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How to Win in a Changing B2B Sales and Marketing Landscape

by Erin Boyd

The B2B sales and marketing landscape is changing and quickly evolving. As a result, companies face various challenges to stand out, position themselves, and rise above the noise. For many companies, the early stages of the B2B buyer journey are particularly challenging. Before even agreeing on who to work with, stakeholders need to agree on the problem they’re trying to solve. According to CEB, now Gartner, and their blog post on The Continuous Evolution of the B2B Buying Journey, gaining consensus on the problem and solution is beyond challenging with an overload of information, too many options, and competing stakeholder agendas.

During the early stage of the B2B buyer journey, companies conduct research online to help identify their problem and potential solutions. According to Forrester, more than 70% of buyers conduct over half their research online before making an offline purchase. Stakeholders have infinite access to information and are provided with endless options. One may think that all of these options helps the buyer feel empowered during the journey. Unfortunately, the endless information and options leaves them feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. The need for clarity around what companies are searching for, and how to stand out amongst the crowd is crucial to an organization’s success.

"97% of buyers prefer prescriptive content that recommends a formulaic solution."

To succeed early, take a proactive, prescriptive selling approach

According to DemandGen’s 2017 Content Preferences Survey Report, “Time-Starved B2B Buyers Move Toward Shorter, More Targeted Experiences,” 97% of buyers prefer prescriptive content that recommends a formulaic solution. Yes, you read that right. 97%! Prescriptive content offers clear recommendations, presents concise capabilities, and explains complex problems clearly.

In order to succeed during the early awareness/research stage, companies need to be found online with content that is simple, concise, and emotive. Decision makers are looking for information that teaches them something new about their needs and provides relevant information to answer questions. They want a prescriptive experience that easily explains what the buyer journey is like, what issues or roadblocks may be common, and how to successfully navigate problems that may arise. An example of prescriptive content is as simple as offering content up in a “10 Steps to Solving X, Y, or Z” approach.

In fact, according to a recent Harvard Business Review article, when companies use a prescriptive approach, purchase ease increases by 86%. Utilizing prescriptive content is not only desired by stakeholders, but helps make the decision-making process easier.

Leverage emotive stories to connect with key decision makers

According to the Google, CEB and Motista article, From Promotion to Emotion: Connecting B2B Customers to Brands, “on average, B2B customers are significantly more emotionally connected to their vendors and service providers than consumers.”

It seems somewhat surprising, but makes a lot of sense when you really think about it. B2B customers have a stronger correlation between their perceived personal risks and the emotional connection to a brand, compared to B2C customers. As an employee implementing an incredibly complex and expensive manufacturing IT solution, they’re likely at a higher risk for losing credibility, or their job, if something goes wrong.

Functional benefits often lead content, but the emotional connection is where B2B sales succeed. By leveraging emotional benefits through personal stories, key decision makers can see themselves in scenarios, so they can relate, feel emotionally connected, and motivated to move forward.

Tailor content types to the preferences of an evolving B2B audience

DemandGen’s 2017 Content Preferences Survey Report states that buyers prefer content assets that are “shorter formats, on-demand and bundled content, mobile friendly formats, and visual and interactive content.”

Utilizing a mix of channels to reach B2B buyers is critical, especially for millennial B2B decision-makers who are on the rise. According to a Chief Marketer B2B Special Report, “Behold the B2B Millennial,” marketers need to break out the buyer experience across channels to best connect with these decision makers. It’s no surprise they prefer video as their number one content format, followed by case studies, white papers, and articles.

When done effectively, case studies can be a wonderful tool for articulating a challenge and sharing important success stories for an organization. For B2B buyers, case studies are relied upon for research purposes. However, case studies can often feel dry, unrelatable, and oftentimes rather long. Building in a prescriptive approach to the case study, while considering what buyers are looking for, is important to ensure the right information is provided in the most effective manner.

It’s clear that the B2B buying journey is complex and ever-evolving. However, taking a proactive, prescriptive approach, and reaching prospects with relevant, useful, and emotive stories helps ensure that you’ll be viewed as a trusted partner and industry leader.

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