The path to purchase in the B2B world is a complicated journey, made of touchpoints that describe the beginning of the relationship between two or more companies in a more or less wide time frame. As a matter of fact, some companies need weeks in order to close a negotiation, others require months and still others take years to get an order. In this case we are talking about complex sale.
As Vehnta, because of our strategic choice, we aim to support our customers with the generation of new commercial opportunities. Our mission is to select and qualify new sales contacts using digital tools in order to develop a new business strategy. For this reason we have decided to share a post able to describe the potential digital path carried out by the buyer.
The following article is going to describe the possible scenarios from the first hint of brand awareness up to the start of the commercial negotiation: we wrote it on the basis of the method that we propose to our clients. The path that we are about to describe ends with the negotiation phase, which will be directly managed by our customers so that they can start sales process with a series of meetings.
This path, from the first brand awareness to the beginning of the negotiation, is characterized by touchpoints: these are moments of contact during the path of the customer that help to shape the decision-making process. Before facing the topic, let’s quickly see the path that will have to be carried out by the potential buyer before negotiation and purchase phase. A path known as customer journey.
What is the customer journey?
The customer journey is the path that a potential customer will have to undertake before becoming client. This potential customer, during the first steps on this path, could already know the selling company because maybe in the past he or she has already bought from this company or has already got in touch with its sales managers. In the most complicated case, instead, the potential buyer does not know the company from which he or she will hopefully buy. The customer journey is therefore the itinerary that the potential buyer does when he or she establishes a relationship with the selling company. It is a story of their bond that can start from a previous mutual knowledge or from a new relationship that arises and grows along the path.
However, this journey is rarely truly linear. As a matter of fact, it hardly happens that a company sees the advertisement of another company, contacts this company and buys the product. Usually the path is far more complex: especially in B2B market.
This is why the analysis and the definition of the touchpoints, which as previously mentioned are moments on the path of the customer that help to build the relationship, are extremely significant.
Touchpoints to shape the path to purchase
Touchpoints are literally points of contact between the buying company and the selling company. There are different kinds of touchpoints, which can be online and offline. Today we focus on online touchpoints for a B2B customer journey, analyzing their characteristics and differences.
A digital customer journey for a B2B negotiation can include the following tools:
- Website – It is the calling card that helps to build a good first impression. The website will have to be responsive, so suitable for both PC and mobile phone, to have a modern layout, to be organized with a great number of original contents, to be safe, with a well thought-out UX, technically precise and reliable.
- Chat – This could be the first contact with your potential customer and therefore, if activated, it is necessary that the chat is always monitored and managed by someone. Chatbots can be helpful for repetitive activities but, in the case of a B2B company, it is always useful to start a relationship among people.
- Newsletter – A subscription to your newsletter can retain your prospects and start a nurturing activity on your targets. Anyway, pay attention to frequency: too frequent communication could indeed cause the opposite effect and therefore distance the target from your company.
- Blog – It is certainly one of the most important tools for a B2B company. As a matter of fact, if the company blog is efficiently managed and composed of original contents then it will be a continuous source of search visits to your website. The blog generates web presence and positioning among the targets that are in contact with the contents.
- Referral – The fact that other companies or more generally other websites talk about your company could be a positive factor: both for your reputation and your positioning among the pages of search engines (if the mention is connected to a link that redirects to your website). If possible then we suggest to always facilitate and encourage this kind of collaborations.
- App – For some B2B an app could be an interesting touchpoint. It is a tool that has to be used only in specific situations, for example for a wide retail network, and that can result in great benefits for your positioning strategy.
- Social media – In the B2B world when we talk about social media we mainly consider LinkedIn and YouTube. These two tools can indeed be used for a strategic positioning also in B2B market. On the contrary, other social media such as Facebook or Instagram will have to be included in a B2B strategy only if truly necessary to the content marketing strategy or when contacting new targets. Otherwise, as a lot of past cases have shown, they may only damage the image of your company.
- ADV on search engines – To advertise on search engines is helpful to generate visits to the website, to position the company and to benefit from insights that campaigns like this can bring in terms of targets and keywords analysis. One of the most crucial steps when we decide to activate an ADV campaign on search engines is the design of the UX. Taking into account that visits to the website will be paid, it is therefore fundamental to best design contents to show and the path that the user will have to face among your “digital assets”.
