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What B2B Buyers Need

  |  April 16, 2014   |  Comments

A look at typical B2B customer needs, broken down by phases of the buying journey, which include Explore, Evaluate, Purchase, and Experience.

B2B marketers, raise your hand if you've heard this one before: "Understand and meet the needs of your prospects at every phase of their buying journey."

Hopefully you didn't look too strange raising your hand!

You probably know that viewing the customer journey from your buyers' perspective will help you build strong relationships and thereby improve your performance. But, how do you really understand your prospects' needs and what are some typical needs in general?

To understand your specific customers' and prospects' needs:

  • Research continually (both quantitative and qualitative) 
  • Develop segments and personas.

The industry resource B2Beacon describes how to do this in more detail. 

To understand typical B2B customer needs, let's break it down by phase of the buying journey. According to B2Beacon, there are four phases when viewed from the customer perspective: Explore, Evaluate, Purchase, and Experience.

EXPLORE PHASE:

What Customers Need...

  • To define their problem and requirements for a solution.
  • To select a general approach to solving their problem. 

What They're Thinking...

  • I'm stressed out. My boss is pressuring me to find a solution to this problem.
  • I'm overwhelmed. There are so many options - different approaches, solutions, and vendors - to choose from.
  • I need (unbiased) help! I definitely don't want to be "sold" at this point.

The data supports this... According to a 2013 Chief Marketing Officer Council study, the best source of online content for B2B buyers while researching products and services is:

  • Professional associations and online communities (47 percent)
  • Industry organizations and groups (46 percent)
  • Online trade publications (41 percent)
  • Seminar and workshop sites (41 percent) 
  • Trade show sites (35 percent).

EVALUATE PHASE:

What Customers Need...

  • To narrow down their options and create a shortlist of vendors to evaluate more thoroughly.
  • To compare apples to apples and weigh the pros and cons of each vendor.

What They're Thinking...

  • Less stressed. Feeling more comfortable having identified an approach to solving their problem.
  • More focused. They're ready to dig deep and research possible solutions.
  • Still don't want to be sold. They don't want to feel pressured by hard-sell tactics.

PURCHASE PHASE:

What Customers Need...

  • To make up their mind. Decide which solution to buy.
  • Get buy-in. Obtain internal approval to purchase.
  • Seal the deal. Complete the transaction.

What They're Thinking...

  • While part of them is relieved the decision has been made, they're also nervous and questioning themselves.
  • Freaking out a bit. Did I miss something or make the wrong choice?
  • Second-guessing themselves. Did I really get the best deal?

EXPERIENCE PHASE:

What Customers Need...

  • Help with set up - correctly implementing your solution.
  • Help with adoption - having people in their company take full advantage of your solution.

What They're Thinking...

At first...

  • Did they make the right decision? Let's face it; it's their neck on the line if the solution they choose doesn't fit the bill (does sales hype equal reality?).
  • Be implemented correctly? Buying the solution is just the start; looking for signs that your company has their back (continued product support).

Over time...

  • Happy they made the right choice
  • Willing to give you props to other prospects as well as support to other customers.
  • Trusting of your company for future purchases.

Again, these are just high-level, typical needs for B2B prospects and customers. The main point here is to start with your customers' needs and use them as the basis for your content and outreach plans. Needs vary greatly by phase so it's critical to know where your customer is in their journey to give them the right content.

You can learn more about these phases and the right content for each on B2Beacon - a new educational initiative from ClickZ in collaboration with B2B agency BusinessOnline and 30 leaders in digital marketing.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Richard Roberts

Rich has over 20 years of experience in planning, building, and managing cutting-edge integrated marketing for some of the smartest companies in the world. His career balances senior agency roles and senior client-side roles. On the agency side, while at BusinessOnline and Grey Interactive he works with world-class brands including HP, NetApp, Dell, Honeywell, and Workday. On the client side, he has been a CMO or VP marketing for big online brands such as CNET and ZipRealty and for start-ups like Zing, Callwave, and SendMe Mobile. This gives him the unique ability to deeply understand his clients' needs and to ensure that the agency delivers on meeting these needs.

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