of the 5 phases. Both marketing and sales follow this timeline, so sales teams can take note of these strategies, too.
B2B buying experience stage #1: Awareness.
Businesses today are under immense pressure to create a more positive buying experience. In fact, many B2B companies now consider the buyer experience to be just as important as the products they offer. Awareness is the first stage of the customer experience, and it’s essential for businesses to get it right.
This is the meet-cute between your brand and your new customer — treat it as such. Make the moment memorable with an eye-catching digital marketing creative, a share-worthy blog post, or some other snackable content that engages and draws the customer to learn more. Suddenly, a random consumer becomes a potential customer who knows your brand’s name.
Example strategies and buying experience areas to focus on: Digital ads, social channels posts, online reviews, video, press releases/news features, content marketing, cold calling, competitor positioning.
B2B buying experience stage #2: Evaluation.
This is when the conversation gets serious. At this stage of the buyer’s journey the customer is interested in making a purchase soon. If they met your brand in the previous stage, this is when these customers interact with your brand more deliberately. It’s likely that they will visit your website or storefront to test the waters, explore your offerings, search for online reviews, and try to learn more about the brand.
Example strategies and buying experience areas to focus on: SEO/SEM, website customer reviews and ratings, E-commerce functionality, lead follow-ups, sales presentations and sales decks, live or asynchronous (pre-recorded) video presentations, product discounts and special offers, time-based sales.
B2B buying experience stage #3: Purchasing process.
At this stage of the buying journey when the customer is ready to make a buying decision and chooses your brand — make it feel right! Remove any pain points that could lead to poor buying experiences and help the purchase go off without a hitch. If this is a direct selling process, make the lead-up to the purchase feel personal and easy while you assess buyer needs in the context of this specific purchase interaction. In some B2B contexts, ensure that the purchasing agent or manager is engaged and involved if the buyer utilizes them.
Example strategies and buying experience areas to focus on: Personalized social media ads, E-commerce functionality, lead follow-ups, sales presentations, virtual presentations, purchasing agent and purchasing manager engagement, customer community activation (welcome new buyers to existing community).
B2B buying experience stage #4: Post purchase process.
This is when, after customers buy your product or service, overall customer experience, customer service and customer satisfaction take the spotlight — make sure they’re feeling good about the buying journey and their purchase. Your sales team should be checking in with them to see how they like the product, gently ask for a review and make them feel like a valuable member of your wider customer community. Did they pick your brand’s product or service for a unique buying reason? We all see personalized advertising these days, but personalized customer retention starts here and is just as crucial, while being far less common.
Example strategies and buying experience areas to focus on: Cold check-ins, email marketing, video emails, review solicitation, customer community engagement, referral rewards, feedback systems for UX improvement.
B2B buying experience stage #5: Repeat buy.
This is when existing customers are ready to buy from your brand again — reward them for their loyalty. Not only are they more likely to make repeat purchases, but they can also help to generate new leads through word-of-mouth marketing.
Example strategies and buying experience areas to focus on: Cold check-ins, email marketing, video emails, continued customer community engagement, customer rewards including upgrades and discounts, referral rewards, feedback systems for UX improvement, personalized ads.
By showing your existing customers that you appreciate their business, you can build a strong foundation for future growth.
How to create a more positive buying experience?
To create a more engaging buyer’s journey and a positive buying experience, consider examining the strategies and areas of focus outlined above for each stage of the customer journey. A B2B sales team should be focusing on humanizing the buying process as they work to improve the customer experience. The prospective buyers have to cut through a lot of noise these days. It’s the more genuine, relatable voices that succeed in doing that!
Whether you are in direct B2B sales, an E-commerce seller or a small brick and mortar shop owner, keeping track of and more personally engaging with your buyers individually will provide much more value to every buyer. If done well, this buying process can lead to much stronger brand loyalty, because your customers will feel satisfied and understood.
Even if customers have a poor product experience, effective communication and retention strategies can save the relationship — especially if they have already had many positive customer buying experiences before one sour moment.
When you do establish that kind of buying process the brand loyalty, organic growth is sure to follow, as your happy customers are more likely to refer their friends and family, brag about you, and continue to be your adjunct sales reps in the real world!
Deliver a more personal buying experience with asynchronous video presentations.
One way you can start to humanize and create a more engaging customer journey and better buying experience for an existing or a prospective customer is to improve the way B2B marketers and sales reps communicate and analyze buyer feedback. DeckLinks is a video presentation maker for B2B Sales and Marketing Teams. DeckLinks users can create and share personalized asynchronous (pre-recorded) video presentations with a single link, and use video narration to add a personal touch — no matter where you are located. Plus, you can track the way that a buyer engages with your video presentations so you can know and how to follow-up!
Ready to give DeckLinks a try? Learn more here and create a more personalized buyer experience today!
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