How well do you know your buyers? In the ever-changing B2B marketing landscape, your buyers' needs are evolving, and so must your tactics for reaching them. We sat down with Cheri Keith, Senior Research Analyst at SiriusDecisions, to get her take on the latest buyer challenges, preferences, and trends for 2019—and what you can do to get to know your buyers better in 2019.
1. What are some of the biggest challenges you see marketers up against in keeping buyers engaged?
There are several challenges that marketers have when it comes to keeping buyers engaged that are created through poor or lack of planning and listening to buyers. But at the highest level it is that demand programs that marketers are building are not optimized or designed with the buyer in mind. SiriusDecisions research shows that there are some significant deltas between what buyers report as the most important tactics they consumed throughout their purchasing process and where marketers are investing in those tactics. Marketers tend to evenly distribute tactics across the buyer's journey without listening to where buyers are looking for different types of interactions and content types. The best way for marketers to address this challenge is to actually build out personas (or keep them up to date if they were created years ago) and measure each program that is running to see what is working and not working. For example if you notice that your buyers are attending webinars with education stage content but not selection stage content, consider scaling back spending on selection stage webinars, rather than ignore the messages that buyers are sending to you.
2. What are some of the top ways marketers can build trust with prospects?
The best ways that I’ve seen B2B marketers build trust with prospects is by listening. Without first listening to their buyers, they will never be successful. And I mean really listening—listening to understand what is going on inside their worlds, the dynamics of their role, pressures and fears they have. But there is obviously more than one person that needs this information so the importance of then having a good knowledge sharing approach with other team members in marketing and outside of marketing to sales, product management is also critical.
One example of this is a company that has created a central location for all information about buyers—where personas are stored. This is a central hub for all team members to see the various buyer personas and keep everyone on the same page. The content is continually refreshed as part of their ongoing campaign of listening to their buyers and customers.
3. Buyers preferences can change over time—are there any content types or channels B2B marketers should avoid these days? Are there any non-traditional B2B content types or channels that marketers should consider exploring for 2019?
Buying preferences definitely change over time but a lot of that comes down to the maturity of the solutions or the changes in demand types for the products. And this is why keeping up to date buyer personas to create demand programs against is so important. Ongoing conversations with buyers and surveys to understand the preferences and needs of these audiences are paramount.
That being said, we’ve definitely seen a resurgence in the popularity of direct mail within B2B marketing mixes. This is because of the rise of targeted account and account-based marketing strategies. But we’re not talking about basic postcards, like you get reminding you about your dentist appointment. The direct mail that we’re seeing is beautifully designed pieces of content that can include personalized videos or other calls to action to drive you to a digital experience for additional information.
4. Are there any specific tactics that you expect will be trending in 2019?
While I wish that I had a crystal ball to predict that there would be a silver bullet in 2019, I think that the key for marketers will be testing over tactics. If we think about a tactic being composed of an interaction (or delivery mechanism) and a content asset, there is testing that can be done between how we’re delivering the content to the buyer, finding the optimal mix between content and interaction. But then if we think about how to test the appropriate mix of tactics that we’re using, it is the experimentation and calibration that marketers need to become more adept at using. The innovation for B2B marketers will happen as teams are able to explore and exploit the opportunities by testing and learning in a more systematic way.
5. For marketers looking to get to know their buyers better in 2019, what would you say is the first step they should take?
The first step to understanding their buyers better should most certainly be doing the research that goes into developing buyer personas. Speaking with customers that most recently purchased your offering is a great touch point for understanding their buyer's journey, that can be applied against the aggregate information that we have from B2B buying trends. One-on-one discussions can certainly be time consuming but are an important place to start. From there, automation of the gathering of that information can also be useful, especially if a high volume of information is being captured.