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Disruptively Customer Centric B2B sales – Tools for Crossing the Chasm

B2B sales has been under major disruption due to content marketing and automation surge. I am a big believer and practitioner of these tools and methods my self and I’ve been convinced that this is the way to create naturally supporting customer journey towards a happy end and the results have proved how well it works. Now I have to admit that you can go way beyond.

Let’s  consider the B2B buyers and procurement and their process:

TOP OF THE FUNNEL has to do with planning and designing the change. This work is mostly done with internal stake holders, consultants and designers. The buyers are exploring options, pondering their current solutions and how they fit with the change. This stage is really about learning and defining what would good outcome look like.

PROBLEMS:

  • The buyers don’t engage with vendors at this stage, although they are likely to use vendors’ content marketing materials. Most of the buyers’ time is spent searching on Google.
  • Buyers have hard time finding relevant content because the market is quite cluttered with generic content that doesn’t really support buyers’ process. What customers really need and look for are: Solution facts, Business Cases, White papers, Success Stories, Reviews… Tangible and concrete tools for their process. These are not easy to find!
  • Customer would benefit from dialogue with the vendors, but they don’t do it because they don’t want to get harassed by sales. Buyers want to drive the process and manage it efficiently. Active sales is considered disturbing.
  • Large vendors dominate the space, because they have resources to produce content, they have strong page ranking and their brands pull customers to their resources. This logic and dynamic will enforce status quo and buyers don’t find NEW, INNOVATIVE AND MORE COST EFFICIENT OPTIONS. These vendors are not known yet and they concentrate on their product and service development – not in content creation. Their page rank is low and Google doesn’t find them. The buyers interest is to find the best solutions but they have very hard time finding them.
  • When the logic of top-of-the-funnel goes like that, it influences the request for proposal (RFP). The RFP and vendor list that will get that RFP will consist of well known players and leave very little room for innovative approaches
  • You don’t get trustworthy reviews from B2B companies anywhere, really. It’s difficult to compare sales pitch with actual delivery experiences. Success cases underline success, but hide failure.

Screenshot 2016-01-19 07.06.45

MIDDLE OF THE FUNNEL is about engagement with 3-10 recognised players who will get the RFP. This is the first time for the buyer to allow vendors to ask questions and study options with them. Vendors have experience from multiple customers and they can reflect previous cases and their results which could potentially lead to better outcome than the one outlined in the RFP. Connecting customers challenges to vendors solutions could create a new solution, which would be the best case

PROBLEMS:

  • Most innovative and best solutions are not the ones to get the RFP and the customers will probably choose solutions that are established, expensive and quite similar to those that their competitors are using
  • The most innovative people don’t get to influence the buyers thinking and the buyers don’t get the kind of edge to their operations that would have been possible
  • The market logic will enforce status quo: innovative SMEs don’t get to grow and once their technology is proven the entrepreneurs will make an exit and sell their company to big players years after the development of better solutions and at that point the big players will introduce the solutions to the market and scale them. At this point buyers don’t get such benefit from their choice anymore and they will pay much more than they would have paid a couple of years earlier

I met the Founder and CEO of SpendLead Fabrice Saporito last autumn and their solution really impressed me. SpendLead is an environment where the optimal buying process has been made possible and allows the most innovative players to engage with buyers early. The founders have their history in procurement and they have developed a dream environment for the buyers to realise the optimal buying process!

SpendLead founders have their history in major companies buying processes, which has allowed them to get these buyers in. There are already major companies procurement departments which have combined buying power worth more than 200 Billion/year using SpendLead which gives the service a unique value proposition. eg. BBC

Screenshot 2016-01-19 07.36.28

The service has been built around these buyers interests, which means that they have embraced it and adopted it rapidly. It’s now time for sellers and marketers to take advantage of this possibility. How it works for marketers promoting their services in SpendLead? You publish exactly what the customers are looking for:

Screenshot 2016-01-19 07.43.23

And you get tools to do you engagements and lead generation:

Screenshot 2016-01-19 07.43.40

For an SME this environment gives full toolkit, allows very easy publication and enables anonymous engagements with buyers who want to learn more at the top of the funnel. This will speed up and strengthen the innovative solutions adoption. This environment magnify solutions and their impact, not brands. That’s why I think that SpendLead can disrupt the market logic over the next couple of years. The service is completely free for buyers and the business model is based on leads. Their pricing is very affordable, 1,99USD/lead and it will probably disrupt the lead generation market also in case of bigger brands. At least it is great way for SME’s to scale their sales reach. I don’t think that big companies can afford to neglect this kind of player in case their buyers adopt the service.

SpendLead is definitely worth trying and their thinking is solid. I’m really interested in seeing how this kind of disruptive new service will change the way we do B2B selling and buying!

In case you have experiences about customer dialogue and sales process inside SpendLead I’d be very interested in hearing actual experiences from both buyers and marketers point of view

Customer decision making journey and market FLOW

McKinsey just published an article about customer decision making journey. It’s an approach based on a single research and 20000 respondents. I find it great that Customer Journey work and methodologies get real attention and McKinsey’s article proved that customer journey understanding, analytics and design are maturing and becoming real business management tools. We have taken it further with Jarmo Lipiäinen and created Customer Journey Management methodology for sustainable management model. We are also trying to have Customer Journey Management – the book – published, but in the mean while here are some thoughts about how to apply customer journey mapping and understanding to your  business.