- ADV on social media – Contents and UX, as for ADV on search engines, are very significant also for ADV on social media. The main difference between the two activities is that ADV on social media are, in B2B terms and according to us, very useful with a view to brand awareness. When planning a social media ADV strategy we will have to define objectives that are oriented to that goal and not to others. Social media are indeed very useful in a wide-ranging strategy but, at least for B2B, if they are not used together with other tools they usually do not result in direct achievements.
- Email – It is the first personal contact between the company and the potential customer and therefore it will obviously be necessary to manage this tool carefully, both on the functional and the aesthetical side. Indeed, both the content of an email and response times are crucial factors: the attention paid to every aspect can really make the difference.
- Marketing Automation – In this case by marketing automation we mean a system of multiple emails that through workflows will have to reach specific objectives. As for the case of the email, this is a very powerful tool that has to be used carefully, checking and analyzing each detail.
Clearly you may have noticed that in this list the phone call and the meeting are missing: in this post we have indeed decided not to deal with this topic as it is already part of the sales activity. As mentioned, in this post we are focusing on the digital customer journey that precedes the first meeting.
Once possible digital contact points have been identified it is now time to understand how they interact with each other and in the relationship with the potential customer.
Staying on the theme of touchpoints, it is also important to understand metrics and to evaluate their impact in the potential client’s customer journey. It is surely an interesting topic, but we are not going to examine it in deep in this post: if you are interested we suggest you to read the article Marketing Touchpoints
The post is oriented towards ecommerce, but we believe it is really explanatory and easy to read. The fact that is it oriented to sales, even though more towards the B2C world, makes it particularly incisive. Let’s now get back to the main theme and let’s try together to have a look at some examples of interaction among touchpoints inside some examples of customer journey.
An evidently non-linear path…
As previously mentioned customer journey, especially in B2B sector, is a complicated journey composed of multiple touchpoints. An easy example of customer journey may be the following one:
In this specific case the user, for example a technical buyer (TB), has got in touch with the brand thanks to an advertisement on social media and, from this first trigger, the user has accomplished the expected path, which is a passage on the blog and then on the corporate section of the website. At this point the user has gone out of the path. The second trigger that has rekindled his or her interest is an ADV on search engines, therefore activated by a research of his or her choice: key moment when the user was looking for the resolution to a problem. At this point the user has filled in a form with name and email and has been contacted with an email. The path has therefore ended with a request for quotation or a meeting.
The complexity, however, does not end here. Until now we have indeed analyzed digital customer journeys related only to the first part of the relationship and, above all, we have taken into account a single interlocutor. In B2B world a negotiation is instead activated by a purchasing system, made of more than one person. Each person that is part of the system will have a personal customer journey, which will cross with the customer journey of every subject of the group considering the interactions among various elements. For example, the customer journey of one subject could be activated by a colleague that forwards to this person an email, or another subject of the purchasing system could be simultaneously activated by a different input while the remaining part of the system had already been activated through different touchpoints.
As we said this is a complex theme but, as for the previous situation, let’s see together an example that could involve the technical buyer (TB), the user buyer (UB) and the economic buyer (EB). For further information on what we in Vehnta mean by purchasing system and about the figures involved in it click on this link: purchasing system
We can easily see that, by adding elements to the system, the complexity obviously increases. Like in the first case, the technical buyer (TB) gets in touch with the brand thanks to an ADV on social media but, as this time the buyer is part of a purchasing system, instead of proceeding independently he or she involves the user buyer (UB). The UB, after having given a look at the website, stops and leaves the path. Also in this case, the second trigger (search ADV) rekindles the buyer’s interest and therefore, after having got in touch with the company, he or she decides to involve also the economic buyer (EB) that, in turn, after having studied the website of the company, asks the TB to get in contact with the selling company.
As we can observe by the previous examples, described only for explanatory purposes as real possibilities are almost unlimited, customer journey can be a very complex path.
An advice that we can give as Vehnta is to wisely evaluate which touchpoints to activate and to manage them with great attention. Considering especially the case of a potential client that does not know your company yet, for each of the touchpoints that has critical issues or various problems, which can be technical, aesthetical or regarding contents, your targets will take a step back in the path. Therefore, it is essential to manage every touchpoint and every step in the name of coherence and style: trying to move into the digital world paying attention to our own strategy.
For further advice on these subject contact us by sending an email through the following form.