Understanding your B2B Customer Journey

“The customer is always right” is a saying as old as time. It’s not to be taken literally, but basically, the point is that when it comes to selling, you need to consider every possible reaction they may take to engaging with your product or brand, anticipating negative responses before they happen, and delivering them exactly what they expect. It sounds like something fit for a superhero, not a company, right?

Although it might sound like magic, understanding the B2B customer journey is something that every company worth its salt undertakes to maximise the engagement of its customer base – and it’s much simpler than you’d think! By reviewing your sales process and using the customer data you gather during everyday business to map, identify personas, analyse pain points, and ongoing monitoring of the customer experience, your brand will be reaching record high levels of satisfaction!

In this article, we’ll be unpacking a variety of ways you can build and maintain an understanding of your B2B customer’s journey throughout the sales cycle, up to using your product after use and how to improve brand sentiment with these customers. We’ll also be including several ways that using a B2B loyalty or incentive program can assist with customer retention and improve the customer experience. After all, we’ve been providing B2B rewards programs Australia and New Zealand-wide since 1996!

Plotting your B2B Customer Journey Maps

The first step to understanding your B2B customer journey is to put yourself in your customer’s shoes and plot out the B2B customer journey maps. This allows you to fully grasp all the touchpoints of your customer’s interactions with your brand in a visual representation, what they want out of your product and some of the hurdles they may face when taking up your brand with your current structures and processes. It is important to get the B2B customer journey mapping process correct, and by no means is this an easy task.

While plotting the map provides you with levels of insight into the customer experience with your brand and products, it also provides insights into your own potential shortcomings that you may have overlooked. This will allow you to minimise pain points from your own processes in order to provide the ideal customer journey, which will likely strengthen the bond between your brand and your customers. After all, a painful purchase process will have people talking – and not in a good way!

We have laid out the B2B customer journey stages, so your map should touch on the below:

  1. Awareness: the customer becomes aware of the issue that they need to solve. This is the first step in the process and can be tough to affect customer decisions at this stage. Ensuring that your product is positioned as a solution to common customer pain points facing your customers is integral to success – digital tools such as search engine optimisation and easily-consumable educational pieces shared on social media are good ways to get a leg up against your competition.
  2. Research: The B2B customer journey will then move onto trying to find a way to solve these pain points. The SEO and educational pieces will take action here. Positioning your brand as a thought leader in the space provides credibility, which is important considering that your customers are only just beginning to understand the problems they are facing.
  3. Decision-making: Once the customer is satisfied that they fully understand their pain point and have constructed how they’d like to solve it, they’re now ready to enter the purchase process. It is important to note that onboarding a new B2B customer through the purchasing process will take longer than your average B2C sales due to the amount of input required from decision-makers such as senior management in the decision-making process.
    This is why the next few steps are so integral – buyers will likely want to avoid entering this process again if they don’t have to. Finding a way to improve customer retention and customer satisfaction allows both you and your customers to make the most of an easy situation by providing support to each other in a symbiotic relationship – they require ease of use, and you receive ease of use in exchange for ongoing support.
    This can also be provided in this section by combining the efforts of the sales and marketing teams to ensure that each has a cohesive view of what will be required from the customers – sales to ensure marketing is providing the correct strategy in terms of advertising, and marketing to provide feedback on what the digital customer journey looks like up until this point, as they will likely only come into play once the decision has been made to engage your brand.
  4. Onboarding: Once the customer decides on using your product, you now begin your professional relationship. The marketing teams’ work will now pave the way for sales reps to take over, providing demonstrations of how to effectively utilise your product. Post purchase, the customer’s experience will be shared between the initial sales rep and customer service. By taking advantage of your B2B customer journey mapping, you’ll be able to anticipate your customer needs and ensure product delivery functions in a way that is needed.
  5. Usage: Once the customer is confident in their ability to understand the product, they’ll then move towards everyday use. This will be the stage where your product is expected to deliver on solving the proposed challenges that the buyer has encountered, prompting the buying experience.
  6. Support: In the event that the customer or buyer encounters any issues while using your product, they will then require support. This may sound negative, but by using effective customer service, you can modify your product delivery to address issues in future development. Multiple people reporting an issue means you’ll likely hear about it again, so using the support stage as a form of customer feedback is a wise decision. Turn a poor experience into a learning experience for your company, which will enhance the user experience in the future!
  7. Renewal: This is when the customer makes the final decision of whether to continue using your product or not. By understanding their customer needs throughout the journey stages, providing a strong ongoing relationship, and demonstrating a satisfactory understanding of the customer experience, you’re far more likely to retain the customer instead of subjecting them to enter the buying process again.

Each of these steps can be supported, recognised, and rewarded through a B2B incentive and loyalty program. By adding extra benefits and personal rewards, the decision-making process changes to more than price and product. By using the products, you can encourage return purchases as the decision is linked to more than the product itself.

Even better is that if you have a smaller sales team, a loyalty program and outbound communications can support the B2B customer journey, as it talks directly to the customer through various mediums, all anchored around the incentive of the program. Some additional customer journey mapping tools you may have heard of are listed below – there are many in-market, but these are some of the most popular options:

  • Heap
  • Touchpoint
  • Hotjar
  • Google Analytics

Once you have successfully designed your B2B customer journey map template, your business will be ready to anticipate the buyer’s journey and reduce any negative emotions they could expect throughout the stages of the overall B2B customer journey.

However, while most B2B customers will share similarities, there’s no confirmation that any two customers are going to have identical buyer’s journey. What can you do to best try and shape your map to encompass the experience?

