B2B Buyers Looking a Lot Like B2C Consumers

It wasn’t too long ago that marketers thought about B2B buyers solely in relation to the companies they worked for—almost as if they were part of the brick and mortar. The demographics of the company itself were considered the most important intelligence marketers could use to decide whom to market to as well as how to do so. Marketing was all about us finding qualified leads…or so we thought. Roll the calendar forward a few years and we find ourselves confronting a very different reality. The ways in which our potential customers approach buying now looks an awful lot like how an online-savvy consumer buys.

Consider the following consumer purchasing behaviors and note how they’re being adopted with increasing frequency by B2B buyers:

Consulting Reviews: With the advent of user-generated content on product sites, consumers can now consult previous customers’ reactions to the products they’ve purchased with barely a click from the product page. Ratings and reviews influence many of us in our everyday purchasing decisions. We’re seeing evidence that B2B buyers are spending time online doing the same thing.

Asking Peers: If you’ve ever spent any time browsing the Answers on LinkedIn you can see a tremendous amount of questions and answers about solutions, products, processes and other interests that used to be offline conversations. Not that those conversations don’t happen anymore, but the point is that the sphere of influence encompasses a much broader scope than was ever possible before.

WOM Referrals: Word of mouth has always been considered influential, but now it’s happening with increasing frequency amidst our online networks. Have a question? Post a quick Tweet and you’ll have responses, links to resources and referrals within moments. Stop into an online forum and monitor a discussion thread on a topic of interest. Click through a Google Alert to a blog post and follow a suggested link for more information about a problem you’re trying to solve.

Interestingly, 80% of buyers will say they not only found your company, but contacted you on their own. This means that it’s even more important to monitor what’s being said about your company, where it’s happening and finding ways to help influence those conversations to guide more leads into your funnel.

Marketing automation technology provides a huge advantage for marketers involved in capturing the attention of today’s B2B buyers. Just culling short-term attention is not enough. With the ability to monitor a lead’s online behavior, marketers can assess origination sources, measure engagement levels and use that information to refine their programs on the fly--ensuring that once attention is caught, it’s kept.

With B2B buyers acting a lot more like consumers, marketers need to work even harder to address not only professional needs, but personal considerations as well. This is also one reason why storytelling can be extremely effective in persuading a B2B audience to proactively reach out to your company to learn more.

What other similarities between B2B and B2C would you add?