B2B Buyers Need to See the Value Today

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To achieve superior revenue performance, business-to-business organizations must work relentlessly to improve the value they deliver to buyers, according to Forrester Research.

However, buyer value cannot be seen as generic and universal for all buyers across all buying journeys, the firm cautioned. Instead, organizations must identify the most meaningful drivers of value for their buyers, prioritize those that present the greatest opportunity, and consistently measure performance against those selected.

The first step in that, according to Forrester, is to select journeys and examine the drivers of value that make them unique.

Typically, B2B organizations make complex purchases that extend over a significant period of time and usually involve a series of decision makers. B2C purchases, by contrast, tend to be made by an individual or household, says Ross Graber, Forrester vice president and principal analyst. “In B2B, we want to understand the value that is being attained by our buyers who are participating in a buying process as part of a group.”

Too many B2B sellers don’t understand what buyers truly value, adds Maxie Schmidt-Subramanian, Forrester vice president and principal analyst.

“In a B2B setting, they think very narrowly about what buyers value; they think very narrowly about an ROI argument. There’s certainly an economic value, but there are also other dimensions of value that matter. There is the functional value—is that product useful? What is the use case?” she says. “And there is an experiential value—what kind of interactions do I have within the buying process? And there’s also symbolic value. As a buyer, it might be as simple as that I feel smarter because during the buying process, the vendor helped educate me on new technology. Or because the vendor helped me select this product, I might look good in front of my boss, which is important to me.”

So sellers need to determine which value or combination of values are most important to buyers, Schmidt-Subramanian says.

Focus on one or two journeys to maximize results, the report says. To decide on which ones to focus, Schmidt-Subramanian recommends assessing the impact potential, visibility, and feasibility of making changes across various customer journeys. Feasibility could be an issue in highly regulated industries.

Another important point, Graber adds, is that B2B sellers sometimes overlook that value can be realized during the buying process, not just at the end of the transaction.

Forrester recommends three steps organizations should take to ensure that the measurements result in actual performance improvements rather than just additional data points without follow-through:

1. Define an action plan for each data point to ensure that the measurements lead to improved performance. Because buying journeys are complex, organizations need to consider interactions across marketing, sales, and customer engagement to determine the right subsequent actions. B2B-focused firms have overlooked buyer experience for far too long, and, until they do so, they will fail to see superior sales performance. And then, it’s important to note that measurements are most cost-effective for the buyer when they are packaged together as dashboards or in such a way as to report on deliverables for well-defined audiences.

2. Look for ways to combine and improve. Clear focus areas are critical for organizations to understand customers across multiple buyer journeys. Without a clear focus, the organization is less likely to act, the research firm explains.

3. Find and group similar patterns that can help organizations highlight weaknesses and opportunities in buyer experiences. That information can be used to drive improvement. 

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