Defining Buyer Personas to Improve your B2B Customer Journey

Once you understand the broad strokes of your overall customer journey, it’s time to dig down into how to more effectively tailor your B2B customer journey to your clientele. The best way for you to do this is to define the buyer personas – which is, to understand the people who will be buying your product.

Defining the personas of your buyer’s throughout their journey provides many benefits to your business. It will assist by providing you with more detailed information for your customer journey – once you know the people going through the buying process, you can tailor the process to their liking, improving the customer experience. It can also be considered one of your B2B retention strategies, as you’ll be more likely to anticipate customer pain points prior to occurring. It can assist with training of your customer service team, as they’ll be able to better understand the customer emotions of the people they’re trying to help, and the best ways that these customers interact. There are no negatives to building a better understanding of the key elements of your customer’s experience – so how do you get started?

There are a variety of ways to create personas of your buyers. Within our B2B loyalty programs we use the Engagement Loyalty Model (ELM) which segments customers based on loyalty program interactions, points earned, sales made, and rewards redeemed. Placing them into cohorts we can then personalise emails, target one to one SMS comms and even special offers to individuals.

If you don’t have access to this, you can use traditional methods like conduct interviews throughout the journey stages and customer touchpoints – by gaining information on each stage of the B2B customer’s buying experience through customer interviews or focus groups, you can anticipate and respond quickly to queries.

These can be done by reaching out to customers directly through digital channels or direct mail – after all, you’ll be gathering data on multiple people, it’s important to put customer feedback to work!

Additionally, you can build out the buyer persona with the data that you have gathered on your customers already. This will provide you with a great deal of information for your B2B customer journey mapping from sources that you already have at your fingertips, and that you have received from your customers directly! It can be easy to overlook existing data sources, so make sure you’re getting everything you can from all the sources you’re already using.

You can also enlist various other forms of customer research, such as reaching out to a research firm or B2B marketing consultant, as they will be able to assist with specific points that you may have overlooked in your initial search. They’re professionals – it’s their job to raise awareness of common pitfalls faced by B2B companies!

When defining your buyer personas, it’s important to consider the following points, as these will assist you in creating a smoother purchase decision for the customers:

  • Demographics
  • Career info
  • Interests
  • Buying behaviours
  • Pain points and challenges
  • Goals and objectives

It is also important to consider that in creating these buyer personas, you will gain quite a bit of insight into the customers using your product and their likes and dislikes. By utilising this information in creating a B2B loyalty program, you can consider further positioning yourself as front-of-mind for new customers, while increasing customer retention and share of wallet from existing customers.

If you’re making your product indispensable to your customers, why not create further incentive to stay with your brand? We’ve been the leading B2B loyalty program agency in Australia and New Zealand since 1996 – reach out for a consultation today!

What to Do Once You Have Your B2B Customer Journey Mapped Out?

So, now you have a comprehensive list of your customer segments, and your B2B customer journey mapping has illuminated your organisation with an internal perception of the buying experience. What are the next steps?

Now, you’re onto ensuring that you use this data to benefit your company and to smooth out the buying process for both new and existing customers. By using the B2B customer journey map and comparing it against your buyer personas, you will now be able to identify and anticipate pain points that may be encountered on the customer journeys. This will improve customer experiences with your brand, leading to exceeding your customer expectations – providing both customer success and organisation success, in perfect harmony!

Now that you have all the data on your customers, it’s important to ensure that it stays relevant by monitoring the interactions with the buyers. This can be achieved with the below surveys and practices:

  • Net Promoter Score (NPS)
  • Customer satisfaction (CSAT)
  • First contact resolution (FCR) rate
  • Customer retention rate
  • Customer lifetime value
  • Conversion rate

Finally, a fantastic way to use the data to improve brand sentiment, customer retention, share of wallet and lifetime spend is to invest in a B2B loyalty programs for your customers! Since you’ve demonstrated a keen understanding of your customer base and their buyer journey, providing them further incentive for continued business with you seems like a no-brainer, and loyalty program benefits are a fantastic way to keep your customers coming back.

Reach out today to find out more about how we can assist with creating a loyalty program that will have your brand standing out amongst the field of competitors!

Frequently Asked Questions

  • The B2B customer stages can vary based on the customer’s experience. However, when mapping out the journey stages, it is important to consider awareness, research, decision-making, onboarding, usage, support and renewal. If you consider all of these when plotting your B2B customer journey map template, you’ll be sure to see customer success!

  • There are several differences between a B2B and B2C customer journey that are important to consider when completing your B2B customer journey map. A B2B customer journey will involve several decision-makers, including senior staff, meaning that the buying journey will be a much longer process. B2C customers are more likely to make a purchase based on emotion, whereas the B2B customer buying journey will involve a great deal of research around pain points, so ensuring that important information is carried on your digital channels is essential to ensuring a positive purchase decision for your customers.

  • There are many benefits to journey mapping out your B2B customer journey. By preparing a B2B customer journey map, you allow your organisation to anticipate important customer touchpoints throughout the buyer journey. By understanding the buying journey up to and past the purchase decision, it allows you to customise customer experiences and ensure that your product can meet and exceed customer expectations. This will also allow you to provide cross selling opportunities – for example, if you are a SaaS software company, you can slot in the points that your support team may be able to recommend beneficial additional components to provide your customers with a better experience, while also using cross selling as a way to increase profits. The B2B customer journey map is integral to the understanding of your customer, through both the customer journey and buying journey, so make sure your organisation takes the time with journey mapping – your customers will thank you!

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