Two Shifts That Influenced the B2B Tech Buyers Journey in 2021
By Danni White
B2B tech buying is substantially different today than it has been in the past. Historically, B2B purchases encompassed lengthy sales cycles and a circuitous journey between multiple buyers, stakeholders and decision-makers within an organization. While there is still a good deal of B2B buyer complexity, the process of B2B tech buying is changing. This shift is partly due to the post-COVID changes in the marketplace and that many buyers, like many of us, find themselves with less time on their hands than ever before. So, what exactly has changed? Let’s take a look at some of the changes that have led to this shift.
How Many Cooks Are In The Kitchen?
B2B Tech purchases are rarely made by a single individual.
Technology purchases serve specific purposes within organizations, and it is up to B2B marketers to understand the various challenges that their technology solves and the personas that influence the buying process. B2B tech purchases are rarely made by a single individual. Instead, the norm is for teams of people to collaborate on research to identify the best product.
Think about the old saying of “too many cooks in the kitchen” and this is what the traditional B2B tech buyers journey tends to look like. According to a report by Gartner, those big teams usually contain 6 to 10 members on any one buying decision and each member has at least 4-5 pieces of information to support their stance. And as you can imagine, with so many people involved, there is the possibility of purchases taking a much longer time from problem identification to solution commitment.
Buyers Still Do the Basics, But On Their Own
Buyers can find almost anything they want… without ever having to speak to a representative.
The traditional tech buyers’ journey is condensed into three specific steps per Cognism. The first is recognizing the problem. The journey begins when a business realizes they have an issue that requires a solution. As soon as that awareness arrives, buyers immediately move into the next step: research. This is the phase where the buying team will explore options in order to find the best solution. SiriusDecisions notes that there are at least three vetting scenarios in most organizations: committee, consensus, and independent. The final step occurs when the buyers commit to a solution. This is where purchases are made and finalized.
With massive amounts of information on the internet and a range of content types available from various providers, buyers can find almost anything they want to find about a product, technology, or service without ever having to speak to a representative. Forrester notes that while the buying process has always been complicated and lengthy, the past year has added a new level of complexity to the process, with many sales interactions being completely remote. From 16 to 17 buying interactions between 2017 and 2019, that number jumped exponentially over the last year from 17 to 27. A massive shift that shows the number of touchpoints in between problems to solutions.
B2B Tech Buying is Complex
It is easy for buyers to move from one vendor to the next if they can’t find what they need.
The process of purchasing business technology products and services is rarely a straightforward linear path from start to finish. Depending on whether you offer a SaaS product or a business solution or service, the process can look more like a massive integrated highway loop than a closed circle. In short, all of this means that buyers will value the companies that make the process easy for them from research gathering, onboarding, implementation, and execution.
In addition, it is important to keep the focus on the individual buyer throughout the process. After all, even though we might be talking about major products or services within enterprise organizations, marketers must still interact and engage with individual human buyers throughout the process. When thinking of the buyer, marketers can better develop and disseminate information by ensuring a streamlined and simplified process. With so many solutions and services on the market, it is easy for buyers to move from one vendor to the next if they can’t find what they need.
As a B2B tech marketer, you understand that you exist to solve a problem for your company’s buyers. However, taking a deeper approach is critical to success, and that starts with a mindset shift in understanding who is driving this change.
Who Is Driving Change? The Next Generation of Decision Makers
Millennials are shaping buying decisions.
While the B2B tech buyers journey is still built on three crucial moments, the decision path already looks dramatically different from what might have been seen a decade ago. This is partly due to major demographic shifts. According to Harvard Business Review, millennials (age 25-39) make up 73% of those involved in B2B purchasing decisions and over one-third identify as the primary decision-maker on buying decisions.
…of those involved in B2B purchasing decisions are millennials. Over 1/3 identify as the primary decision maker.
And how do these millennials respond to marketing and sales communication? A TrustRadius survey looked specifically into how millennials think and feel about sales tactics. They found that 95 percent of these tech buyers never respond to cold emails or cold calls for sales. These are dead tactics for this generation.
…of millennial tech buyers never respond to cold sales emails or calls.
Instead, millennials prefer to do their own research and utilize self-serve purchasing options. In fact, according to the survey noted above, 57 percent of millennial buyers complete their purchases without ever speaking to a vendor or representative.
That means that the best way to reach the new leading demographic of buyers is to change tactics and focus on providing self-serve solutions. Data-driven and creative content marketing is ideal for boosting SEO results and review generation, and these are tools that millennials prefer. Make yourself visible to their research, and they are more likely to choose you.
…of millennial buyers complete their purchases without ever speaking to a vendor.
The Black Swan Event
B2B Tech purchases care more about self-service, remote connectivity, data security and privacy than previous buyers.
The demographic shift in B2B tech investments was exacerbated by the largest black swan event in living memory. The COVID-19 pandemic introduced radical change, especially in tech buying. It started with buying habits as 49 percent of tech buyers notably decreased their tech spending in 2020, according to TrustRadius 2021 B2B Buying Disconnect report. Of the money that was spent, a radical shift was geared towards teleconferencing.
The increase in remote connectivity and collaboration had a predictable impact on concerns with security and privacy, and tech buyers started emphasizing these two qualities higher than they used to.
All of this shows that moving forward, millennials who are in charge of B2B tech purchases care more about self-service, remote connectivity, data security and privacy than previous buyers. These are the new concerns that have to be addressed, and they have to be addressed through passively provided information.
It’s a large, rapid shift, and adapting will not be easy. Still, these are changes that can be made successfully when you alter your strategy. Provide good, direct information to your buyers. Allow them to discover that information on their own and make it easy for them to finalize purchases without having to go through a representative, and you will be ahead of the new trends.
One of the best ways for B2B tech marketers to reach their buyers at the right point in the buying journey is with professional thought leadership and tailored content that shows your product or solution solves core needs of your customer.
The new Content Marketing Bundle from the team at Yeager Marketing makes it easy for you to have fresh, high-value content for your marketing and sales efforts, including an e-book, whitepaper and infographic. The content we develop in collaboration with you is designed to meet your target buyers and guide them through the journey.