Sales and marketing teams often decide to map their B2B buyer journey so they can figure out how to move prospects through the process faster. You might create a B2B customer journey map (documenting the post-sale experience) for similar reasons: to discover how to decrease support costs, or keep customers from switching to a competitor.
But what if you approach the B2B customer journey with a different goal: to provide more value to your customers at every stage and every touchpoint with your business?
Changing your focus from your own goals to those of the people you serve changes everything. Why? Because you end up changing the mindset of your employees and the culture of your organization. When everyone is thinking about better ways to provide value to customers, every interaction becomes a great customer experience. And when you give more than people expect, you build a level of trust that not only increases your chance of getting the sale, but builds long-term relationships as well.
Here are some ideas to inspire you to provide more value throughout every phase of your customer journey.
4 ways to add value throughout the B2B customer journey
1. Share solutions to customer problems
Early in the customer journey, is what marketers like to call the “attract phase,” people begin by becoming aware of a problem or need. Many buyers start to research their problems online, without necessarily having any intention of buying a product of service. At that point, they are definitely not ready to talk to a salesperson, and probably aren’t interested in receiving emails about your product, either. So what can you do that’s valuable to them at this point in their customer journey? Share information about helpful solutions to issues they face.
For example, one of our clients, an HVAC services company, publishes blogs and videos about topics like mitigating office thermostat wars, combating allergy symptoms at work, and getting rid of locker room odors.
This content does not sell HVAC services. Instead, it provides value to customers, potential prospects, and even people outside their service area, who are online searching for information to help them solve problems. It’s a customer service mindset that pays off when people see your business as a helpful resource, even before they want or need what you sell.
2. Provide helpful tools and resources
The next customer journey phase, typically called “engagement” by marketers, is when people actively consider buying a product or service to address some need. If you’ve already had a few touchpoints with people entering this phase, that pays off because they have already begun to know you and trust you.
So how can you add more value for prospects during their evaluation process? We’re talking about more than just providing excellent products and services, although of course you need that too. You can offer tools and resources that make their buying process easier.
For example, one of our clients is an industry association promoting the building trades. Their website provides a resume template and interviewing advice, which helps prospects apply for jobs and get hired, even if they ultimately decide against a career path in the trades. Also, an office technology client shares content that provides details about different printer models so people have an easier time comparing and choosing.
You have to understand that people can use these resources to ultimately help them choose someone else. But more often, when you provide this kind of value, people see your business as one they can trust to keep being helpful after the sale.
3. Provide the right level of communication
Once someone purchases a product or service from you, they have entered what marketers (optimistically) call the “delight” phase of the customer journey. Everyone wants to delight customers, don’t they? After all, it’s no secret that keeping existing customers costs much less than attracting and engaging new ones.
Assuming you’re offering great products and services, communication is almost always the easiest way to make customers happy (or unhappy, if you get it wrong).
If you’re a service provider, make sure you provide updates to let customers know things like:
- when it’s time to schedule a service
- when they have an appointment coming up
- when you will arrive at their location
One of our customers takes this idea beyond what customers expect to offer additional value. They actually tell the customer which technician is coming, including a photo. They also send details about the service to managers who might not be present at the time, including video documentation about the service performed. These communications go a long way to provide peace of mind and save the customer time.
Remember, though, that more communication is not always what people want. Sometimes they just want things to happen without any interaction with you. Another client of ours remotely monitors their customers’ usage of supplies and automatically ships more when they run low. This is an incredibly helpful service that creates delight with less communication.
The trick is to know what people want. I’ll get back to that point in a minute.
4. Create a community
There are some things you can do that will provide value across the entire customer lifecycle. Consider this idea from a software provider.
Businesses often implement software platforms to solve complex business problems, such as reducing costs, improving processes and infrastructure, and even meeting regulatory requirements. Big changes like these mean customers need a lot of help. Sometimes the best source of help is advice from others who are doing the same thing. So why not provide a way for customers and prospects to talk to one another and help each other through their issues? Especially for a software company, creating an online forum for customers to interact is a smart way to delight everyone from prospects to long-time users.
How to start: understand your customer
You can’t add value if you don’t truly understand your prospects and customers.
Here’s what we know from researching and mapping the B2B buying process for many diverse clients: it’s increasingly digital. More and more players are involved in decisions. And it’s tougher not only to make an impression, but to keep customers coming back. That’s why you need to thoroughly understand everyone involved in buying and using your products and services, and what they want and need throughout each customer journey phase.
How do you find out what people want, need, and expect? With buyer persona research.
Then, get out there and delight people at every touchpoint in the customer journey!