While traditional marketing and sales teams are still as relevant as they’ve ever been within business organizations, they need to focus all they do through the lens of buyer enablement and customer experience management to ensure they’re delivering value to customers, Uday Nayar of Merkle writes.

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Uday Nayar

Companies these days need to guide their sales and marketing efforts by one simple reality: The buyer controls the journey. Your company does not. Why, then, are today’s organizations spending so much time crafting pre-determined marketing journeys when it’s the buyers we should be enabling?

Companies need to evaluate new applications of AI that can enable easier buyer access to information via better design, messaging and creative treatments.

What is buyer enablement, and why do we need to pivot our organizational mindset in this direction? Per Gartner, “Buyer enablement is the provisioning of information that supports the completion of critical activities necessary to make a purchase.” In other words, just as sales enablement helps sellers sell, buyer enablement helps buyers buy. It does so by providing them with prescriptive advice and practical support to make the buying process easier to navigate and complete.

Companies have more opportunities than ever to empower and guide buyers along their personalized journeys. Let’s take a look at what a buyer-enablement mindset entails and how organizations can operationalize it.

Pivoting to a Buyer-Enablement Mindset

It’s estimated that about 70% of the buyer’s journey is complete before that individual reaches out to a salesperson for an in-person meeting or consultation. Part of this shift to a self-guided sales process has to do with the changing demographics of buyers. Within the next few years, millennials will come to command the majority of purchasing decisions within organizations and their buying units, and these buyers’ communication preferences overwhelmingly skew digital. In other words, buyers have a limited appetite these days to be pushed down a sales and marketing funnel—so companies need to stop pushing.

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Marketing and sales are still as relevant as they have ever been within organizations. However, they need to focus everything through the lens of buyer enablement and customer experience management to ensure they are delivering value where required. To guide your team’s mindset in this direction, ask yourself:

  • Is our company and its materials the go-to source for answering buyers’ burning questions? (Consider your thought leadership, content and company POV here.)
  • How can we enable buyers to make the right decision about our services, products and industry? (Consider demos, ROI calculators and other tools here.)
  • Are we showing up in relevant media outlets and channels to stay top of mind for our buyers? (Consider your full media mix here.)

In pivoting to a buyer-enablement mindset, it is worth remembering that purchase decisions often have as much to do with an individual’s motivations as they do their organization’s goals. In fact, recent research from B2B International, a Merkle company, found that buyers are just as concerned with enriching their individual standings at their organizations as they are about adding value to the business. This insight has definite implications for organizations as they look to operationalize buyer enablement with their sales and marketing teams.

Operationalizing Buyer Enablement

How can companies pivot to put buyer enablement and customer experience management at the heart of their sales and marketing efforts? It all starts with prioritizing a seamless journey as buyers seek answers to their questions. In this regard, there are three areas that demand attention:

Avenues of engagement: Especially in light of the pandemic, organizations need to pivot to a digital-first approach that prioritizes:

  • Ecommerce buying options;
  • Non-traditional routes for sales access, including social media and virtual events and meetings;
  • Digital content that drives top-of-funnel awareness and trust in how a company can help solve a buyer’s problems.

Technology: Particularly as third-party cookies fade to irrelevance, companies must invest in better data structures and identity resolution solutions that will enable privacy-compliant cross-channel communications with prospects throughout their journeys. In addition, companies need to evaluate new applications of AI that can enable easier buyer access to information via better design, messaging and creative treatments.

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Areas of focus: Above all, today’s B2B organizations need to break free of “business as usual” mentalities and refocus around the new buyer reality. This includes doubling-down on post-purchase loyalty efforts to encourage brand advocacy (e.g., via education, account support, speaking opportunities at events, awards, and more). They also must ensure they are adapting their practices according to the changing demographics of today’s decision-makers and reorganizing their marketing and sales teams, providing them incentives to work toward the same outcomes.

Historically, B2B buyers were more dependent on salespeople to make decisions because the avenues available for product information and education were limited. Fast forward to today, and we see that the reality is quite the opposite. Buyers are inundated with options, and they have learned to navigate a complex digital web to find the resources they need to make informed decisions. They know how to search and where to find information, and a plethora of content and format options enable them in their quest to find answers to their problems. The process is not always seamless, but make no mistake: Buyers craft their journey to their ultimate purchase.

Uday Nayar is vice president of strategy and planning and the Americas B2B strategy lead at Merkle, a marketing and customer experience management firm. Prior to Merkle, he worked in digital strategy and account management at agencies including OgilvyOne and Digitas for Fortune 500 companies in the technology, financial services, insurance, and retail industries.

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