So many people have taken to saying, “The pandemic changed everything for business,” that it’s become a go-to cliche. But like most cliches, it’s not totally accurate.
In B2B marketing, the pandemic didn’t change the trends… but it did accelerate them. What was happening in the early part of the year before the outbreak only increased throughout the year, and the trends stayed strong well into 2021.
So, what’s changed? Two primary trends are clear from recent reports like DemandGen’s B2B Buyer Behavior Study: B2B buyers are taking longer to choose a supplier, and they not only prefer, but have begun to require, personalization in the sales process.
Let’s break each of these trends down and look at the data, and what you and your marketing team can do to give the people what they want.
Longer Buying Cycles
68% of respondents say their B2B purchase cycles have increased in length (DemandGen).
More than half said their purchase plans have stayed the same, but they are taking more time to make their choices. This means the old “marketing funnel” idea of a few key touchpoints is totally outdated for B2B.
If you want to convert your prospects, be prepared as a marketer to stay connected with them for a much longer cycle, and keep them engaged with your sales team throughout.
More people are involved
61% of B2B buyers report that they involve more people in their purchase process than in years past, while 71% of respondents have an official buying committee involved in potential purchases (DemandGen).
With more decision makers involved in the purchase cycle, it’s no longer about marketing to one key individual. Your sales team must be ready to be aligned across an organization, appealing to each stakeholders based on their pain points and level of influence.
The primary decision maker does more research
While most purchasing decisions are being made by teammates or committees, there is often still a primary decision maker in charge of coordinating discussions, and that person is doing more research than ever before presenting suppliers for review.
- 77% of survey respondents say they spend more time on research (DemandGen).
- 73% say they use more sources when evaluating their purchase decisions (DemandGen).
- The average buyer uses 6.9 information sources when making purchasing decisions, which is a 35% increase from last year (TrustRadius).
All of these stats come together to say: your marketing has to not only extend across time, but across cyberspace and IRL as well.
Your prospects are doing their research. This means you need an impeccable online presence coupled with your communication approach.
76% of respondents expect personalized attention from their suppliers based on their needs (DemandGen). Conversely, cold-calling and non-personalized messaging top the list of decision makers’ least favorite marketing tactics (TrustRadius).
We all have to sift through spam, and we all hate it. If you send generalized messages, you’re going right in the trash and worst, can leave a poor impression.
It’s clear buyers require personal attention, but they are also keen to detect inauthenticity. If you want to be sincere (and you want to, because it’s the only thing that works) in your outreach, you need the following:
- Know what’s relevant to your prospect
- Engage all stakeholders when and where they prefer
- Use specific content that relates to their specific needs
Learn more about getting personal.
Know what’s relevant
When asked to share why they picked their suppliers, 69% of respondents said the supplier demonstrated a strong knowledge of the solution and business landscape, and 65% said the supplier demonstrated a strong knowledge of the prospect company and prospect’s needs (DemandGen).
Not only is this knowledge valuable in itself when building a relationship with your prospects, but it also helps your sales and marketing team keep your messaging relevant.
People only have so much time in a day. B2B decision makers in particular often have very little time to spend, and they’re focused on their company’s needs.
Do your research on your target, and then use that knowledge to keep all your messaging relevant to their needs.
Sales must engage all stakeholders
As the number of stakeholders on the buying team has grown, so has the need to engage each member with relevant, personalized messaging.
65% of respondents said, “The sales rep met all of the needs of members of my buying team and addressed our concerns with targeted messaging and content.” (DemandGen)
All members of the buying team are going to have different concerns and focuses, and your sales rep must connect with each of these individuals for the best chance of a successful sale and partnership.
70% of respondents said relevant content that speaks directly to their company was very important to their purchase decision (DemandGen).
What does this mean for your sales team? For best effect, don’t use one-size-fits-all marketing materials. Craft content that speaks directly to your prospect’s history, industry, and needs.
Want some inspiration for your own targeted content? Here’s 8 B2B examples of targeted content that drive ROI.