Imagine: your company becomes 60% more profitable by changing one aspect of your business strategy. Sounds pretty exciting, right?
In the meantime, your competitors who have already embarked on a customer-centric journey don’t need to imagine that. They grow sustainably by caring.
Because that’s what today’s B2B marketing is about: letting go of your ego in favor of the client.
And to do that, caring 5% more about your customer simply won’t do. What your team needs is a comprehensive shift to a buyer-centric B2B.
We took it upon ourselves to use our personal experience and research to collect everything you need to know about this shift.
Let’s start with the basics.
What in the world is a “buyer-centric” approach?
If everything it’s about is being more focused on your customer, why do we talk about it so much? This one should be easy.
To make your marketing and sales about the buyer, you need to know everything about their behavior.
Especially when it has changed so dramatically:
100% of your buyers want to self-serve their buying journey.
Partially, at least.
Because they don’t need guidance or sales-curated content to drive their decisions. There are a few more reasons as well:
- Your buyers want an on-demand service that requires no wasted time on communication. They simply don’t have time to waste.
- Most of your buyers today are remote. And they need insightful information to share with the team instantly.
- Your buyers have enough distractions already. Another one, no matter how helpful, may accidentally destroy your future relationship.
64% of your buyers are triggered by cold-calling.
And not in a positive way.
They are actually less likely to buy from you if you call them out of the blue to talk about your product.
Consider the reason is everything: the amount of noise, the general bad rep around cold calling, or Gen Z’s inherent fear of talking to someone they don’t know.
The takeaway remains the same: The era of unsolicited invasion of privacy is over. And there aren’t many people mourning the loss.
It takes one extra interaction with sales for your buyer to disqualify your product or service.
Just look at the stats:
Well, the message is clear now: The buyer’s journey will never be the same.
So, using the info we know today, what does it mean to be “buyer-centric?”
Focusing on your buyer means embracing proactivity in your marketing and sales efforts by answering the questions your buyers ask themselves.
And the only way to do that is by leaving the old outbound playbook behind.
Self-destruct checklist: Old B2B playbook
How do you know you’re playing by the old rules?
Just take a look at the following statements and say if they apply to you:
Your marketing is all brand and no customer.
There’s nothing wrong with talking about your brand when you build one.
Making everything about it, though? That’s no way to talk to your buyer.
Just imagine a conversation with a person that keeps going about their life without once acknowledging you’re a part of the conversation. You probably won’t talk to this person again unless you really have to.
And B2B marketing is no different. Fail to put your customer first, fail to get a new client. At least, that’s what data shows: 94% of buyers mention that customer treatment influences their purchasing decision.
You think personalization at scale can save you.
Or any personalization at this point, really.
Collecting superficial data about your prospect to make them feel special is a 2013 trick. Today, you act like an actual human being to win somebody over.
76% of your customers are upset with the lack of personalized communication from a brand. But here’s the thing:
B2B buyer is way beyond the “including your name and title in the message” personalization stage.
They don’t care what you know about them. What matters today is your ability to use this knowledge to present a viable solution.
Here are a few more examples of what buyers expect from their journey today:
→ Intuitive user experience
→ Relevant advice/brand communication
→ Timely and needs-focused communication
You favor quantity over quality.
When you’re trying to generate leads, you’re quite likely to fall into the “quantity” trap: expanding your target audience, aligning your messaging with a broader prospect pool, and waiting for the right lead to convert.
And in some cases, this tactic works. But when it comes to building a long-term relationship with a potential client, quality outreach goes a long way.
Playing a numbers game is a reputational risk. Not only does it kill personalization, but it also literally puts a “spam” label on you.
You’re driven by assumptions rather than data.
Getting precise information on approaching your clients is hard. But definitely not harder than winning them over with a mere projection of their pains and desires.
In combination with a lack of personalization and focus on quantity, assumptions lead to a lost opportunity.
As Jon Stamell, CEO of Oomiji, puts it, “Assumptions based on past conditions no longer serve as reliable indicators of current or future outcomes.”
And assumptions based on your vision of a buyer can’t possibly serve you as well.
Your audience is a bunch of MQLs rather than qualified buyers.
You expect your marketing team to find qualified prospects through gated and brand-focused content.
You expect your sales team to convert the leads qualified by marketing even when they’re not ready to buy.
