B2B Marketers Prepare to Get the Most Out of Today's Technology Tools

Seven Steps to Adapting to Changes in Buyer Behavior and Capitalizing on Opportunities

August 12, 2010

As B2B marketers adapt to changes in buyer behavior and learn how to take advantage of opportunities presented by technology, their jobs are being transformed. What’s different and how can marketing leaders prepare? This seven-step framework provides focus for assessing your situation and prioritizing steps in the transformation. Subsequent reports will address best practices in each of the five areas.


Traditional marketing experience and education fails today's B2B marketer, who now face major changes in how buyers buy and tremendous opportunities to use technology to drive faster growth. Marketing leaders who don't take steps to transform their departments risk irrelevance.

For many B2B marketers, the scope of the catch-up they need to play is overwhelming. The framework outlined in this article provides a context for marketers to assess their situation and prioritize steps in their transformation. Each of seven steps in the framework highlights what is driving the need to change and specific actions marketers can initiate to adapt to today's changed B2B marketplace. Subsequent reports will address best practices in each of the seven areas.


B2B marketers must change what they do or become irrelevant. They now own a larger piece of the buying cycle as prospects research for themselves on the Web rather than consult with a salesperson. Moreover, as buyers find a voice and peer communities on the Web, power shifts from sellers to buyers. With buyers in control, marketing practices fundamentally change:

  • From finding prospects to nurturing suspects
  • From pushing a story out to drawing interest in
  • From telling and yelling to engaging and whispering
  • From controlling to participating
  • From actions directed to large segments to routines that vary by buyer response
  • From segmenting based on attributes to use of both attributes and behavior
  • From manual to automated marketing management
  • From publishing brochures to posting content and tools for self-help at specific buying stages
  • From doing it right the first time (or not) to doing it better each time

These changes suggest the scope of today's transformation. More changes are coming, and the pace is increasing. While most B2B marketers recognize this situation, many are overwhelmed by the task of adapting their practices to the new demands.


Seven actions frame the areas where traditional marketing experience and education fails today's B2B marketer. Some actions are extensions of traditional marketing, while others involve acquisition of new knowledge and greater leadership or organizational savvy. What's clear is that being a well-rounded business person has become a job requirement for today's B2B marketer. For many, this isn't a change…they are adept business executives. For others it is an awakening.

1. KNOW YOUR BUYERS. Marketers' number one job has always been to understand their customers...who they are, what they care about, and the problems they have. The best marketing - from strategy to design and messaging - has always had the customer's needs at its core. Today there is more to know; there are more ways to know it; and there are more public consequences of missing the mark. Furthermore, this greater knowledge can be and is put to use to move the buying process forward.

Knowing your buyers starts with traditional demographics of company size, industry, title, tenure, and role in buying process. Then it gets personal. B2B marketers develop and name buyer personas to ground their understanding of their targets on a personal rather than abstract level. They learn each persona's needs, interests, challenges, and ways of working so well that they can make reasonable predictions of what information that set of buyers want at each stage of the buying cycle, how they want to receive that information, what offers are most appealing, what messaging resonates best, and how often it is acceptable to reach out to them. Marketers also learn where the personas hang out on the Web, identify the words they are most likely to type into a search query, and break down the decisions they will make as they move through the buying process.

Armed with this information, marketers are in a position to establish compelling Web presences at all the right places, drive an effective organic search and/or pay-per-click marketing strategy and engage with buyers online and offline in ways that capture clues for tailoring follow-up actions. Savvy marketers go a step further to develop tools buyers can use (ranging from simple checklists to options for generating custom quotes and implementation schedules) to facilitate exploration and decision making. By doing this, marketers empower the buyer while observing as buyers qualify themselves. Buyers get the control they want while marketers gather further clues to calibrate their next step based on the buyers' actions. By knowing your buyers, you can make it easy for them to buy from you.

2. PLAN TO ENGAGE YOUR CUSTOMERS. Customers are a special kind of buyer…they know your company well. They make referrals, provide feedback on products and services, and suggest new capabilities. With today's Web and social media capabilities, customers have taken on a much more influential role. Their voice is heard whether you have given them as a reference or not. They participate in peer group communities on the Web, helping new customers, expressing concerns, answering questions, and advocating for or against products, services, and new capabilities.

Today's B2B marketer recognizes customers' tremendous power and reach and doesn't leave their participation to chance. Marketers make plans to engage customers in the full product/service lifecycle, giving new life to the five roles Patricia Seybold identified for them in her book, Outside Innovation:

  • Lead customers, who invent new solutions to extend modify or redesign your products and services.
  • Contributors, who donate time to debug and test, finding enjoyment in their contributions being used.
  • Consultants, who provide deep subject matter expertise, offering guidance and insight.
  • Guides, who act as advisors to other customers, helping them navigate difficult implementations.
  • Promoters, who enthusiastically advocate for your brand, products, and/or services.

The job of identifying customers for each of these roles, developing programs to support the roles, and establishing ownership for driving program success lies squarely with the B2B marketer in companies that don't have a customer experience leader. In those that do, the marketer collaborates and reaps the benefits.

3. PUT A LASER FOCUS ON THE VALUE PROPOSITION. What a value proposition is has not changed, but the importance of getting it right, making it better, and continually building evidence to support it has skyrocketed. After all, the salesperson used to be able to ...

Sign in to download the full article


Be the first one to comment.

You must be a member to comment. Sign in or create a free account.