The B2B buyer journey refers to the stages your prospect passes through before making a purchase. The prospect can join any stage at any time, skip stages and move through stages fast or slow, depending on a number of factors.
The journey itself, especially with high value purchases, is often long and can be complicated; there is no one-size-fits-all, especially when it comes to B2B. Each company, and each specific product, will have its own specific journey.
That said, there are certain stages that will align with all buyer journeys and once you know and understand these, and align your marketing activity around them, you’ll see a stark change in the quality of leads you’re generating.
For example, aligning the right content topics with the right stage or the right tactic with the right stage.
Often, we see misalignment and siloed thinking which impacts performance, so here we breakdown the stages and share our thinking in how we apply marketing tactics to each stage. Here we use SiriusDecisions buyer stages and insight from LinkedIn strategists combined with our own approach.
The different stages of a B2B buyer journey
There are four main stages to a B2B buyer journey prior to hitting sales (there are further stages in a prospects journey, but for the sake of this article, we’re focusing on the ones towards the top of the funnel and applying them to acquisition tactics):
We’ll go into a bit more detail about your prospect’s mindset in each of these stages below, along with the best asset types for each stage.
The awareness stage is where you are most likely to find your net-new audiences, people who may currently be unaware of your brand or the solutions you offer. The aim here is to drive consciousness of the brand and highlight the qualities that distinguish you from your competition.
The awareness stage of the B2B buyer journey is the upper most level of your marketing funnel. This is where you need to establish yourself as a thought leader through broader subject matters with things like hub pages, podcasts and blogs. The audience at this stage may not yet have a specific need, you are simply making yourself known as an expert in the field.
Typically, most awareness stage content will be left ungated, allowing you to build up a large audience to remarket to further down the funnel.
As the name suggests, people at this stage have identified a specific problem, need or opportunity and are researching and gathering more information on their specific need. People in this stage respond well to interactive content, webinars, more detailed thought leadership videos or reports.
Most problem identification assets will be gated on landing pages, but this should be decided on an asset-by-asset basis. For instance, it’s generally agreed that a whitepaper is a valuable asset and should be gated, but some interactive content may be ungated. Alternatively, you could use an ungated interactive content piece, such as an audit, which produces a custom report at the end which is gated.
Your prospect now not only has a clearly defined problem/ need/ opportunity, but they have identified a shortlist of possible solutions too. Now is the time for them to research those solutions to determine the best fit for their need.
The majority of content in the solution exploration stage of the buyer journey will be whitepapers or industry reports. For example, third party sector and product specific reports such as Gartner’s Magic Quadrant report work well here. These assets are high-value and should be gated. For advice on landing pages, read our 9 steps to creating landing pages that covert.
Your prospect has decided on the best type of solution to their problem. They are compiling a list of available vendors and products in their given solution strategy and are researching to create a shortlist and, ultimately, make a final purchase decision. This is an important stage and you must ensure your marketing material aligns with it correctly.
Good assets for use in the consideration stage of the buyer journey include demos and extended case studies.
What else do you need to know about the B2B buyer journey?
In one word, lots! But this is a great starting point.
Once you have aligned your marketing material with each stage of the buyer journey, you need to think about how you are going to reach these audiences. Google Ads, paid social, organic social, programmatic, and many more channels all play a part.
And as you are considering these different channels for reaching your audience, there will be additional considerations. For example, when you’re looking at search ads, think about where in the buyer journey each search term sits and this will determine what ad, and ultimately what asset your prospect is shown.
There’s no doubt about it, it’s a complicated process, but the reward is worth the effort. Ensuring prospects see the right content, at the right time in their buyer journey, will mean you can see an improvement in lead quality and quantity.
Get in touch for more information about how you can incorporate the B2B buyer journey into your marketing activity.