While the thing you should actually expect is a joint effort of your team to interest, nurture, and convert a qualified opportunity.
And to achieve it, you need a mindset shift.
‟Many marketing teams are built to generate MQLs as their primary KPI. But when those MQLs are passed to sales – they aren’t interested in making a purchase.
MQL-focused team is being set up to fail.
The truth is that marketing teams are often limited to a short-term perspective to prove the investment is worth it. Thus, they have no other option than focus on tactics that lead to conversion (not a lot of them though), which is not how B2B buyers want to buy today.”
Artem Pogosov, Head of Marketing @ respect.studio
What do your clients want instead?
An opportunity to decide for themselves.
If you don’t believe us, trust data instead.
According to TrustRadius, Millennial and Gen Z buyers check review sites and look for peer recommendations as the first step of their buying journey.
Moreover, throughout this journey, buyers expect little to no direct communication with the vendor: the need to contact a sales rep for additional information scares away 40% of your potential customers. And 16% will even delete you from the shortlist completely if they can’t access information like pricing upfront.
Simply put, before your potential buyer is set to reach out to you directly, they expect to do all the work themselves. And the way you communicate your brand online before initiating a conversation is make-or-break.
And while defining the self-serve buying era is quite simple, the tough question here is…
How do you adapt your B2B brand to the self-serve era demands?
You choose trust over quick outreach solutions. Because that’s what your buyer chooses anyway.
And you build trust by learning about your customer. LinkedIn research shows that 76% of top sales performers never miss the research stage when reaching out to the prospect.
We know what you’re asking yourself right now. “What exactly do you mean by research if I’ve scrapped all the data already?”
So we’ve prepared a list of 5 major tricks to know your buyer and build a long-lasting relationship in 2023.
Scale value instead of lead volume. Through building a personal brand.
That’s right, you’ll hear the phrase “personal brand” one more time. And many more times after that. Because it works.
B2B communication is human communication. And we were wrong to present it as something different.
According to Cognism, hiding behind a company logo is no way to build demand for your product in a soulless and competitive market.
Today’s LinkedIn feed is replete with thought leaders and creators who share their messages with millions of users. And it’s not the goal of becoming the second Gary Vaynerchuk that should drive you to build a personal brand.
It’s the desire to show your authentic self to the audience that counts.
Here are only a few reasons why building a personal brand needs to be a part of your outreach strategy:
#1. You talk to your audience without invading their space.
Keeping in mind all the “self-serve era” stuff, it’s important to realize you’re still here to get the message across. So why not do it in a more non-intrusive manner?
Imagine the scenario: Instead of hitting your prospect’s inbox with a 6-paragraph message about who you are, you reach out to a potential client and let them learn about your brand and opportunities through engaging, educational, and entertaining content.
#2. You tear down the logo mask.
Building a personal brand doesn’t mean you’re banned from talking about your company or product. It’s quite the opposite, actually.
Social selling is your chance to make a faceless brand more personal. Here’s how you do it: you demonstrate your expertise, value, and relevance by adding personal experience and cases to the brand.
Once your audience recognizes you, they start to associate you with expertise, and the expertise itself is eventually associated with the brand.
#3. You increase your chances to close a deal.
Along with giving you a weird feeling of satisfaction from a genuine connection with a prospect, social selling efforts literally put you above the competition: 61% of organizations engaged in social selling report revenue growth.
Before we prove it, let’s define what is meant by social selling. According to LinkedIn’s definition, social selling is your ability to:
→ Strengthen your network by connecting with leaders and decision-makers
→ Share updates and engage with your audience
→ Establish thought leadership by creating & sharing valuable content with the audience
→ Find and match with qualified opportunities
And once you’ve got it covered, you’ll see:
All in all, sounds like something worth a try, doesn’t it?
Now that you know how important it is to build a personal brand, how do you actually build one?
By following these (not so) simple steps:
- Create a clear and concise message you want to share with your audience. If there’s one thing you want to be associated with your brand, what do you want it to be?
- Create a profile that clearly communicates this message. There’s one chance to make a first impression that resonates. Does your current profile allow the prospect to find and understand this message?
- Find the one. We’re talking about the client match here. Whom do you want your brand to talk to?
- Spend some time studying your audience. Talk to them, analyze their behavior online, engage with their thoughts and ideas. Look for that missing puzzle piece that stands in their way to success.
