How Digital Disruption is Redefining B2B

Mark Donnigan

The digital revolution has significantly transformed B2B buying, signaling the end of traditional sales and marketing models.

Today’s B2B buyer behavior is increasingly dominated by digital interactions and online research as evidenced by Gartner’s research. In their pre-pandemic survey of 750 B2B stakeholders involved in complex solution purchases, just 17% of the total buying time was spent interacting directly with supplier sales teams.

Buyers are dedicating more time to independent learning online (27%) and offline (18%) and building consensus within their organizations (22%) and with external partners (11%).

This shift illustrates a fundamental change: the direct influence of sales teams on buyers is diminishing rapidly.

If we consider a scenario where three suppliers are vying for the same opportunity, the time each supplier’s sales team interacts with a customer could be as low as 5% of the total buying journey time investment.

Sales leaders are now facing a significant challenge – a dramatically reduced window of direct interaction, limiting their ability to influence customer decisions.

The New B2B Buying Journey

The evolution of the B2B buying journey, marked by a growing reliance on digital channels, signifies a radical shift in how companies make purchasing decisions. This transformation is reshaping the traditional roles within the sales and marketing landscape.

The Rise of Digitally Empowered Buyers

Today’s B2B buyers are more autonomous than ever before, empowered by the internet. Buyer’s no longer depend primarily on salespeople for information. Instead, they begin their buying journey online, leveraging a wealth of digital resources and communities, including knowledge sharing with colleagues and peers from other companies.

This trend towards self-guided research allows buyers to reach advanced decision-making stages without direct interaction with sales representatives.

The Shift in Buyer Expectations

Modern buyers expect a more tailored approach. A one-size-fits-all strategy no longer resonates in an era where buyers seek personalized and value-driven interactions.

Marketing strategies have evolved in response to this change. The focus has shifted towards creating content that draws potential customers towards a company’s products or services.

This is the essence of inbound marketing – attracting customers through relevant and helpful content rather than pushing products through traditional sales tactics.

Digital Channels Taking Center Stage

Recent findings from a detailed survey encompassing the responses of over 1,000 B2B buyers illuminate a significant trend in the purchasing behavior of today’s companies. Buyers increasingly turn to digital channels, using them as extensively as they would engage with sales representatives.

This shift is a fundamental change. Digital platforms, once supplementary, are now equally crucial as direct interactions in influencing purchasing decisions.

How Buyers Utilize Digital Channels

1. Initial Problem Identification

  • Utilization of Online Resources: At the beginning of their journey, B2B buyers frequently turn to digital resources. They explore relevant blogs and industry forums, peruse online publications, and participate in virtual conferences designed to foster information sharing.
  • Purpose: The goal during this phase is to gain a clearer understanding of their challenges and to start identifying possible solutions.
  • Impact: This initial stage is critical as it lays the groundwork for the buyer’s decision-making process, shaping their subsequent search for solutions.
2. Exploring Potential Solutions
  • Researching on Digital Platforms: As buyers move forward, they use digital platforms to dive into more specific details about potential solutions.
  • Types of Resources Used: Buyers examine in-depth product information, read through customer testimonials, and study case studies, primarily available on suppliers’ websites or specialized B2B platforms.
  • Outcome: This process lets buyers compare options, assess features and benefits, and narrow their choices progressively.
3. Building Requirements
  • Engagement with Educational Content: In this phase, buyers extensively leverage digital channels to build their list of requirements.
  • Resources Utilized: They seek out whitepapers, download guides, and participate in webinars, all aimed at gathering the necessary technical and operational specifics.
  • Result: The information gathered during this stage helps buyers articulate their needs more clearly and pinpoint suppliers who can meet these requirements.
4. Supplier Selection
  • Use of Online Reviews and Feedback: The final stage of the buying journey heavily relies on the wealth of data and insights available through digital channels.
  • Activities Involved: Buyers scrutinize online reviews, analyze customer feedback, and often participate in social media discussions to evaluate the reputation and reliability of potential suppliers.
  • Decision-Making Process: The easy accessibility of this online information streamlines the decision-making process, enabling buyers to make informed choices, often with minimal direct interaction with sales representatives.

The utilization of digital channels by B2B buyers is comprehensive and integral at each stage of their purchasing journey. From the initial exploration to the final decision, digital resources play a pivotal role in shaping buyers’ preferences and choices. 

Reimagining the Role of Sales in a Digital World

This digital-first approach presents a significant challenge for traditional sales strategies. Sales teams must adapt, transitioning from being the primary information source to becoming one of many valuable channels. The key is to provide information and insights through channels preferred by the buyers, aligning with their independent research and decision-making processes.

