The Buyer’s Journey is a challenge every enterprise software marketing and sales team faces. Over one hundred years ago, in 1910, psychologist and polymath John Dewey developed a five-stage process to model the average customer’s journey from pre- to post-purchase. In 2019 teams recognize that the buyer’s journey has evolved due to the changing demographics of enterprise buyers. It is generally accepted that contemporary buyers complete most of their buying journey before contacting a sales organization. Technologies like marketing automation can help, but marketing and sales teams need to develop a better understanding of their buyers. The best way to do that is through qualitative interviews.
Enterprise Buyer Demographics Have Changed
Here is a snapshot of the current population distribution by generation:
Early Millennials and Gen X now account for the majority of enterprise buyers with purchasing authority.
There are significant differences in how each generation thinks, communicates, and responds to marketing and sales initiatives:
Members of each generation have fundamentally different preferences for communication and how they make financial decisions. Marketing and sales teams have to adjust their tactics snd messages to meet the unique needs of each generation’s requirements.
Marketing Automation Helps, but It Is Not a Panacea
Marketing automation solutions like Hubspot, Marketo, and Infusionsoft have become popular solutions to deal with the new demographics and psychographics of Millennial and Gen X enterprise buyers. Spending on marketing automation has exploded:
Unfortunately, the more marketing automation is used, the harder it becomes to connect with a prospect:
Technology journalist Mitch Ratcliffe once noted “A computer lets you make more mistakes faster than any other invention with the possible exceptions of handguns and Tequila.” Marketing automation can help you reach thousands of prospects more efficiently, but to be effective the message must fit the target audience.
Why Is It so Hard to Connect with Prospects?
While some marketing automation vendors believe the buyer’s journey is simple:
The reality is that for enterprise buyers it is a lot more complex:
Qualitative, Not Quantitative Research Is Key to Unlocking the Buyer’s Journey
The key to unlocking the buying insights of Millennial and Gen X buyers is to actually talk to them. Product managers have a tendency to favor quantitative market research tools like Google Analytics, Internet surveys, and Net Promoter Scores because these approaches are simple and automated. Qualitative research is a lot harder. The challenge of recruiting people to talk to is often so insurmountable that product managers simply give up.
Qualitative research techniques, like in-depth telephone interviews, are harder to execute but yield significantly more valuable information. The most important question to answer about the buyer’s journey is why a prospect decided to take the action that they did. What started them on their journey? What information did they find credible? Did the marketing and sales team’s actions help them or irritate them? What information did the buyer really value as they moved through their journey? The best way to discover the answers to these questions is through actual discussions with prospective buyers. Fixed surveys only allow a limited path through a series of questions. Interactive phone interviews, even if they only last 20 minutes provide a much richer and deeper understanding.
Bill Gates famously said:
Software innovation, like almost every other kind of innovation, requires the ability to collaborate and share ideas with other people, and to sit down and talk with customers and get their feedback and understand their needs.
Marketing automation is a great technology to support buyer journeys. Understanding prospective customers’ needs and wants is critical. Qualitative research is a critical tool to achieving this. For more information check out Product Management Market Research.