Understanding the B2B Customer Journey: A Comprehensive Practical Guide
Every business needs marketing to grow, whether it’s starting out, expanding, or integrating. And one of the most important steps in marketing is creating a B2B ecommerce customer journey map (CJM). The B2B customer journey is all about how a customer purchases a particular product. According to PwC, 63% of customers are willing to share their personal data with companies that offer a greater experience. A CJM is the perfect tool to help you understand your customers and make your services customer-centered.
If you’re a B2B marketer, business owner, or executive responsible for driving revenue growth and improving customer satisfaction, we’ve created this guide for you. It covers the B2B customer journey stages, the customer life cycle, and the key touchpoints along the way, and we’ve packed it full of practical advice for optimizing the customer journey and achieving your business goals.
When you reach the end of this guide, you’ll have actionable insights and strategies to drive revenue growth and improve customer satisfaction.
Understanding the B2B Customer Journey
Like any other journey, a customer’s buying journey includes several necessary steps and milestones. It starts with the customer learning about the product or company, but it doesn’t end with the purchase! Keeping your client loyal all along the way is the most important task for any business. Here, we describe the key stages customers go through before becoming your real long-term client.
1. Awareness stage
This is the very first step, when the customer becomes aware of a product or service and realizes that it may solve a problem or fulfill a need. This awareness can come via various channels, such as advertising, social media, or referrals.
For example, a small manufacturing company is looking for supplies. They know what they need and actively look for it: they use Google, social media, or seek advice from a friend, and they find out that your company produces exactly what they need. This is the first touchpoint with the client and gives you an opportunity to drive revenue growth.
Here are some ideas on how to attract customer attention and get more potential buyers:
- Always monitor analytics.
Tracking this step with a CJM and analytics tools helps you to understand how potential customers interact with your content, advertising, and other information about the company. The insights gained at this stage can help you to refine your strategy and improve business results.
- Identify the target audience.
Determining your target audience and their pain points will help you to create personalized content that your ideal customers will want. Everything is important: from demographic information and job title to specific needs.
- Build your brand voice.
Creating a unique experience and view of your business helps to build stronger attraction to your products and services. As people tend to buy from someone they know—from well-known companies—being a well-known company is the way to success. A brand voice can help you to sound more authoritative and familiar.
- Create engaging content.
Base your blogs, videos, infographics, and whitepapers on your analytical insights. In each piece of your content, address the target audience’s pain points. Your content should be easy to understand and offer a solution to their problem.
- Offer value.
Offering unique value to potential customers helps you stand out from your competitors. Find something that the target audience needs the most (even better if it’s something your competitors don’t provide). Good examples are free trials, demos, or consultations.
- Leverage social media and promote your products.
Social media platforms are a great way to increase brand awareness, engage with the audience, and build a community. Paid advertising can be effective at reaching a larger audience quickly. Assess your marketing promotion tools and check out what your competitors use.
2. Consideration stage
You may offer great products or services, but you’re probably not the only one selling them. At this stage, the customer researches the product or service in more detail, compares it with alternatives (or sometimes with other products from the same business if they use multiple stores), and evaluates the potential benefits and drawbacks.
For example, the small manufacturing company will compare two suppliers before making the final decision: they’ll take everything into account, including price, quality, and level of service. To win the customer from a competitor at this stage, consider the following methods:
- Create product comparisons.
Try to create side-by-side product comparisons that clearly show the differences between your solutions and those offered by competitors. The proven facts and stats help build trust and attract customers.
- Offer product demos.
Product demos provide experience and familiarity with the product, helping customers understand how it works and how well it can solve their problems.
- Provide case studies.
Case studies can help potential customers see the real-world benefits of the solution, service, or product and build confidence in the business. An excellent tip is to use case studies relevant to the current customer; for example, you probably will not impress a manufacturing company with a case study related to the beauty industry.
- Offer free trials.
Free trials allow potential customers to try out the product before committing to a purchase. This reduces the customers’ feeling of risk and their fear of making a wrong decision, so you increase the likelihood of a sale.
3. Decision-making stage
This is where the customer evaluates their budget, their options, and their needs to make a final decision about a purchase. In this stage, the small manufacturing company would negotiate the terms and conditions, decide on a purchase, and finalize the agreement. This step can be improved as well. As this is one of the main customer journey B2B touchpoints, you can impact the decision and the future relationship with that customer:
- Streamline the purchase process.