- Share your value. Build a simple content plan that allows you to share your knowledge, insights, and questions with the community.
- Spark a dialogue. Don’t dump your thoughts online. Ask questions. Interact with your audience. Follow up on their concerns.
At the end of the day, building a personal brand is being there for your client. Even if they’re not ready to buy from you today, you make sure they know whom to talk to once they are.
‟We’ve had different objectives and outcomes for personal branding activities.
For some, content helped to connect with more people and kick off conversations. For others, it proved their reputation in front of the investors and partners.
In most cases, you need to commit to brand building in the long run. No doubt, getting compliments on your content is nice.
But it takes time and effort to get to the point where prospects reach out and say they’ve been following your work and want to get to know you better.”
Hanna Koval, Content Team Lead @ respect.studio
Don’t personalize your outreach. Make it personal.
Perhaps, not to the stage when you’re chasing down your prospect’s home address to send them a fruit basket. Just bear in mind what today’s buyer is expecting from your interaction.
According to Salesforce, 89% of B2B buyers will favor your brand if you demonstrate an understanding of their goals during communication.
And there’s no way they’ll make sure you do if you personalize your messaging with barely relevant info scraped with automation tools.
71% of buyers today perceive communication with sales as something transactional and lacking real value. But you shouldn’t be intimidated by that. Instead, look at this number as an opportunity to win over 70% of your potential clients by spending a few extra minutes on research.
How do you use this homework to switch to a buyer-centric B2B outreach?
Here are just a few examples we’ve seen work lately:
→ You start a conversation instead of opening up with a pitch
Personal communication is not about pulling up a dossier. It’s defining several touchpoints that matter to your client and elaborating on them.
Start with a company or market observation. Build a hypothesis and be curious whether you got it right. Such an approach will definitely give you an A for effort and won’t make you sound too eager to push a solution.
According to Lavender, an unsure message leads to a significantly higher reply rate.
→ You bring context to your message
A sales pitch that shows up out of nowhere is a literal nightmare for a decision-maker. In fact, it’s even more of a nightmare for you. You won’t see the end of ignored messages you can’t unsend and start over.
So why not ensure you’re leading with an observation or thought that brings emotion and builds rapport? That’s what your client needs today, remember?
→ You overstep the boundaries just right
Modern buyers won’t be okay with you telling them what to do and how to act. Especially if they know nothing about you.
But the moment you show genuine interest in their business and add practical value through outreach, your chances of your prospect converting into a sale are better in the long run.
One more time:
Personalized outreach is a sales pitch seasoned with superficial information about your prospect.
Personal outreach is a conversation that shows an understanding of what your client is going through.
And today, your buyer will settle for nothing less than personal.
Talk to 100% of your audience. Instead of focusing on the 3% in the market.
Just look at the difference in the numbers here. It doesn’t sound logical to lose 97% of long-term opportunities, yet so many companies make this mistake.
There are some psychological factors to it: companies still perceive marketing as a quick solution to convince their client. According to a recent LinkedIn research, 96% of B2B marketers expected to see the main effect of their ad campaigns within 2 weeks.
And we blame the old outreach model for that. According to the old playbook, you use marketing to move your potential client down the funnel until they are “in-market.”
The new playbook tells us that no one can make the buyer “in-market” except for the buyers themselves.
And marketing’s task is making sure the buyer knows whom to talk to once the shift is done.
This phenomenon is also known as a “95-5 Rule”: Communicate your brand to the 95% of buyers unlikely to buy from you right away.
An important disclaimer: today’s B2B marketing is not about abandoning the “in-market” audience. It’s about combining your efforts to create demand for your future audience and maintain healthy and meaningful communication with the buyers ready for a purchase today.
How do you achieve it?
Let go of the “persuasion” mindset. Instead, embrace the marketing model where you build awareness through:
- Social proof
- Thought leadership
And other aspects that can help your audience today and tomorrow. No matter how ready they are for a deal.
Bring SDRs to the rescue.
When there’s a will to buy, there’s always a way your sales reps can make or break the deal.
If you’ve reached this discussion point, you already realize the main issues associated with selling a B2B product today: your clients are allergic to selling.
After identifying the need, most buyers (77%) start with their own research and only 23% turn to a sales representative for help.
But when they do, at least 87% of B2B buyers expect your SDR to be a qualified and trusted advisor rather than a person paid to push the sale.
