The B2B purchasing process usually takes a longer time for business to consumers due to the fact that it is often linked to a contract. This process is complex and multiple decision makers need to be convinced. Understanding who the decision maker in this process is key. Often, the decision is taken after a few months of well thought benchmarking. Depending on how complex and expensive the deal is, this process could even take up to a few years.
Choice and decision-making around the B2B purchasing process
The purchasing journey in B2B is involved due to the intrinsic complexity of B2B products and services: the high technicality of such business to business products and services require bespoke offerings. Oftentimes, B2B purchasing process involve several departments and decision makers and longer decision-making processes.
Description of the B2B purchasing process
Thanks to digital, B2B buyers are increasingly behaving like B2C buyers (see our fact sheet on B2C buying here). They search through their favourite search engine, download white papers, consult specialist blogs…
This is reflected in the increasing importance taken particularly by what is known as inbound marketing (inbound), which is opposed to outbound marketing. This is a profound change from the days when B2B marketing relied entirely on the presence of‘un salesman facing his customer.
According to research firm Forrester Research
- 92% of B2B purchases start with an internet search
- 68% of B2B buyers prefer to conduct online research themselves, up from 53% in 2015
- 60% of B2B buyers prefer not to interact with a salesperson as their primary source of information
- 75% of B2B buyers use social networks to learn about different suppliers
- 62% of business-to-business buyers say they can now develop selection criteria or finalize a vendor list – based solely on digital content
For more on the Forrester report “Death of a B2B Salesman”, read our analysis on our client Sparklane’s website:”Big Data & Predictive Analytics – Beyond the Buzzword”
Limits of theoretical approaches of the B2B purchasing process
It would be wrong to believe that all B2B purchases, even in large accounts, are made in an orderly and rational way, and always according to contracts.
Even in IT, many purchases are made directly by business departments, and often even directly via the Internet.
In the highly rational and controlled field of computing, Amazon Web Services has demonstrated that it is possible to take a majority of the market in a B2B field (selling servers online) in massive proportions and with buying patterns close to the public (it is possible to open an account immediately with your Amazon account on AWS with a simple credit card).
Also, pricing and market sizes are very different from B2C
In B2C, you are addressing large masses of customers with modest turnovers. In B2B, we are addressing very small populations and very limited numbers of sales for very large revenues with very complex decision circuits
On one side, the mass, based on a large number of very low, on the other a small number of sales with amounts very high.
B2B purchasing process; a very different cost of the sale
On the one hand because the population of potential customers is smaller in B2B, but also because salespeople are infinitely more expensive: you can’t hire just anyone to do just anything.
To sell in B2B, you need a minimum of polish and skills in the field. The acquisition costs are therefore much higher, and this is true not only offline but also online. While at the lower end of the B2B market you can get leads for around €20, the average for the higher end of the market is going to be more like between €100 and €1,000, or even more.
It is not possible to apply the same methods for all B2B markets.
Trends and innovations in B2B
The importance of brand reputation in the buying process B2B is no longer a minor consideration at all. This is manifested mainly by digital actions, especially at a time when users have decided to inform themselves.
These digital actions are often oriented around in-depth content on the company’s topic (blogs, white papers, etc.).
But some significant B2B brands have demonstrated (Volvo Trucks and Caterpillar in particular) that brand awareness in B2B could also be achieved through actions further away from the core business content.
In addition, the massive integration of data, its analysis and new techniques influenced by Big Data related disciplines tend to bring B2B and B2C marketing closer together.
On the one hand, B2C is moving away from mass marketing by opening up the prospect of individualized personalization marketing (the old dream of Don Peppers and Martha Rodgers from the 1990s is now within reach of more companies).
On the other hand, B2B is moving out of the traditional sales model and investing heavily in marketing automation, lead nurturing, customer intelligence and predictive lead scoring. This phenomenon, initially reserved for high tech, is spreading to other sectors.
B2B tools and methods
To address the needs of buyers in B2B, it is essential to be equipped withat the very least a CRM solutionand marketing automation
After a certain volume of business, a lead management tool allows to manage both acquisition and validation, as well as improvement and data cleansing and qualification of leads.
At a later stage, B2B marketers should be able to equip themselves with attribution technologies (to find out the most effective touchpoints for winning new customers) and of Account-Based Marketing (ABM) to identify key accounts, design targeted marketing campaigns and measure performance on each identified account.