Almost 90% of buyers claim that they are willing to spend more if they can easily find the answers. Make it easy for potential customers to purchase their desired product or service: provide clear pricing information, offer multiple payment options, and build a simple checkout process.
- Address concerns and objections.
Businesses should anticipate and address any final concerns or objections potential customers may have before making a purchase. This can be done through customer testimonials, reviews, and case studies that demonstrate the effectiveness of the solution.
- Offer incentives.
Incentives, such as discounts or extended trials, can help encourage potential customers to make a final decision. These incentives should be time-limited to create a sense of urgency.
4. Post-purchase evaluation stage
The customer assesses the value of the product or service and the experience of working with the business. This influences whether they make repeat purchases or recommend the business to others. Here are the ways to make the process better:
- Provide exceptional customer service.
Excellent customer service is not only critical in the post-purchase evaluation stage. Offering continued support, such as training or additional resources, can help customers get the most out of their purchases and increase their satisfaction.
- Follow up after purchase.
Following up after purchase can help build a long-term relationship with the customer. Provide your customers with additional resources, ask for feedback, or try offering ongoing support.
- Encourage reviews and referrals.
Encouraging customers to leave reviews or refer others to the business can help build credibility and increase repeat business. This can be done through incentives, such as discounts or exclusive offers.
Mapping the Customer Journey (B2B)
By mapping out the customer journey, businesses can identify pain points and opportunities for improvement to optimize the customer experience. Mapping the B2B customer journey requires gathering customer data and insights across different customer journey B2B touchpoints and stages of the customer journey. Here are the steps for creating a B2B customer journey map:
Define the stages of the customer journey in B2B
Start by defining the different stages that customers go through when interacting with your business. This may include awareness, consideration, decision-making, and post-purchase evaluation.
Gather customer data
Collect customer data through various sources such as customer surveys, interviews, website analytics, and social media monitoring. This data will help you understand customers’ pain points, motivations, and behaviors at each stage of the journey.
Create customer personas
To better understand your customers’ needs and preferences, try to learn as much as possible and create their personas (portraits). This will help you to structure your data and use it more efficiently. Customer data and insights can help create a visual representation of the customer journey with all the touchpoints, pain points, and opportunities for engagement.
Analyze and optimize the customer journey (B2B) and experience
Identify areas for improvement and optimize customer experience (CX) to offer more benefits. The following steps can help significantly when creating your perfect customer journey map:
- Map out touchpoints.
Identify B2B customer journey touchpoints or the points of interaction between the customer and the business. This provides opportunities to enhance CX and increase interactions to better understand your clients.
- Identify pain points.
Customer journey maps can also identify pain points or areas of difficulties or frustrations. The overall customer experience can be significantly improved if you address these moments thoroughly.
- Gather feedback.
B2B customer journey mapping is perfect for understanding when to gather feedback to gain insights on each journey stage. Such data are useful for future improvements to the customer experience and business optimization.
Optimizing Customer Touchpoints
Several key touchpoints along the B2B SaaS customer journey present opportunities to engage with the customer and improve the overall customer experience. Here are some examples of such touchpoints and practical advice on how to optimize them:
This is where you reach your customer with marketing tools. This touchpoint mostly belongs to the awareness stage, but it can be used at any stage of your communication with customers. The tip here is to focus on tracking the latest ecommerce trends and creating targeted and personalized content that speaks to the customer’s pain points and needs. Use data and analytics to understand what channels and messaging resonate with your target audience and tailor your marketing strategy accordingly.
The sales touchpoint is where the customer examines your products and decides on a purchase. To optimize this touchpoint:
- Focus on building trust and rapport with the customer.
- Provide as much information as possible to help them make an informed decision.
- Be responsive to their questions and concerns, personalize the sales experience, and address each customer’s unique needs.
Onboarding is when the customer begins to use your product or service. In this stage, you’ll want to provide a seamless and intuitive onboarding experience, clear instructions, and useful resources to help the customer get started. Be available to answer any questions or provide support, and proactively address the most common issues as revealed by your analytics.
