Businesses today have to base their sales and marketing efforts on one simple reality: the buyer controls the trip. Your company doesn’t. Why do today’s businesses spend so much time planning predetermined marketing trips when it’s the buyers we should enable?
Businesses need to evaluate new AI applications that will enable shoppers to access information more easily through better design, messaging, and creative treatments.
What is buyer activation and why do we need to steer our organizational mindset in this direction? Gartner said, “Enabling buyers is providing information that helps complete critical activities required to make a purchase.” In other words, just like sales enablement helps sellers sell, buyer enablement helps buyers buy. They also receive prescribed advice and practical support to make the buying process easier to navigate and complete.
More than ever, companies have the opportunity to empower and accompany buyers on their personal journeys. Let’s take a look at what a buyer activation mindset entails and how companies can operationalize it.
Pivoting to a buyer enablement mindset
It is estimated that approximately 70% of the buyer’s trip is complete before that person contacts a seller for a face-to-face meeting or consultation. Part of this move to a self-directed sales process has to do with changing buyer demographics. In the next few years, millennials will make most of the purchasing decisions within organizations and their purchasing units, and the communication preferences of these buyers will be largely digitally distorted. In other words, buyers these days have a limited appetite for being pushed into a sales and marketing funnel. Therefore, companies need to stop applying pressure.
Marketing and sales are still more relevant than ever in organizations. However, you need to focus everything through the lens of buyer activation and customer experience management to ensure that they deliver value when needed. To steer your team’s mindset in this direction, ask yourself:
- Is our company and its materials the go-to place for answering burning questions from buyers? (View your line of thought, content, and corporate POV here.)
- How can we enable buyers to make the right decision about our services, products and the industry? (View demos, ROI calculators, and other tools here.)
- Do we show ourselves in relevant media and channels in order to keep an overview for our buyers? (See your full media mix here.)
It should be noted that purchasing decisions often have as much to do with an individual’s motivations as they do with the goals of their company. Recent research by B2B International, a Merkle company, has shown that buyers are just as interested in improving their individual positions in their organizations as they are in adding value to the company. This insight has a clear impact on companies looking to operationalize buyer activation with their sales and marketing teams.
Operationalization of buyer activation
How can companies focus on putting buyer activation and customer experience management at the center of their sales and marketing efforts? It all starts with prioritizing a seamless journey as shoppers search for answers to their questions. In this regard, there are three areas that require attention:
Ways of engagement: Given the pandemic in particular, companies need to focus on a digital-first approach that sets priorities:
- E-commerce purchase options;
- Non-traditional ways of accessing sales, including social media and virtual events and meetings;
- Digital content that creates top-of-funnel awareness and confidence in how a business can help solve a buyer’s problems.
Technology: Especially when third-party cookies become irrelevant, companies must invest in better data structures and solutions for identity resolution that enable data protection-compliant cross-channel communication with potential customers throughout their entire journey. In addition, companies need to evaluate new AI applications that will enable buyers to access information more easily through better design, messaging, and creative treatments.
Focus: Today’s B2B organizations in particular need to break free of “business as usual” mentalities and re-focus on the reality of new buyers. This includes doubling down on post-purchase loyalty efforts to drive brand promotion (e.g., through training, account support, speaking at events, awards, and more). They also need to make sure they adapt their practices to the changing demographics of today’s decision makers and reorganize their marketing and sales teams to incentivize them to work towards the same results.
In the past, B2B buyers relied more on sellers to make decisions because of limited options for product information and training. Fast forward to today and we see that reality is exactly the opposite. Inundated with options, buyers have learned to navigate a complex digital web to find the resources they need to make informed decisions. They know how to search and where to find information, and a variety of content and format options allow them to find answers to their problems. The process isn’t always seamless, but make no mistake: buyers shape their journey into their final purchase.
Uday Nayar is Vice President for Strategy and Planning and Head of American B2B Strategy at Merkle, a marketing and customer experience management company. Before joining Merkle, he worked in digital strategy and account management at agencies such as OgilvyOne and Digitas for Fortune 500 companies in the technology, financial services, insurance and retail sectors.