Customer journey mapping provides endless opportunities to optimize the customer experience. For companies dealing with B2B customer journeys, this couldn’t be more important.
While both B2B and B2C brands are now prioritizing exceptional customer experiences, these experiences have recently become more crucial for companies operating in the B2B space.
And that’s because B2B customer journeys are fundamentally different.
There are many ways in which customer journeys differ for those buying from B2B companies, and it’s vital that brands have a thorough understanding of these factors before they begin any journey mapping or optimization strategies.
Take a look at some of the key differences of B2B customer journeys to see how your brand can begin improving experiences.
Generally speaking, B2C purchases tend to involve a single decision-maker, so it’s up to a brand to address the concerns of this buyer and interact with them in a way that sways their decision in a favorable direction.
Of course, there are certain situations where a B2C purchase might involve the opinions of several consumers, such as a high-ticket purchase for a product that will be used by a couple or a whole family, but on the whole, the number of stakeholders involved in a B2C decision will be fairly low.
Compare that to B2B businesses which are a whole different story – and this makes the customer journey for B2B brands far more complex. Quite often, B2B purchases will involve several members of the team, especially if a product requires a considerable investment, or is particularly important to the business as a whole.
B2B brands must consider the fact that even though there will likely be just one name on the purchase order, there’s probably going to be quite a few other stakeholders involved in that decision before a purchase is agreed upon.
Customer journey mapping for B2B brands must therefore consider in the thoughts, opinions and interactions of a number of different people, from sponsors and line managers to IT staff, accountants and end-users. Given the fact that several of these people will be operating behind the scenes, and might not interact directly with the brand in question, it can be tricky to accurately map the roles that they play in the customer journey.
The true value of a B2B customer is usually higher than that of a B2C customer because B2B relationships tend to be longer, and more profitable on the whole. This has implications for the customer journey, as it heightens the importance of particular customer relationships and the interactions that lead to a buying decision.
For brands just beginning to think about customer journey mapping, we recommend focusing on the most important customer relationships that the company already has. By considering these relationships exclusively, brands can start to focus on the points involved in these customers’ journeys, and think about how journeys differ among their top customers.
Use your brand’s most successful relationships as a learning tool, and think carefully about how the journeys of these customers might be optimized further in the future.
Analyze the true value of these relationships to ensure you have a clear picture of the effects of these customer journeys on the business as a whole, and consider how customer journey mapping and optimization strategies might boost the potential of the business going forward.
The number of professionals involved in typical B2B purchasing decisions, and the diverse range of different journeys that lead up to a decision, make personalization a crucial consideration.
Personalization is critically important when it comes to optimizing customer journeys; it’s something that no B2B (or B2C!) brand can afford to overlook. But personalization becomes ever more difficult when there are a number of different decision-makers to think about for every purchase. And, as we covered, that’s often the case for B2B companies.
Careful analysis of key data should be prioritized, to facilitate fully optimized, personalized interactions throughout the customer journeys of B2B decision-makers. By analyzing how B2B customers interact with their brand, companies can start to make tweaks designed to appeal to the specific buyer personas that they have identified.
Read up on the different product analytics and metrics options available to learn more about the different advantages that analytical tools provide in customer journey mapping.
The complexity of lead nurturing should not be underestimated, particularly when we’re thinking about lead nurturing in the run-up to B2B purchasing decisions.
Research published by Gartner in 2019 revealed that “77% of B2B buyers feel that making a purchase is very complicated and time-consuming, 90% of survey customers do not follow a straightforward customer journey, often looping back and repeating at least one or more tasks in the buyer journey.”
B2B brands, therefore, need to think carefully about their lead nurturing strategies, and bear in mind that the process might not be as linear as they had imagined.
From early lead qualification to lead scoring, lead segmentation and list mapping, there are many different tasks to focus on as part of the lead nurturing process.
B2B businesses cannot afford to overlook a single one of them, particularly as so many B2B decisions tend to involve buyers dipping in and out of the customer journey many times before a decision is finalized. For this reason, brands need plenty of analytical tools at their fingertips.
B2B brands should be making use of CRM platforms to enable better management of the lead nurturing process. These platforms make it easy for brands to understand their leads, and make the most of every opportunity that recent interactions have presented.
CRM platforms can be used to segment leads according to their previous engagement, and help brands to better understand the diverse range of buyer personas that they might be working with. They’re also hugely important when it comes to personalization, another crucial factor in any successful B2B customer journey.
Complex Buyer Personas
All successful brands give priority to understanding their key buyer personas, but for B2B companies this task becomes a little more complicated. Because in general, buyer personas for B2B brands are more complex.
B2B customers are likely to have many more motivating factors and concerns than the typical B2C consumer, yet they will still be expecting a similar customer experience to those offered by top B2C brands.
And this expectation really matters because today’s B2B customers are putting just as much value in these experiences as the typical B2C consumer.
The combination of heightened expectations and increasingly complex buyer personas can make life difficult for B2B companies hoping to optimize their customer journeys. But optimizing the customer journey for a wide range of multifarious buyer personas is by no means an insurmountable task.
With the help of cutting edge customer journey analytics tools, B2B brands can start to get closer to the end goal of complete customer journey mapping for their particular buyer personas.
Customer journey analytics platforms can be used to help brands produce journey mapping reports, which will help them pinpoint particular areas of frustration or friction in the journey that might be losing customers.
These points can then be considered in light of what the brand already knows about its buyer personas and to gain a clearer picture of the particular pain points of high-value customers.
Journey reporting can be used to analyze the effectiveness of different initiatives for individual buyer personas, giving all team members a good idea of how different personas interact with the customer journey – and which interaction points tend to bring them to a purchasing decision more successfully.
The customer journey does not end at purchase, and this is particularly true of B2B customer journeys. For the most part, B2B purchasing decisions will be part of a longstanding relationship, or the beginning of an ongoing partnership between two companies. This makes customer retention of heightened importance to B2B brands – far more so than is typical for B2C companies.
Great B2B brands will invariably have worked hard on their customer retention strategies, ensuring that previous purchasers remain engaged with the brand and aware of its core products and services. It’s vital that B2B customer retention strategies are therefore fully coordinated, making good use of analytics tools to determine the success of individual campaigns.
Customer service, rewards schemes and loyalty programs, reviews and feedback requests should all be carefully planned and integrated to ensure that B2B brands are well equipped to capitalize on the opportunities that good customer retention strategies provide.
While there are certainly similarities in the typical customer journeys of B2B and B2C consumers, there are also key differences to consider. B2B brands looking to build on past successes must therefore pay careful attention to the journeys of their customers, and make full use of all analytical tools to inform future customer experience optimization strategies.
If you’d like to learn more about how analytics can help you understand your customers’ journeys, start exploring Woopra.