Whether you’re a fully online business or not, the principles that drive B2B customer journeys may be similar. Online businesses and SaaS companies have their unique traits, which can be embedded in the general concept of B2B customer journey. In our guide we explain what B2B customer journey is about, what elements should be considered before building a B2B customer journey map, and what it takes to construct a solid customer journey map for your business.
What’s B2B Customer Journey?
A B2B customer journey refers to the process a business customer goes through when they interact with your company, from initial awareness to eventual exit. The journey includes all the stages and touchpoints involved in their decision-making process.
Why is B2B Different than B2C?
The B2B customer journey is a complex dance, filled with twists and turns that you won’t find in the business-to-consumer world. Unlike a straightforward B2C purchase, B2B involves multiple touchpoints and many stakeholders. Each stakeholder, for example, has their unique role in the buying or rebuying decision. From IT to Legal, the B2B journey is a maze that requires careful navigation. Even after the sale, the journey continues to evolve with new teams joining the process (think of the implementation group, for instance).
The B2B buying journey is often a marathon, not a sprint. Because B2B involves larger orders, the process includes multiple sales discussions, evaluations, and more. Despite the difficulties and obstacles, B2B work is a fascinating, intricate process that demands a keen understanding and strategic approach. Mapping your B2B customer journey is one of those strategic methods that pays off big!
B2B Customer Journey Stages
The B2B customer journey typically involves multiple stages. It starts with the awareness stage, followed by the consideration stage and the decision stage. We also identify several more stages that complete the customer journey. Let’s talk about each of them in detail below.
Stage 1: Awareness – The Starting Point
The first stage of the B2B customer journey stages begins when potential customers identify a problem and start seeking solutions. At this stage, your business needs to make their presence felt and showcase their potential as solution providers.
Customers at this stage are typically researching online, reading relevant content, and seeking recommendations. They’re not committed to a solution yet, making it a golden opportunity for businesses to attract these potential customers through targeted marketing efforts. This could include SEO strategies, content marketing, or social media campaigns.
Businesses should aim to provide valuable, educational content that addresses the customer’s problem and offers solutions. This can take the form of blog posts, whitepapers, or webinars. By offering valuable information, your business can position itself as a trusted authority, attracting potential customers to your brand.
The key to success during the awareness stage is to understand the customer’s needs and cater to them effectively. By doing so, you can guide customers to the next stage of their journey, increasing the chances of conversion.
Stage 2: Consideration – Evaluating Options
Once the customer is aware of their problem and potential solutions, they move into the ‘Consideration’ stage. This stage involves thorough research and evaluation of different options, making it crucial for your business to stand out in their list of options.
During the consideration stage, customers are typically comparing features, benefits, and pricing of various options. They’re digging deeper into product specifications, reading customer reviews, and engaging with sales representatives.
To influence the customer’s decision during this stage, you should focus on:
- Product Demos: This is to showcase the features and benefits of your product or service.
- Customer Testimonials: Share positive experiences of existing customers so that you can build trust and confidence with your prospects.
- Webinars or Events: Organize informative webinars or events to provide an opportunity to educate customers and answer their questions.
By driving more consideration, you can effectively guide your prospects through this stage and closer to a purchase decision.
Stage 3: Decision – Making the Final Choice
The ‘Decision’ stage is a critical junction in the B2B customer journey stages. This is when potential buyers make their final choice, making it essential for businesses to effectively showcase why their product or service is the best choice.
Price, quality, and customer support are major factors influencing the decision-making process. Businesses need to highlight their unique selling points, demonstrate the quality of their product or service, and showcase their commitment to exceptional customer support.
During this stage, your business should also provide testimonials, case studies, and success stories to help customers solidify their decision. By understanding what drives the final purchase decision, you can increase your chances of acquiring a new customer.
Stage 4: Purchase and Delivery – Finalizing the Deal
After the purchase decision has been made, it’s not all done yet. The ‘Purchase and Delivery’ stage involves the customer placing an order, tracking the delivery, and finally receiving the product. For service businesses this stage is also called “customer onboarding”. Ensuring a smooth and efficient process during this stage is crucial for customer satisfaction and can pave the way for long-term customer relationships.
Your business should focus on streamlining the ordering or onboarding process, providing real-time status updates, and ensuring efficient delivery. Proactive communication, transparency, and convenience are key elements that help enhance the customer experience during this stage.
Stage 5: Support and Retention – Nurturing Relationships
The ‘Support and Retention’ helps maintain the long-term success of your business. It involves supporting customers after the purchase is made and focusing on retaining them for future business.
At this stage, your business should invest in timely and effective customer support to resolve any issues promptly. Regular check-ins, customer feedback programs, and personalized communications can help businesses understand their customers’ evolving needs and preferences, leading to improved offerings and increased customer satisfaction.
By focusing on customer support and retention, you can strengthen your relationships with your customers which will lead to their increased loyalty and more repeat business.
Stage 6: Growth and Expansion – Scaling Up
The ‘Growth and Expansion’ stage focuses on scaling your operations and increasing your market share. This stage is all about your business to continue engaging and retaining your existing customers, while also identifying opportunities for upselling and cross-selling.
During this stage, you should analyze customer data to understand their specific needs and challenges. Tailor your solutions and services to address these needs so that you can provide additional value to them and position yourself for sustained growth and success.
Stage 7: Exit – Learning from Losses
Unfortunately, not all relationships are meant to last forever. The ‘Exit’ stage is the final stage in the B2B customer journey stages when a customer decides to end their relationship with a business. This stage provides valuable insights into why customers choose to leave, enabling businesses to make necessary improvements and prevent future exits.
