Understanding the B2B Buyer Journey: Definition, Stages, and Mapping It Out

Explore the B2B buyer journey's key stages - awareness > consideration > decision and improve your sales funnel strategy.

Rory Sadler
September 2, 2023
February 24, 2024
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Explore the B2B buyer journey's key stages - awareness > consideration > decision and improve your sales funnel strategy.

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Sellers aren't the only crucial step towards that all-important sale. Your buyer's journey begins long before they interact with your sales team. Like consumers, business decision-makers discover problems, evaluate solutions, and compare different brands.

Your selling team only comes into contact with the B2B buyer at the tail end of this process.

Ignore the initial lead funnel, and you neglect the key stages when you can influence customer decisions. In fact, only 17% of a B2B buyer's time is spent meeting with a potential supplier – even less if they're assessing multiple suppliers.

Compare that to researching independently online (27%), and it's easy to see why understanding the buyer's journey is so important.

In this guide:

  • What is a B2B Buyer Journey?
  • B2C vs. B2B Buyer Journey: What's the Difference?
  • Three Stages of the B2B Buyer Journey
  • How to Map Out the Buyer Journey

What is a B2B Buyer Journey?

The B2B buyer journey refers to the process a buyer goes through when purchasing a product or service. Beginning when they first become aware of the product or a problem, it continues until they finally purchase a product or service.

The buyer's knowledge, understanding, and expectations evolve through the journey. Targeting your content and marketing strategies towards each stage can help funnel buyers towards a desired action – usually a sale.

Often the term buyer's journey is conflated with the sales funnel. The B2B sales funnel approaches the buyer's journey from the seller's perspective. Starting with awareness, it charts the marketing process to the final decision and helps inform what you can do at each stage to make the sale.

We should also note that while the sales funnel is linear, the buyer's journey isn't. As buyers learn more about a problem, they may reevaluate their solution, looping back through each stage before making their final decision.

B2C vs. B2B Buyer Journey: What's the Difference?

In the broad strokes, they're the same. The key difference is how long the buyer's journey takes in B2B. Consumers can and will do a mad dash through all stages of the buyer's journey in a single day or week.

In fact, the time between learning about a problem, say a sleep issue, to purchasing a special kind of pillow could take as little as a few hours.

For B2B buyers, however, researching different solutions, evaluating brands, and coming to a final decision can take weeks or more. After performing their initial research, B2B buyers often expect lots of back and forth with a potential seller or vendor.

They'll want to know they're getting value for money and that you can deliver what's promised. After all, B2B buying can involve multiple individuals and a formal procurement process.

B2B buyers, being professionals themselves, also come into the buyer's journey with substantially more knowledge than the average consumer. They'll use more nuanced, long-tail keywords during their research and are more likely to engage with white papers and long-form guides.

Three Stages of the B2B Buyer Journey

The buyer's journey is a continuous and non-linear process. However, for simplicity, we can turn this into three broad stages: (1) awareness, (2) consideration, and (3) decision. Let's go through each:

1. Awareness Stage

In the first stage, the B2B buyer journey begins when the buyer identifies a problem or opportunity that they were previously unaware of. Maybe the buyer has realised that their customer retention is poor, or they've suffered a supply chain disruption and need to diversify their supplier base.

They could have just learned about a new SaaS solution for customer management or web design.

Whatever the problem or opportunity, they're still doing preliminary research to fully comprehend the situation.

SEO content marketing is pivotal to this stage. Often, this research begins with a Google search. By ranking for these terms and delivering informative content, B2B companies can drive organic traffic to their site and build brand awareness.

Educational blog posts, white papers, eBooks, videos, and more can rapidly bring buyers up to speed with their newly found problem or opportunity.

2. Consideration Stage

After the buyer understands the basics of the problem, it's time for stage two: looking for possible solutions. No longer is the buyer interested in broad blog posts and videos; they're evaluating different products and services to find what kind of solution they could use.

Common marketing methods for the consideration stage are white papers, case studies, product comparison guides, and expert interviews.

You should focus on conveying your product or service's comparative benefits, emphasising how it can solve problems.

