B2b buyer, access b2b buyers with referrals, b2b referral software

The B2B buyer environment is more complex than ever before. Unlike marketing in the past, the digital ecosystem changes so fast that marketers and salespeople can barely make one pivot before another one is required. But even though we continue to point to digitization as the reason for this perpetual B2B buyer development, it is but the catalyst. Marketing and sales hold a great deal of responsibility. In response to digitization, marketers and sales realized that the only bit of control they can now wield is in making sure they are in charge of the vehicle driving the buyer.

Thus comes:

  • SEO
  • Linking building
  • Link earning
  • PPC
  • Social media
  • Social media ads
  • Blogging
  • Content marketing
  • Sponsored content
  • Referral marketing

As marketers tried to adopt these new digitized strategies these ecosystems became increasingly crowded and the tactics become more aggressive as companies fought for mindshare. Buyers were being flooded with misleading content and bias information. Google and other content hubs saw the declining user experience and realized if they wished to continue to be a credible source of information there would need to be some changes. Consequently:

  • Link buying got banned
  • Third party content sites created restriction on linking to product pages or a homepage
  • PPC quality scores came into effect
  • Google PPC banned words for being misleading/spam
  • Ad blocker
  • Social ads being labeled as sponsored
  • Paid brand content got labeled as sponsored
  • Wikipedia started requiring the citation of sources and non-bias information

With search engines like Google and content hubs putting more restrictions on marketers’ ability to make an impact digitally, it sends a clear message – user experience is now more important than selling and filling the funnel. And a big portion of that is building trust with the B2B buyer. It is no longer just the age of personalization and automation. Marketing is now in the age of the buyer journey.

How the B2B buyer journey has changed

In 1882 Nietchzsche proclaimed “God is dead.” In 2017, marketers are proclaiming, “Leads are dead.” Both were never meant to be taken literally but rather the idea we once held dear was no more. But what has caused this figurative death?

Buyers have so many different touchpoints involved in their research that the traditional campaign method of serving up an offer and expecting it to illicit the desired response isn’t practical or profitable anymore. Logically at some point a campaign will hit an intended target. But there is a reason that prospecting, ppc, and social campaigns have decreased in effectiveness when done as a campaign. Most of the time campaigns won’t resonate with the B2B buyer because it doesn’t represent where they are in buying journey. It isn’t about filling the funnel anymore but guiding buyers through their buyer journey. In the Forrester blog, Myth Busting 101: Insights Into The B2B Buyer Journey, it shows a chart of the many different contact points that impact the decisions of the buyer journey.

The arrows show just one path a B2B buyer can take among many. Within each point on the buyers’ journey the B2B buyer use multiple resources, and peers or referrals are a big part of it (light blue squares). Zooming in, you will notice that peers are but one of three channels that will build trust with the B2B buyer. This makes it a very important channel to enable.

However, while this chart shows how influence is dispersed. It doesn’t tell us how to optimally impact each touchpoint at each stage. That’s next!

Enable the B2B buyer instead of selling to them

Hard selling isn’t trusted anymore. In the report Be Informed to Connect with B2B Buyers, “Interviewees told Forrester that they want to talk to ‘consultants’ who know their business—at their convenience and with less pressure to sign on the dotted line.” These usually mean peers that can help inform the buyer on the ins and outs of the product or service.

Part of the enabling the B2B buyer journey is getting the individual peer relationships involved. It has been found that an average 6.8 people are involved in each buying decision (Harvard Business review). While this may often be perceived as people within the organization this usually involves at least one person outside of it (a peer) who is giving a referral and speaking for the service or product’s capabilities.

The new B2B buyer requires a new channel strategy – peer referrals

Peers are an integral part of the b2b buying process. In the Forrester Webinar, Today’s Path to Purchase and the Changing B2B Tech Buyer, analysts name peers as the highest source that influences business decision makers (BDM) in the discovery stage and the second highest source that influence B2B tech decision makers (TDM). For most, BDM are the intended target as TDM are more focused on the IT side.

Moving onto the exploration phase, Forrester found that peers still have the highest influence on BDMs and an above average influence on TDMs. This is where peer referrals done in conjuncture with sales can have a tremendous impact on the B2B buying process.

To take advantage of this insight enterprise companies like ADP, Citrix, and RingCentral established an automated referral program to scale peer referrals and increase the influence of the peer on the deal. As shown above, peer referrals are no longer just a strategy or campaign but a channel that includes sales, marketing, and even customer success. This is because peers are one of the main staples of building trust with the b2b buyers as shown in the chart demonstrating the many paths of the buyer journey.

But with so many paths available to the B2B buyers it is impossible to be up front and center at every contact point. Moreover, with budgeting restrictions a company needs to choose what buyer journey path is most important to enable. If peers are your priority discover how referral program software can help evaluate some of that pressure with automation and deliver the most ROI with the free ROI calculator.