Understanding the reasons behind customer exits and proactively addressing them can help your business enhance your offerings and improve customer satisfaction. This stage is important to help your business minimize churn, enhance your reputation, and lay a solid foundation for long-term success.
Elements Needed for a Solid B2B Customer Journey Map
Crafting a successful B2B customer journey is no small feat. It requires a deep understanding of your customer’s needs, meticulous planning, and constant optimization. Here are those elements that online B2B businesses like yours need to consider before creating their customer journey map.
Identify Customer Touchpoints & Collect Feedback
One of the critical elements in crafting a B2B customer journey is recognizing the various customer touchpoints. These are the points where potential clients interact with your business from the start to the exit. These touchpoints also serve as important ways to collect customer feedback.
Digital marketing efforts serve as important touchpoints in the B2B customer journey. This includes online advertising, email marketing, social media, and content marketing initiatives. These tools help generate awareness about your brand and spark interest in your offerings. They also serve as the first touch point with your business. List these touchpoints to have a better understanding of how prospects and customers find your business.
Another vital touchpoint is engaging with potential clients through sales calls. This is where your sales representatives can understand your customers’ needs and document them.
Product demonstrations play a significant role in the B2B customer journey. These touchpoints allow potential customers to understand how your product or service works. The demos also help receive immediate feedback from your client base.
The onboarding process is another important touchpoint where new customers are introduced to the product or service. This phase is essential in ensuring a smooth transition and building customer confidence in your brand. It’s also an area to pay attention to and gather feedback from your new clients. Do post-onboarding interviews to understand what can be improved.
Customer support is a vital touchpoint for maintaining customer engagement and satisfaction. Collecting the information about customer inquiries and requests helps create a clear picture of what exactly they need as features or functionalities.
Do Thorough Customer Research
Understanding your customer’s needs, preferences, and pain points is another important area that helps tailor your offerings to meet your B2B clients’ specific requirements. In addition to the techniques to collect customer feedback we already mentioned, you can also use surveys and interviews as another effective tool for gathering customer data. With surveys you can collect quantitative data about customer preferences and satisfaction levels, while interviews offer qualitative insights into their needs.
Identify Customer Pain Points
A critical step in improving the B2B customer journey is identifying customer pain points. By understanding the challenges and frustrations your customers face, you can develop effective strategies to address these issues and enhance the overall customer experience. Making a list of the top pain points will help drive your decision-making about what needs to go into the action plan.
Develop an Action
Creating an action plan is another crucial step in improving the B2B customer journey. This plan should align with each stage of the customer journey and include:
- Clear Objectives
- Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
- Analysis of Pain Points
- Strategies and Actions to Address Pain Points
- Responsibility, Assignments, Tasks
- Regular Progress Tracking and Necessary Adjustments
6 Steps to Build Your B2B Customer Journey Map
Now that you see what drives customers to purchase, what helps build their loyalty to your business, and what elements you need to have at hand, it’s time to go through the steps to build a solid B2B customer journey map. The following section of our guide will outline 6 steps to guide you in building your own b2b customer journey map.
1. Set Your Goals
To build an effective b2b customer journey map, you should define your goals for each stage of the customer journey. By identifying a clear purpose of each stage and aligning your goals with your overall business objectives, you can optimize the customer’s experience and drive business growth. Make sure your goals are SMART, consider the customer’s perspective, and allow room for monitoring and adjusting.
2. Build Your Customer Personas
Analyzing your customer base. See what buying patterns exist within your clientele. Group your customers based on the frequency of their orders, product or service type purchased, business type. Don’t create too many personas – come up with 5-6 personas.
3. Grasp Their Needs and Concerns
For each persona, understand their goals, needs, and concerns. By aligning your products and services with their desired outcomes, you increase the likelihood of a successful sale and stronger customer loyalty. This steps also helps your business personalize its interactions and experiences for each persona.
4. Leverage Data
Leveraging data and analytics is a critical step in building an effective b2b customer journey map. The data should form the foundation for understanding your customers’ unique needs. Upon analyzing customer behavior, you can get valuable insights into their preferences and motivations and translate them into opportunities for personalization and customization.
5. Establish Key Touchpoints
Throughout the b2b customer journey, think about the touchpoints you’re your business wants to use actively. These touchpoints should be strong opportunities to engage with potential customers and provide a positive experience. Examples of these touchpoints include initial product discovery, website visits, email communication, sales calls, product demos, negotiations, onboarding, and ongoing support.
6. Outline the Stages
Describe what happens in each of the 7 stages that we described above. List the techniques to use and the expected outcomes for customers to move from one stage to another. Think about how these are being done at your company today. Adjust them as needed.
How to Optimize Your Website for B2B Customers
Being a fully online business or being a company with a heavy online presence, your website is the front door through which prospects come through. So, optimizing your website for b2b customers is important as it involves a few key strategies.
First, ensure your website is user-friendly and clearly presents your value proposition, features, and benefits. Make sure the entry points like landing pages are optimized and created with the customer journey in mind (esp. what stage from the customer journey your target with those entry points.)
Second, personalize the customer experience by tailoring your communication, content, and offerings to match your customers’ specific needs and preferences.
Lastly, leverage data and analytics to continuously monitor and adjust your strategies as necessary.
Need help with driving organic or paid traffic to your site to support the consideration stage in your B2B customer journey, get in touch with our team. We can give you expert SEO and expert SEM advice about what’s best for that stage in your customer journey.