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Karthik Nagendra, a Coach and Marketing Consultant
The status quo has changed – marketing is all digital.
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Customer 2.0: Changing Buying Behaviors

The status quo has changed – marketing is all digital.
  • In the past, traditional sales tactics such as cold calling, email marketing, TV advertising, and stellar elevator pitches were an effective means of marketing too
  • Today, the modus operandi of B2B marketing has intensified and thought leadership as a critical component in the buyer framework has become very vital to marketing success.
  • Karthik Nagendra, a coach and marketing consultant and author of The Thought Leader Way, writes how the consumer behaviour and business buyer behaviour has changed after COVID.
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The current pandemic has disrupted consumer buying behaviors in unprecedented ways. This has impacted how business buyers alter their spending, too!

According to a survey from digital commerce solution provider Avionos, more than 80% of US B2B buyers said they were concerned about a recession in 2020. Roughly a third said they would need better quality of information from service providers during the evaluation stage and 23% of respondents noted they would need to have more confidence in the purchases they are making- clearly indicating that trust and thought leadership will be key levers for any business buying decision in the new normal.

In the past, traditional sales tactics such as cold calling, email marketing, TV advertising, and stellar elevator pitches were an effective means of marketing too, and in some cases even considered best practice. The sales person’s primary role was to educate the client on their products and services being offered. The marketing landscape was brimming with opportunities and it sustained unrivalled success as a result of massive press coverage for events such as product launches, trade shows etc. Marketers didn’t have it easy, but things seemed straightforward. If you wanted to connect with a prospect, the tried-and-tested method was to push your message in their face via print media and display advertising. A data centric, consultative approach demonstrating thought leadership was missing in a lot of B2B marketing campaigns.

Today, the modus operandi of B2B marketing has intensified and of course, thought leadership as a critical component in the buyer framework has become very vital to marketing success.

Traditionally, buyers were ushered through their customer journey by salespersons who were tasked with only closing deals. B2B marketing teams were responsible for generating high volume leads and the sales teams were tasked with converting these leads into potential customers. Buying decisions were primarily relationship driven or discount driven. The marketing playbook has since changed. Consuming information and knowledge about products and services has evolved beyond seeking the expertise of just the sales person.

Moving ahead in 2020, the status quo has changed – marketing is all digital. Sales person is no longer the only source of information. B2B buying has evolved significantly in the last decade. Today, B2B buyers belong to the millennial cohort and are inherently tech-savvy. The arrival of smartphones has led people to instant, accessible internet everywhere. The power now rests in the palm of the buyer. This shift in power, brought upon by technological innovation, instant access to information, and a systemic overhaul of the existing customer experience model has transformed B2B buyers into independent, informed, experience-driven customers.

The biggest takeaway from the change in B2B marketing dynamics is that the control is now in the hands of the buyer. With access to internet and information like never before, in-depth research, and due diligence is now undertaken on a granular level across various stages of the customer buying life cycle. In many instances deals are closing with least human intervention from the supplier side as the buyer has access to complete information & know-how to proceed with the said deal. Companies that demonstrate clear thought leadership alone stand a chance to win in this highly competitive race.

Buyer purchasing behavior has changed significantly. B2B buyers have become more empowered. Furthermore, their values and perspectives are evolving as the younger generation becomes a larger, and more influential portion of the workforce. We now see five generations of professionals in the workforce for the first time in history. With baby boomers and Gen X’ers on the verge of retirement, they are making way for millennials – these are people with different needs, priorities, and buying methods.

What we see today is a tectonic shift in power that is shaping these buyers into independent advocates through the eruption of technological innovation and an overhaul of the contemporary customer experience. The future belongs to companies who embrace a data driven, consultative approach to their marketing. It will call for companies who invest in thought leadership. It will favor leaders who create and sustain a culture of thought leadership for the long haul. This will result in development of solutions not just “for the customer” but “with the customer”. This requires a sense of tunnel vision to achieve mastery in a discipline by answering the biggest questions on the minds of your buyers, relinquishing control, and letting your clients set the agenda. Be an idea engine and aggregate followers around ideas to influence and inspire. The B2B buyers of today are evolving – they like to hustle; they need someone who cuts to the chase or they are lost forever as potential customers.

So to be or not to be a thought leader? It’s no longer an option in the new normal!

- By Karthik Nagendra, a Coach and Marketing Consultant and author of The Thought Leader Way