Content as the Cornerstone of Modern B2B Marketing

In response to the evolving needs of modern buyers, marketing efforts have pivoted towards content creation. This strategic shift involves producing material that aligns with the buyer’s journey, offering solutions and insights that pull them towards an organization.

Inbound marketing, the strategy born from this shift, focuses on creating content that resonates with buyers at each stage of their journey, facilitating a smoother transition from awareness to decision. Marketers who do their best to serve up the information a buyer wants and needs at each step of their buying journey will be rewarded with greater sales velocity and a much-improved win rate.

Marketing Pod Strategy

Marketing Pods are strategically designed to cater to the digital-first B2B buyer. Marketing Pod teams, consisting of digital marketing specialists, content creators, designers, and a virtual CMO, focus on producing content that resonates deeply with modern purchasing behaviors.

This approach brings a tight content team under the direction of a Virtual CMO to create detailed, informative, and engaging materials that meet buyers’ desires for rich digital interactions over traditional sales engagements. The way to think about the role of a Marketing Pod in your company is to consider it as air support for the ground plays that your sales team is executing.

Optimizing Digital Channels and Analytics

A key strength of Marketing Pods is their ability to optimize digital channels for effective B2B marketing. They employ a range of digital platforms, including social media, company blogs, and industry forums, ensuring comprehensive online visibility.

Through the integration of advanced digital tools and analytics, Marketing Pods can track engagement, analyze buyer behavior, and continuously refine their strategies, enhancing the impact of their digital campaigns.

Marketing Pod’s Response to SaaS Industry Hurdles

Marketing Pods are set to play a key role with timely and strategic interventions. Here are some examples of how they plan to tackle specific problems faced by companies in various SaaS sectors:

Overcoming Market Entry Barriers in Finance 

A finance SaaS startup new to the fintech industry faces the challenge of establishing credibility and standing out in a crowded market. To address this, the Marketing Pod will initiate a series of expert-led webinars in the coming quarter, focusing on emerging fintech trends and the unique benefits of their SaaS solution for regulatory compliance.

Accompanying this will be a series of in-depth whitepapers that delve into complex financial regulations designed to establish the startup as a thought leader. The social media strategy, leveraging LinkedIn and Twitter, will target financial professionals, aiming to convert skepticism into interest and engagement.

Boosting Market Presence for Sports

A Sports SaaS provider is struggling to expand its reach and demonstrate the value of its platform to sports clubs and athletes. The Marketing Pod plans to produce instructional videos showcasing the platform’s capabilities in enhancing sports management and training.

This content, along with engaging blog posts and user success stories on social media, is intended to showcase the tangible benefits of the platform. By leveraging Instagram for user-generated content, the Pod aims to create a sense of community and trust around the brand, thus addressing the challenge of market expansion and user adoption.

Establishing Brand Identity in Marketing 

The primary challenge for a new player in the crowded marketing SaaS landscape is building brand awareness and distinguishing its offerings.

The Marketing Pod is set to tackle this by rolling out a targeted content strategy. This includes creating easily digestible infographics and explainer videos to simplify complex marketing concepts.

Content will be strategically distributed across platforms like YouTube and LinkedIn to maximize reach and engagement. This approach is designed to cut through the noise of the competitive market, enhancing brand visibility and attracting potential clients.

In each scenario, the Marketing Pod’s approach is tailored to address the specific challenges faced by these SaaS companies. By deploying targeted digital marketing strategies and creating high-impact content, they aim to solve pressing issues, positioning these companies for success in their respective domains.

Winning in B2B Markets with Marketing Pods

Marketing Pods are at the vanguard, charting a course through innovation and redefining B2B marketing norms to align with your buyers. Marketing Pods bridge the gap between the outsourced agency model that requires a comprehensive knowledge of your market and ecosystem, and the freelance/contract arrangement that many startups adopt, meaning the founder must be familiar with B2B marketing and able to direct their efforts effectively.

Marketing Pods are embracing advanced technologies like AI and machine learning, breaking traditional marketing boundaries, and pioneering a path towards hyper-personalized marketing experiences. In the words of Steve Jobs, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” This sentiment echoes the ethos of Marketing Pods as they meet the buyer where they want to be met, not where a 25-year-old tech marketing playbook instructed.

In this episode of the Digital Velocity Podcast, I explore the game-changing potential of category design marketing. You will discover how it helps companies rise above fierce competition by focusing on problem-solving instead of product comparisons. Click play to uncover the secrets of sustainable growth.

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