Covid Transformed Business. But Has it Transformed Buyer Enablement?

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There is a big opportunity for everyone in the COVID-19 related buyer enablement.

Gartner recently found that among B2B buyers, 77% of them rated their purchase experience as extremely complex or difficult. 95% of buying groups report having to go back and revisit decisions at least once as new information emerges.

In theory, the shift to an all-digital buying process — which has been precipitated by the Covid-19 pandemic — should make it easier for marketers to measure the digital body language and intent of prospects. We have unprecedented insight into how buyers are behaving, what they’re signaling, and what content is most useful. And that, in turn, should allow us to decipher buyer needs and best enable them with the appropriate content and interactions to move through their journey.

That hasn’t happened in practice, though.

“There’s a massive opportunity for supplier organizations to simplify the purchase process by providing customers the information they need to anticipate obstacles and overcome them,” says Brent Adamson, Distinguished VP, Advisory, Gartner.

That’s because additional data doesn’t mean a simple selling cycle or that marketers know how to interpret it to provide the next best content or action in real-time. This move to an all-digital world also created a trap: marketers expected this data would make all buyer’s journeys be similar and linear. A prospect downloads this ebook then takes a call with your sales team, and then can be expected to want a demo. In an all-digital world we have more data than ever before, and yet, we don’t have the nuance that comes from a salesperson or marketer having a drink with a prospect at a tradeshow or conference. Those in-person conversations can shed valuable light onto the dynamics of the purchase decision, internal politics, and unforeseen needs or obstacles.

In other words, when we had that physical interaction, the emotional, human nuances that come with any purchasing decision was front and center to sales and marketing teams. In an all-digital world, that’s been pushed to the background or harder to decipher. Many of us have understandably de-prioritized that human nuance. But our data can’t explain why a decision-maker disagrees with one of her team members or how a board member might influence a decision. For marketers in this brave new world, it’s out of sight, and therefore out of mind.

But people are still emotional creatures and we don’t always act linearly, even when we’re operating, researching, and buying online. Companies and marketers need to rethink what buyer enablement looks like in the Covid and Post-Covid world. You need to adjust your buyer enablement strategy that fits in a world where customer journeys are more self-service and self-directed. More importantly, you need to consider how to better align the content and experiences they are consuming with what may be best for the next step– and it doesn’t always contact sales or a demo.

Ask yourself: How can we make it easier for a customer to get all the information they need on their own? How can we make our interactions with them more useful and seamless? In what stage of the journey do buyers need the most guidance or direction, and how can you provide that? What content can I provide to enable a better discussion between the buyer and the rest of the buying committee?

Think about how you can improve the curation of content and experiences. Identify where your gaps are in the experiences or in the overall strategy. If it’s easier to create top of funnel content than selection stage content, you need to understand what is truly separating you from your competitors and how you can best articulate those differences. Think about how you can still create unique experiences for each buyer, even at scale. Try to imagine your customer’s world and their pain points: use that perspective to create an experience that resonates with them, that they can self-direct, and which enables them to move further along in the funnel.

Now I can already hear people saying: what about post-pandemic? Is it worth it to shift our buyer enablement strategy if we’re just going to go back to the old way of doing things? But the fact of the matter is, the pandemic only accelerated an approach that people were thinking of enabling for years. Regardless of circumstance, the companies that win are those that are nimble, understand their buyers, and take action to make their sales process as efficient, useful, and empowering as possible for their buyers.

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