3. Decision Stage

Last comes the decision. Ready to make a purchase? Your B2B buyer has whittled down the possible solutions to a handful of verified companies. Usually, this is when they may contact the various sales teams – either through in-person meetings, email contacts, joining a mailing list, or booking a demo.

Your job is to be the standout candidate on the shortlist. How? That's where your testimonials, product demonstration, and consultations come in to convince them that your company offers the best solution to their problem.

Remember: just because a buyer has reached the decision stage doesn't mean a new bit of information or a change in circumstances can't drive them back to the awareness stage. Maybe they've realised their customer retention problem isn't due to their customer service but a lack of brand engagement.

They now believe they need an email marketing strategy or customer loyalty program, not a new customer relationship management platform.

How to Map Out the B2B Buyer Journey

Too often, B2B marketers create content or devise marketing strategies without considering the buyer journey. You should be able to explain how each part of your plan drives customers toward the sale.

That means mapping out your customer's journey from start to finish. Define your customer's needs, motivations, and behaviours at each stage, and use these insights to deliver the right content, support, and interactions at the best time.

Consider this step-by-step guide:

Step 1. Define your objective

More brand interaction. Promote a new product. Generate more leads. What do you want to achieve by mapping out the buyer journey? Unless you've got a clear goal in mind, you're likely to lose track.

Step 2. Research your target customers

Who is your buyer? Obviously, it's fellow businesses interested in your product or services. But be more specific. You should create a buyer persona based on marketing research and data about your existing customers. Key details could include their industry, job role, business size, challenges, goals, and information consumption habits.

Step 3. Describe your buyer's thoughts at each stage

Apply everything you know about your buyers to each stage of the journey. What questions are they asking? What's their primary concern at each stage? What resources might they require?

For example, a company suddenly experiencing low productivity levels due to remote work transitions may, in the first stage, learn more about what is happening and how to address it. They might be interested in articles about workplace happiness or the Great Resignation.

In the second stage, however, they'll explore project management tools, virtual team-building activities, and professional development training to help improve remote work productivity.

Finally, in stage three, they might schedule demos with several project management software providers or consult a specific training agency as they evaluate their options.

Step 4. Identify your buyer's goals and challenges

Based on your rough draft of your buyer's journey, add their goals and challenges. Only by identifying these pain points and objectives can you personalise your marketing strategy to appeal to them.

For instance, a buyer's goal could be to improve operational efficiency, but they only have a limited budget. Advertising your services cost savings, or a discount for new customers could be an attractive lure.

Step 5. Consider opportunities to engage

How you engage with buyers will evolve across the buyer's journey: from educational content and webinars to product demos and consultations.

Integrate these opportunities into your sales funnel strategy:

  • Educational Content: Sharing knowledge through webinars, eBooks, or blogs.
  • Case Studies: Demonstrating success stories of previous clients.
  • Product Demos: Displaying product functionality and benefits.
  • Free Trials: Allowing prospects to test your product or service.
  • Consultations: Discuss a prospect's specific needs in a one-on-one setting.
  • Networking Events: Attending industry conferences and trade shows.
  • Social Media Engagement: Participating in industry discussions on social media.
  • Email Marketing: Sending newsletters, updates, and promotional offers.
  • Webinars: Hosting informative sessions on industry topics.
  • Interactive Tools: Using quizzes, calculators, or assessments to engage users.

Step 6. Develop a content strategy

Now, you're armed with everything you need to create a content strategy. Write out what you're going to do to target each stage. That could involve creating blog posts, eBooks, webinars, product comparisons, or even launching an email marketing campaign.

Step 7. Monitor metrics and refine

Few campaigns are a smash hit immediately. You should monitor your metrics to refine your strategy over time. Keep track of the following:

  • Website visitors
  • Bounce rate
  • Button clicks
  • Return On Investment (ROI)
  • Lead generation
  • Conversion rates
  • Sales cycle length
  • Cost per lead

Unlock the full potential of your B2B buyer's journey with trumpet's auto-personalised, interactive & trackable spaces. Take your outreach and onboarding to the next level in just minutes. Ready to create a better buyer journey? Book a demo today and elevate your business.

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