On day 2 of the Gartner Marketing Symposium 2019, Brent Adamson spoke about the need to rethink customer engagement with a focus on buyer enablement. He talked about how the infrastructure we all have for the marketing-to-sales process is under huge pressure due to the amount of change in the buying process.
The graphic above is indicative of what Gartner sees in the buying process and what they call Spaghetti Bowl Buying. Due to buyer confusion and the questions and concerns from marketers, Gartner stepped into an inquiry to answer questions, including:
- How do we do a better job of engaging our customers?
- What are the right kinds of content that lead to progress in making opportunities more sales ready?
What they found is that the challenge isn’t about marketing, but about buying. Customers are struggling to buy large, complex B2B solutions.
As was discussed in this post, every year, the number of people in the buying committee increases. Each of these stakeholders accesses four or five content resources on their own before they come together with the others on the committee to reach a decision.
The need to deconflict this volume and variety of information gathered (which can come from 30 to 50 resources) to get to a single version of the truth is beyond difficult and frustrating. Each person has formed their own ideas and perspective on the issue. All this access to information can actually exacerbate the attempt to get everyone on the same page.
When Gartner asked about this increased time it’s taking to reach consensus about buying, customers admitted that it’s not the vendor, but their own processes, teams and conflicts that results in this buying disfunction.
Difficulty In Buying Translates to Purchase Regret
What Gartner research finds is the more difficulty experienced during a purchase, the higher the purchase regret. Purchase regret is how the customer feels about what they buy.
Adamson related a story where a buyer had purchased a CRM. It took two years for the team to reach consensus and make the buying decision. He says the supplier did everything right. They didn’t over promise and under deliver, they met deadlines and the solution delivered just what they expected it to. However, every time he logs in he says he hates the system because it brings back all that frustration he experienced for the two years it took to buy it.
As Adamson said during his presentation, “Good luck growing that account.”
Gartner research finds that customers with high regret are 15% less loyal than customers without regret.
So the question you need to ask is, to what degree is your buyers’ struggle to buy directly impacting your company’s ability to grow?
Instead of looking at how to make progress toward purchase, it’s a better investment to help them calm the chaos by completing the jobs to be done that make up the buying decision. According to Gartner this is the highest impact action you can take to drive business growth.
B2B Buying is Like Plate Spinning
Have you ever been to a fair or circus and watched the guy who tries to get six plates spinning on sticks all at the same time? By the time he gets three going, the first is wobbling and needs to be stabilized and then you add more, and repeat the process trying to get them all spinning together.
That’s what the buying process is like today. The best thing we can do is to understand what our buyers’ spaghetti bowls of buying look like. As Adamson says, we’re in the best position to know this, not our customers. We’ve been through this process before, they may not have the experience to know what to expect, what obstacles they’ll face, and more.
Gartner defines four buckets of buying that include problem identification, solution exploration, requirements building and supplier selection. This isn’t new. And it appears linear…or so you’d think.
But what Gartner found is that it’s anything but linear. In fact, when asked if they ever revisit any of the buckets during the buying process, more than 75% of buyers said yes to all four buckets. This is caused by information that surfaces and causes them to rethink what they thought they knew. These are the “what ifs” that throw a wrench in the advancement of buying.
The other thing Gartner found is that validation and consensus must happen for each bucket, so these two struggles go on during the entirety of the buying process, making things even more difficult.
This is where information and content play a key role in the buying process as buyer enablement. We must deploy information smartly, getting it to the right people to give them another tool in the toolbox to simplify the process. Think about content that helps them complete each bucket. This could include things like benchmarks, ROI calculators, product tours, and other content that helps buying committees arrive at that single source of truth about the problem they’re solving and the solution they need to do so.
Content Trumps Channels
The other factor discovered in the research is that channels don’t really matter. Buyers will use your website and your sales reps to get the information they need. The opportunity to improve this information, however is big. Only about a third of buyers said the information they accessed from the vendor websites or sales reps had impact on their buying process.
Helping buyers buy is not about digital or in-person interactions, it’s about information that enables them do the jobs in each of those four buckets.
When you think about purchase progress in terms of completing jobs to be done, you will realize how poorly your infrastructure is oriented to manage to that goal. The opportunity is huge if we start thinking about how to help buyers complete the four jobs they have, rather than about helping them make progress through stages.
The challenge for marketers is to determine how you can best help your customers navigate the chaos of their spaghetti bowl buying process.
The answer is buyer enablement.