Buyer enablement is a specific type of content marketing aimed at providing information that enables customers to move through the buying journey as efficiently and effectively as possible. It really focuses on having empathy for the customer and providing the answers they need to make a buying decision.
According to Gartner “77% of buyers agree that purchasing has become very complex and difficult.” More specifically, “Gartner research finds that when B2B buyers are considering a purchase, they spend more time learning independently online than anywhere else. Only 17% of buying time involves supplier meetings, and in instances where buyers are comparing multiple suppliers‚ the amount of time spent with any one sales rep may be only 5% to 6% of total buying time spent.”*
So where are they spending the majority of their time? Finding and researching as much information as they can, which without the proper guidance can sometimes lead to analysis paralysis.
The B2B buying journey has many stages and tasks, and it’s not as linear as it may appear at a first glance. Depending on the type of purchase, complex buying decisions usually involve teams consisting of a number of internal and external company stakeholders, each bringing to the table their own views, preferences, and objectives.
Customers spend about two-thirds of their buying journey just learning from different sources. A strong buyer enablement program that ensures customers get key information at the time they need it can help companies earn trust and credibility and build lasting customer relationships.
Two main types of buyer enablement
According to Gartner, buyer enablement falls into two main categories: prescriptive advice and practical tools.
The goal is to ease customers’ buying stress with informative recommendations and best practices on what should be done and what should be avoided. Examples include blogs, white papers, webinars, etc.
Content that enables buyers to follow through on prescriptive advice. This can be in the form of tools for evaluating suppliers, ROI calculators, and checklists to make sure you’re staying on track and accounting for all the tasks involved in the buying process.
Buyer enablement that combines prescriptive advice and practical support in a way that addresses multiple stakeholder concerns is extremely powerful. It can help you create the critical mass necessary to influence commercial teams into being partial to your respective solutions.
Gartner survey results show that customers who have access to buyer enablement are three times more likely to make a high-quality purchase, i.e. a solution beyond what they’d originally planned, at a premium price.*
How does buyer enablement fit into the buying process?
Gartner identifies six specific tasks as part of a B2B buying journey. Each of these tasks comes with its own set of challenges that customers face and provides opportunities for solution-oriented buyer enablement content.
1. Problem identification
The pinpointing the problem that needs to be addressed is the start of a B2B purchase process. To do this, buyers may conduct research online and download content such as white papers and reports. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by information at this stage. While problem identification seems straightforward, buyers may return to it as they improve their understanding of the source or scope of the problem.
2. Solution exploration
At this stage, the buying team identifies and considers potential solutions. The task includes online research and in-person discussions with industry peers, suppliers, reading customer reviews, and consuming product-related marketing content.
3. Requirements building
Buyers evaluate how any potential solution will function within their own company and systems. They may go through a request for proposal (RFP) process to evaluate suppliers, and actively engage with sales reps to view demos and other relevant buyer enablement that helps them to answer specific questions. For example, which internal and external systems will this solution need to integrate with? Or, how will the solution fit within their company’s existing processes and procedures?
As buyers learn more about the available solutions, they will most likely circle back to this stage to refine their buying criteria.
4. Supplier selection
Once the buying team understands their internal requirements, they will be able to create a short list of the suppliers that meet their needs. However, there is always potential for internal changes such as employee turnover, budget cuts, and other issues that may force the team to re-evaluate solutions and go back to a previous stage.
During this stage, buyers evaluate their chosen solution by corroborating suppliers’ claims, soliciting end user feedback and references, and looking at third-party expert analyses. This is considered an “always-on” task, meaning that it’s a priority throughout the buying process.
6. Consensus creation
At the end of the day, buyers must be able to convince the rest of the buying group of the merits of their chosen solution. But consensus building tasks begin much earlier, as buyers work to develop a shared understanding of the problem and requirements, and continue throughout the process as buyers educate other stakeholders about what they have learned, work to deconflict information found through separate research processes, and ultimately agree on a solution.
Learn more about these tasks in our recent blog post.
