The world of B2B marketing is changing fast. That evolution in large part has been driven by a change in B2B buyers themselves.

Time was, the role of the B2B buyer in the marketing and sales process was simple. Someone would identify a need, then a lower-level resource would go find some vendors. (Maybe they’d even use this new thing called “Google.”)

After they made some phone calls and filled out some forms, they’d do their shopping and make a decision. The winning vendor would get the contract, and the others would go find other prospects.

Simple, right?

Well, it was.

Today’s B2B buyer journey is far more complex. It’s world of content, conditional logic and many, many touchpoints. The linear journey of yesterday has been replaced with a tangled web.

B2B buyers illustration: Deal handshake

Ultimately, though, it’s all about one thing: the B2B buyer him or herself.

Forrester doesn’t call it the “Age of the Customer” for nothing. B2B buyers, like all consumers, have plenty of options. Every product and service has become fungible.

They’re not just going to come to you anymore. You need to earn their trust and their business. You need to adapt to their wants and their needs.

Above all, you must deliver a fantastic, on-demand customer experience, every single time. Missteps and frustrations can cost you business – and the chance of getting business.

Who Is Today’s B2B Buyer?

First off, there is no single “B2B buyer.” They’re demographically and geographically diverse, even within a single industry.

That fact creates less of an issue for marketing and sales than one might think. That’s because B2B sales rarely involve only a single individual. In fact, 75% of B2B buyers told Gartner that their purchases “involved people from a wide variety of roles, teams and locations.”

The lesson? Don’t focus on a single persona when you’re trying to reach B2B buyers. There are going to be a lot of people involved in the decision, and you need to reach and engage them all.

What Do B2B Buyers Do?

Purchasing will not be a binary decision for B2B buyers in 2020. It’s not “buy” or “don’t buy.” Instead, your potential customers must do six discrete tasks (or “jobs”) to buy.

These are:

  • Identifying the problem
  • Finding a solution
  • Building requirements
  • Selecting vendors
  • Validating their choice
  • Creating consensus within the organization

No, being a B2B buyer is not a simple process.

What does that mean for business-to-business marketing and sales teams?

You must arm B2B buyers with content and information to advance every stage of the journey.

The old days of a linear buying funnel – awareness, consideration, conversion – are dead.

If you assume B2B buyers will walk right into your arms and beg you to take their money, your sales prospects are, too.

Instead, B2B marketing in 2020 is going to be about creating unique, self-serve experiences. You’ll need to appeal to all types of buyers at all stages of the process simultaneously.

It’s critical, too, to be flexible. According to Demand Gen Report’s 2019 B2B Buyers Survey, 83% of buyers have accelerated or slowed decisions because of shifting business priorities. You’re on a journey with them, not talking at them.

Reaching B2B Buyers in 2020

That’s not the message you’ll get from most marketing experts. But think about it.

You need to reach:

  • A diverse group of buyers
  • Who work at diverse organizations
  • With a lot on their plates
  • Over a lengthy sales cycle

Does that sound like it calls for a linear, one-size-fits-all approach?

Of course not!

B2B buyers in 2020 and beyond have varied needs. And the ball is in their court. If you don’t provide what they need, someone else will.

And they’ll get the deal.

So, how do you get the job done?

Tips for B2B Engagement in 2020

Let’s take a look at the data to optimize business-to-business prospects.

First, remember that first impressions matter. According to Demand Gen Report, 25% of buyers are seeking competitive bids in the first month. Meanwhile, 32% are bringing team members into the process in the first month. Both are up year over year. That means you better get it right quick, or someone else will swoop in.

Your website matters a ton. Ninety-seven percent of respondents told Demand Gen Report that relevant website content matters. (The same 97% same non-gated content is important. Don’t hide your stuff – make it good, and they’ll convert.)

Make return on investment clear. Seventy-four percent of B2B buyers do a detailed ROI analysis before making a purchase decision. If you can’t make your ROI case, you’ll lose the sale.

Put yourself in their shoes. Salespeoples’ knowledge and empathy is key to closing deals with B2B buyers. According to Demand Gen Report, 95% of buyers say it’s important that sales teams understand their company and needs. In other words, do your homework!

Conclusion: A Whole New World in 2020

If you’re going at B2B sales and marketing the way you were in 2015, it might be a tough year for you. B2B buyers have more options than ever, and they’re taking advantage.

But if you get them the content they need early, stay with them through an unpredictable cycle and demonstrate insights into their needs, 2020 is your oyster.