While the sales cycle is getting longer and buyers continued to wait to engage with sales, B2B buyers are more satisfied with the process than they were a year ago, according to Demand Gen Report’s 2014 B2B Buyer Behavior Survey.
The annual survey also found that as many as 34% of respondents said the number of team members involved in the B2B purchase process increased over the past year.
We caught up with Demand Gen Report Managing Editor, Kim Zimmermann, for more on the trends and tips marketers can glean from other buyer behavioral findings in the report.
Eloqua: The report notes that respondents are waiting a longer period to initiate engagement with vendors. To what do you attribute this? Are vendors doing a better job at guiding the journey through content? Are buyers simply accessing information outside of vendor branded environments? A mix of both?
Kim Zimmermann: We've seen a consistent trend towards buyers self-navigating through more for the buying process, especially during the early stages of research and consideration. Fortunately, B2B marketers are doing a better job of mapping content to specific vertical marketing and roles, so buyers are able to access more relevant information and getting up to speed before engaging with sales. But B2B buyers aren't shy about getting on LinkedIn or Twitter and asking for recommendations from their peers, so that is another reason that so much of the buyer's journey is complete before they talk to a salesperson.
Eloqua: Account based marketing is becoming more of a common practices as organizations realize the need to "tag team" different stakeholders with content relevant to each person's role in the process, and the survey validates that more people are involved in this. Who on the vendor side should be the key stakeholders in managing this process?
Zimmermann: With most complex B2B solutions there is now a sphere of influencers involved in a purchase decision and our study validates that trend. This trend dictates that companies gather more intelligence on how recently won deals originally engaged with their brand, and which touches helped accelerate them through the process. This is where marketing automation becomes important because it helps you to follow and retrace who from an organization engaged with different offers and at what point in the buy cycle. Digging into the level of analysis is typically something that requires a combined effort between marketing operations and whoever is heading up content.
Eloqua: It's interesting that social media is playing a bigger role in how buyers search. What tips would you give to social media marketing managers and social business teams to manage this evolving change?
Zimmermann: I would say social media marketing managers and social business teams need to be brand agnostic. Also, they need to be actively listen and follow relevant discussions and engage with users and chime in on the discussions when they have something to add. While more buyers (22%) are asking for suggestions and recommendations from other social media users, 57% are still passive about social media, browsing existing discussions for relevant information but not necessarily asking questions. Make sure that you're adding to the conversation by sharing meaningful, educational, vendor-neutral content so that the "browsers" are getting the right content, even if they aren't asking.
Check out The 2014 Demand Gen Report B2B Buyer Behavior Survey Report for more findings.