And making sure your team meets these expectations is one of the most important aspects of embracing a buyer-centric outreach.
While marketing lays a solid foundation for your brand’s recognition and expertise, it’s the interaction with sales and further nurturing that leads to a long-term relationship with a client.
To build one, sales teams today are expected to:
→ Interact closely with marketing and product teams to make sure they’re aware of the company’s values, position, and niche expertise
→ Communicate proactively with a client, demonstrating a deep understanding of their pains and challenges
→ Be an expert in the client’s product and industry
→ Act as a qualified advisor or consultant
Sounds like a lot of things to handle for one role. And that’s exactly why your company’s efforts need a fundamental switch to prioritizing your buyer: it’s the only way for marketing and sales to be prepared.
“Sales excellence requires more than a pitch. Foster a culture of empathy and expertise within your sales team, empowering them to become trusted advisors who deliver value and address clients’ unique challenges.”
Iurii Znak, Founder @ respect.studio
Here’s a fun fact to encourage companies to embrace genuine communication: According to Gong Labs, mentioning your prospect’s alma mater during a small talk can increase your win rates by up to 8%. Imagine what can happen if you dive a little deeper.
To sum this trick up, your clients don’t want to talk to sales. The old version of sales, to be precise. Your clients don’t need a pitch, pricing info, or a 30-minute demo call to show how your solution works.
Instead, they want to talk to industry experts who know how to address their pains and concerns.
Don’t tell your brand is different. Show them how.
When you’re looking for a solution, you can aptly sum this experience up with a famous Fight Club quote:
“Everything is a copy of a copy of a copy.”
Indeed, there are dozens of solutions that look and sound exactly the same. Crayon’s research on competitive intelligence finds that nearly 60% of business leaders today see a rapid increase in competition.
Considering your client’s desire to make a well-grounded decision on their own, highlighting your product in the sea of competition by simply telling them you’re different won’t work.
Your efforts to build a brand preference, on the other hand, might work just fine.
Brand preference is about differentiating your product or service through marketing, brand awareness, distinct messaging, and thought leadership.
Some of the most common ways to show your brand is different (according to Wynter) are:
- Refining your messaging to resonate with the audience.
When you’re talking to everyone, you might as well talk to no one. Being too generic with your message means losing to the competitors who actually feel your customer’s pains and concerns. Define who your audience is and make sure your positioning answers the “what’s in it for me?” question easily.
- Using an extra budget to share extra voice with your customers.
If you have some extra marketing budget (in this economy, lucky you), bringing paid ads or influencer marketing to the table is a great way to show some identity behind the logo. Warning: it only works when you know who your advertisement talks to, so make sure you nailed the first step before spending cash.
- Adopting a content strategy.
Stop treating your content as a way to mention your brand one more time. Instead, it’s time to use your customer’s innate curiosity to address their concerns and give some actionable advice. They’ll definitely hold a special place in their heart for brands that prioritize their interests.
- Embracing storytelling and other differentiation techniques to tell your brand’s story.
This one’s pretty self-explanatory. People don’t identify themselves with a faceless brand. They resonate with the story. And the more compelling it is, the more advantage you have in the market.
- Building thought leadership through a founder brand.
We’ve figured out that people love stories. But when those stories are told by an actual human? Whew, you hit the jackpot there. Up to 45% of a business’s reputation can be attributed to the reputation of its founder. So you’d better use this data to your advantage before it’s too late.
It might seem like a lot of work. But once you’re able to tell yourself what you’re in here for, sharing the answer with the audience is no rocket science.
And now, it’s time for …
If there was one thing we’d like you to take away from this article, it will probably be this:
To win a new B2B marketing context, you can’t play by the old rules.
The new context requires:
→ Non-intrusive and respectful communication with the buyer
→ Respecting your buyer’s choice of a self-serve buying journey
→ Extra effort to build genuine rapport through outreach
→ Non-pushy marketing and sales that add actual value
→ Personal approach to every potential client
→ Brand recognition and differentiation efforts that make you seen
Unfortunately, there isn’t a universal formula to build an impeccable B2B outreach machine.
But once you realize you can’t move forward without putting your client first, you’ll find it easier to build trust and long-term rapport with your clients.
P.S. And if you’re feeling overwhelmed about where to start, we’re here to help.