This touchpoint with the customer appears when they seek assistance or guidance on how to use your product or service. As omnichannel ecommerce evolves, you can use a variety of channels to provide high-quality support: email campaigns, phone calls, and more. Ensure that your support team is knowledgeable and responsive.
In this touchpoint, the customer evaluates their experience with your product or service over time. To build long-term relationships and provide ongoing value, the business should always keep in touch with its customers and satisfy their needs.
Measuring and Improving B2B Customer Satisfaction
Analytics are always great! And measures of customer satisfaction are no exception. Here’s why measuring B2B customer satisfaction is essential for improving your customers’ perception of your product and the likelihood that they will continue buying it:
- By gathering customer feedback, you can identify pain points and areas where your product or service may be falling short. This information can help you make strategic improvements to your customers’ experience.
- Satisfied customers are more likely to become loyal customers. By measuring customer satisfaction, you will understand what drives customer loyalty and tailor your approach to meet those needs.
- Happy customers are willing to spend more money over time. Measuring customer satisfaction and making improvements can help you increase revenue and profitability.
Here are some practical tips for measuring B2B customer satisfaction:
- Use customer surveys to gather feedback on different aspects of the customer experience. Be sure to ask as many questions as you can for detailed feedback and greater insights.
- Assess the net promoter score: this standardized metric measures customer loyalty and satisfaction. Simply ask your clients to rate their willingness to recommend your product on a scale of 0 to 10.
- Monitor online reviews and feedback to gather insights on customer satisfaction. Engage your customers in activities where they will provide more detailed feedback.
How to use customer feedback to improve sales
Sincere and detailed customer feedback is one of the most powerful sources of information that enables you to make meaningful improvements to their CX. To drive customer loyalty, collect the feedback data and follow these tips:
- Improve product offerings based on customers’ needs. New features and capabilities can lead to a greater customer experience, resulting in more clients and increased sales. Modern solutions like B2B multicloud platforms, support tools, and integrations allow for greater capabilities that can be easily added to your existing solution.
- Personalize your offerings to build stronger relationships with customers and increase the likelihood of making a sale.
- Address customer complaints: turn dissatisfied customers into loyal ones and increase the likelihood of repeat sales and additional sales.
- Offer rewards and incentives to customers who provide the most useful feedback and demonstrate loyalty to your brand. This way, you will not only strengthen your customers’ loyalty but also get more feedback the next time the customer wants to share.
Whether you offer direct sales, bulk sales, or B2B dropshipping, all customers go through the four stages of the customer journey outlined above; the important thing is to find an efficient way of tracking them. Before customer journey mapping (B2B), gather data and understand your customers’ ideas, needs, and pains. To analyze and optimize the customer’s journey and experience correctly, start by defining the touchpoints and building a complex understanding of where your customers come from.
Today, the market offers many various tools and ecommerce platforms like Virto that support various ways of communication and easy CJM tracking. If you need help selecting the perfect tools to support your CJM, reach out to our experts or request a free demo to see Virto Commerce’s marketing capabilities in action.
Additional Questions About B2B Digital Customer Journey
What is the difference between B2B and B2C customer journeys?
There are a few main differences between the two:
- The B2B sales cycle and decision-making process are more complex. The B2C journey is more straightforward.
- B2B requires a higher level of personalization and engagement and more marketing channels to reach them.
- B2B customer relationships are usually longer, requiring specific CJMs for long-term business clients and more engagement.
What is B2B customer engagement?
B2B customer engagement refers to ongoing communication designed to build trust, establish loyalty, and create value for both parties. To engage efficiently, you must address your customers’ specific needs and challenges and focus on delivering high-quality service and support.
What is customer segmentation and how does it relate to the customer journey (B2B)?
To use the customer segmentation strategy, it's necessary to create a B2B customer journey map. McKinsey supposes that relationships are often deeper in B2B, so before creating a CJM, it is important to analyze the target audience and split all potential clients into groups with different needs and goals. This will make the whole journey easier and more open for personalization.
What is customer onboarding, and why is it important in the customer journey for B2B?
Customer onboarding means introducing new customers to a business and its products or services. B2B purchases often involve complex products or services that may require specialized training or support. This is why onboarding your B2B customers is especially important.