For buyer enablement to work effectively, it needs to be integrated into all six tasks. According to the CSO Insights report, over 70% of customers speak with salespeople at the end of their buying process, after they’ve clarified their needs and done research. Buyer enablement content is one way to engage with the client earlier.
It’s important to remember that the B2B purchasing process is not linear. Gartner found that 90% of all buyers circle back to at last one step in the journey before making a final decision.* This makes it even more important to integrate buyer enablement into every step of the way.
How do you build a robust buyer enablement program?
Effective buyer enablement content addresses buyers’ needs at every stage of the B2B buying journey and helps buyers to complete the job. This requires a deep understanding of your buyer persona, as well as the social, professional, and political dynamics within the buying team.
To execute a solid buyer enablement program, you need both a content strategy and marketing technology that allows you to access and analyze customer data for targeted marketing communications and take immediate action based on these insights.
To create buyer enablement content, think about the goals of your buyer as they go through the various stages of their journey, what their specific intent is when searching for and consuming content, and which form is the easiest for them to .
Gartner notes four “building blocks” or steps in a B2B buyer enablement content strategy:
- Jobs. Identify the specific activities buyers need to complete throughout a purchase journey and information they’ll need to make decisions.For example, what information and tools will they need to help them identify a problem, explore solutions, and/or get a team buy-in?
- Intent. Figure out specific ways you can help buyers to get the job done. Here you need to understand their intent and address it directly. For example, when comparing solutions, your buyers may want to calculate and compare ROI of different options.
- Form. Find the best way to deliver the content. Depending on the task and stage in the buying process, you may need to provide checklists, recommendations, customer reviews, demos, calculators, etc.
- Design. Make sure your content meets basic design standards and is easy to find and share.
Depending on your business type, customer base, and resources, you may need to include other considerations in your content strategy. Use the above steps as a framework to organize your thinking and content creation process.
But any strategy is as good as its execution. This is where marketing technology comes in.
CRM and marketing automation software can help you to get a complete picture of your customer and their needs, so you can execute customer journeys that reflect and respond to buyer intent, information searches, and behavior throughout the entire buying process.
Marketing automation covers prospect definitions, segmentation, and marketing campaign execution and tracking throughout the entire customer journey. With marketing automation, you can perform key marketing functions—planning, execution, and reporting of marketing campaigns—more efficiently and accurately at scale.
For your buyer enablement content to serve its purpose, you need to align your sales and marketing teams, reach the right customer at the right time with the right message via the right channel, and measure performance. Marketing automation or a unified CRM platform for sales and marketing can help you to design, implement, and improve your buyer enablement program, so you can win more customers.
How do you measure the ROI of buyer enablement?
The most obvious measure of your buyer enablement program’s effectiveness is the number of deals closed since its launch. But before you can trust that number, you have to look at engagement from both your buyers and your sales team.
According to a new ATD research report, 59% of companies say the top barrier to delivering effective sales is reps not being held accountable for applying skills they’ve learned.** For buyer enablement content to be effective, sales teams need to understand how it helps buyers buy, when to use it during the buying journey, and how to communicate its value to the buyer.
Usage and conversion analytics can be especially helpful to measure these actions. Consider the following:
- How quickly does a sales lead convert to an opportunity, then to a customer?
- How long does it take the sales rep to engage with the buyer, and vice versa?
- Are your sales reps able to generate engagement with colder prospects through content offers? What type of content is the most effective, and when?
As you look at analytics on a regular basis, you might start seeing trends and/or find gaps between your expectations and the actual performance. Use your learnings to evaluate buyer enablement content and overall program to double-down on what works and change what doesn’t. Use customer and sales team ongoing feedback to supplement the data.
Simplify the journey, nurture the relationship
Like all good content marketing, buyer enablement should be relevant, useful, easy to comprehend, and credible. When buyers interact with your ecosystem of information, it establishes brand trust and loyalty. Ultimately, buyer enablement is an opportunity to increase engagement and deal wins with your target customers.
*Gartner for Marketers, Marketing-Fueled Buyer Enablement, 2019
**2019 State of Sales Training, Association for Talent Development, 2019