To start with:

You need to understand that there are very different journeys to begin with.

  • Purchase journey (From awareness to consideration and transaction, Acquisition)
  • Service journeys post purchasing (Using the product or service, value-in-use)
  •  Planned (e.g. Address change, regular maintenance etc.)
  •  Unpredictable (e.g. Product failure, reclamation, insurance coverage, etc.)
  • Delivering a service as a customer journey (taking a cruise or flight, restaurant, using media, etc.)
  • Retail customer journeys (e.g. IKEA store experience)

Media company’s customer journey would be about daily use contexts in multi-channel environment reaching the customers with online, print, tablets, email with variety of media types. The thing is, if you simplify customer journeys too much, you will not benefit from the analysis either.

1st: Concentrate on what they did 

When you are diving in to customer behavior along their decision-making journey, you need to understand that only customers who have recently done the purchase can tell you how they did it. People are very bad at behaving according to their preferences – so you need to learn from what they did – not from what they think they would do. When people enter the decision-making journey – they can not know how they come out of it. Here’s an example of car purchases

it is a maze

When customers enter the maze they have certain brands in mind. When they are inside the maze they will consult professionals, read reviews, visit discussion forums and discuss with friends. When they are in the zone they will pay attention to advertising they normally ignore and they are likely to learn a lot. Eventually, when they buy something, it could be something they wouldn’t have thought in the beginning.

2nd There are dynamics – rules of engagement so to say – but each category and brand journey is different

If you consider decision-making journeys from buying a nuclear power plant to buying a bottle of coke – here’s how you can analyze the rules of engagement

The customer journey for a well-known, liked and preferred brand is extremely different from a journey for unknown new brand. Read more from article: Brand as a roadsign. It is also good to understand that if you have several product categories, each of them is likely to follow different dynamics.

3rd Look at the whole market – not just your own touch points and understand the market flow!

Here is an example of market flow for a telecom operator. The Dynamic market flow is interesting concept that medical companies are using. They don’t look at the overall market shares but dynamic market, which is about new prescriptions and changing prescriptions. Similarly, looking at the market change is where you can best see how your work is influencing. The market share will follow. Here is some idea about how the idea works from a telco case I made a year ago. I can’t give any actual data out because it is proprietary but I can explain the methodology. First of all, what is the size of dynamic market and how does it flow:

This data tells you how many actually bought, how many of them bought spontaneously and how many did considered purchases. Earlier I did a customer journey decision-making mapping for 3G bundles in Finland, Denmark and France. I can tell you that the differences in national behavior also vary very much. When French people make considered purchases, Finns buy 3G bundles like sausages. These two markets have very different dynamics. Ok. Let’s dig deeper. Here is how you can break down each product category:

This graph has very important information presented in a single page. I know it is not beautiful but it is highly practical. First of all you need to know whether people are newbies and making their first purchase or experience buyers. Then, what is it that makes people tick and initiate conscious consideration? When they do get activated, do they really look for more information or just rely on their brand related heuristics or do they just buy spontaneously? There is great different between customer journeys that are spontaneous and those that are considered. There is even more important figure to understand, that is outbound tele sales share of dynamic market. When you have all this information about your brand and your competitors, I can guarantee you will find insights and surely learn what to do differently. Between brands there will be major differences in conversion rates from preference to purchases and differences in sales via different channels: outbound, retail, online, inbound…

4th Different types of relationships

You buy milk several times a week, you use video rental service occasionally, but very rarely rent the same movie. In average you buy a house once in a lifetime. The relationships are different, very different. This difference has a major impact on how you can create customer relationships and apply customer journey methodology to them. Here are the variables:

These variable form a quadrant with typologies:

It is obvious that every brand should work their way up and to the right. Even if a customer only buys the product or service once in a lifetime, you could still create relationship that feels like continuous relationship.

5th Leverage all your information assets

Understanding the whole customer journey makes it possible for an organisation to re-define relevance and information sources. I’ve published an article about how to cure corporate autism earlier and you can find more from there. Check out 

However, you need to understand how the market works and how does your products and services flow with the market. The Customer Journey  as a full help in defining what to pay attention to.

Along the Customer Journey you can analyze customer behavior with online analytics, CRM, marketing automation tools, CSAT, VOC-studies, look at market data, research marketing and brand outcomes, analyze social media.. Ok, the list is endless. This is why you need to re-define relevance and build your KPI’s accordingly.

Business Dynamics Score is one of the most fundamental decision journey metrics. It tells you how many customer that preferred you originally, did you keep and how many did you lose. Of those who had no preference or preferred competitor, how many did you win or lose.

LAST but not least

If you really step in to your customer’s shoes, you understand that for a customer a brand is a single entity. If you really analyze customer journey you will find out what to change in order to perform better, but it could be anything. The challenge I have faced most often when I have done customer journey mapping and analysis for my clients is, that it is difficult to tear down silos and act on customer behavior needs. Instead of print campaign it might be better to spend the money on new online webstore, or investing in marketing automation software enabling event based servicing. In my opinion customer journey work is an extraordinary innovation  methodology for corporate transformation, change management, and amazing performance.

SEE NEXT:

Customer Journey stage 1: Brand as a platform

Customer Journey stage 2: Initiation

Customer Journey stag 3: Choosing and buying – cross-channel influence

How to map and study Customer Journey

Author: Toni Keskinen, Marketing Architect & Customer Journey Designer

http://www.linkedin.com/in/tonikeskinen

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