A stunningly simple method to understand B2B buyer needs


B2B content marketing

In her excellent book, Digital Relevance: Developing Marketing Content and Strategies that Drive Results, author Ardath Albee does a masterful job of explaining how typical B2B buyer’s journey works from the customer’s perspective. The biggest challenge, she says, is addressing it in a continuous, consistent and relevant manner.

It’s a big opportunity for B2B marketers. But it can also be a daunting problem if you don’t understand how to approach it.

Fortunately, Albee provides a simple framework for understanding this complex buying process. I have reproduced her table of buyer experiences, buying stages and buyer questions from the book, but I have added a new twist to it: I have added a column that contains content types that are likely to be relevant to the information needs of buyers at each stage of their journey. This will help you understand how you can build up a library of content that is relevant to prospective buyers at each step.

Buyer ExperienceBuying StagesBuyer QuestionsRelevant Content Types
Interest: I'm curious enough to take a lookStatus quo: Problem not yet recognized as painful enough to fixWhy should I care?Trend articles

Articles that suggest the reader may be overlooking important opportunities or ignoring potential problems

101 level resources that help the reader understand basic concepts and terms

Research reports


Brief "explainer" videos

Attention: I like what I see so farPriority: Problem recognized but unsure how to proceedWhat should I know?Articles that answer common questions

Thought leadership content that establishes your company as a valuable source for information and advice.

Webinars and events

Value: this can really help me achieve goals?Research: Actively engaged in learning what they need to know to take actionWhat are best practices?Overviews of best practices, strategies and business models that the prospect ought to be aware of.

E-learning materials focused on best practices

Engagement: I need to find out more about how they deliver what they promiseOptions: Identifying solution sets that can provide the most value for now and futureWho has the expertise?Worksheets

Product configurators

Content that covers lifecycle issues, from acquisition through maintenance and disposition

Buying committee involvement: Everyone needs to get on boardStep backs: Prospect stops to verify beliefs or find answers to new questionsWhat if…?Content targeted to each of the major roles on the buying committee, including the economic decision-maker, the researcher, the influencer and the user
Conversations: I want to make sure I can work with you – trust youValidation: Exploring evidence that supports vendor promisesWhy should I believe you?Case histories and testimonials

Customer videos

PurchaseChoice: deciding to buyYou'll bring the most valueContent designed to help new customers get up to speed quickly and avoid buyer's remorse.

The biggest overlooked step: The buying committee

sales lead funnelAlbee points out that marketers are so deeply scripted in the idea of the marketing lead funnel that they overlook the way in which most B2B organizations actually make purchasing decisions. Here’s a typical scenario:

  • A champion who believes in the potential of adopting a content-based approach builds the case for it.
  • A lower-level person conducts research into prospective vendors and solutions that may meet the company’s needs.
  • The marketing team builds a set of recommendations and an estimated budget for their execution
  • A buying committee composed of senior-level executives reviews these recommendations and determines if the organization should proceed with a purchase.

To be successful with B2B content marketing, you really need to have a good idea of who is represented on this committee, and what their roles are. For example, the financial decision-maker will be very concerned about return on investment. Managers will be focused on productivity, uptime, cost of operations and maintenance. Users want ease of operation.

In order to keep the momentum going through this stage, your body of content must include resources to address the needs of each of these stakeholders. Otherwise, prospects may decide that your product or service isn’t as good a fit for their needs as a competing supplier that provides a more cohesive and informative buying experience.