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Revisit your marketing strategy: B2B buyer behavior is changing

July 12, 2022 in Industry | 7 min. read
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Today’s business-to-business (B2B) buyers increasingly prefer a self-serve purchasing process. How are you adapting your buyer journey? 

What is the new normal?

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, organizations were quick to adapt existing marketing tactics. Tools such as video conferencing and online chat became more than peripheral technologies. Instead of being backup options, they are now two of the principal ways that B2B organizations connect with their buyers

Hand in hand with the widespread adoption of remote connection tools, marketing content was rapidly adapted. Remote events replaced in-person conferences and exhibitions. Marketers boosted online engagement via enhancements to web-based experiences, such as incorporating product information about customization options and additional 2D, 3D and video assets.

Marketing tactics adjusted to unprecedented conditions, and their success enabled many businesses not only to weather the storm, but in some cases to grow. What’s more, in all cases, these tactics served their principal purpose of informing and engaging customers. So it’s no wonder that marketing tactics developed during the pandemic have become the new normal. But where do we go from here?

Innovation in B2B marketing

Technology doesn’t stand still, and neither do customers. That’s why marketers are continually seeking to get ahead of the curve, aiming to meet and exceed changing customer expectations. This is the reason that investing in digital marketing and e-commerce are the most pressing post-pandemic priorities, as identified in a commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Unity. These areas are also the most likely to receive increased budget allocation, according to the same study. Are you wondering what the next steps are for your marketing strategy? Let’s step through a few instances of interactive marketing that are leading the way for the B2B buyer journey. If you’re looking for more tips and advice on getting ahead of the B2B marketing curve, check out our latest e-book, Bringing B2B marketing into the metaverse.

Product configurators: Empowering buyer decisions

Interactive real-time 3D configurators enable B2B buyers to view and select options for any product, including complex machinery

Today’s B2B buyers are increasingly comfortable conducting due diligence and pre-purchase research online. Interactive 3D product configurators can facilitate this process, allowing buyers to explore different product variations and, in doing so, nudging them closer to the purchasing decision. Interactive product configurators allow the buyer to engage directly with your product, exploring it in their own time and enabling them to self-educate – all the better for informing a conversation with the sales rep. As this is often the first experience the buyer has with your product or brand, it is an essential step in building trust. The buyer must feel that the online product experience accurately reflects the real-life purchase possibilities. Configuration errors have been an ongoing challenge for sales teams selling complex products, even before real-time 3D technology existed. 

How do you make sure that the product configuration the buyer wants is viable? Previously, this process consisted of manual-intensive cross-checks and a quoting process that often involved referring to the product team to ensure accuracy.

Imagine if your product managers had complete control of the configuration options available in your online real-time 3D product configurator. By integrating back-office parts and sales management tools with the online configurator experience, configuration errors are eliminated, giving engineering, product management and sales teams – and their buyers – confidence in the online purchasing experience.

One such innovation is the partnership between Unity and Configit. The integration solution manages multiple configuration options, giving the vendor complete control over the real-time 3D product configurator setup and deployment. For more information about the Configit and Unity integration, take a look at this walkthrough of how the solution works and why it makes complex machinery product configurators easy to create and manage.

How do your buyers experience your products right now? Is it time for a change?

Events: From remote to hybrid

An interactive real-time 3D event experience supports sales teams by allowing potential buyers to conduct research and try out product configurations alongside engaging in person. Image courtesy of HOMAG and iXtenda / iVP

As a B2B marketer, you know that the sales rep relationship remains critical to closing deals in the B2B world. But how can you support that relationship-building process in a world where hybrid events are more common?

Let’s take a step back and appreciate just how much B2B event marketing has changed. 

By necessity during the pandemic, events made a rapid transition from in-person to virtual, and that served the purpose of maintaining a connection with buyers. The rapid rise of video conferencing technology allowed marketers to continue delivering events remotely, albeit in a more restricted way than pre-pandemic. 

But events are evolving, resisting the call to return to previous in-person-only formats and instead adopting a more refined hybrid approach. The key benefit of this approach is being able to reach a wide audience, regardless of geography, timezone and other factors. What sets hybrid events apart from remote events is embracing the tools available to enhance the event experience with real-time 3D interactive applications. These can be experienced by both in-person and remote attendees.

Maintaining a focus on the all-important B2B buyer journey, marketers can provide buyers in a hybrid event the opportunity to self-educate on products in a way that moves beyond conventional marketing methods such as leaflets and videos. With real-time 3D technology, it’s possible to provide custom-selected supporting information to the buyer, for example, including a personalized sales presentation in a follow-up email that displays the exact product configuration they showed an interest in, along with a quote. Simultaneously, your sales team is equipped with that same data about the preferences of each buyer, placing them in an ideal position to discuss individual needs in the follow-up sales call.

Wondering what a virtual showroom really looks like? Check out the story behind one of the world’s top manufacturers for woodworking machinery, who worked with their agency partner to create a fully interactive showroom that not only caters to remote visitors, but also supports the buyer self-serve journey by providing additional product information within the experience.

Do your events engage everyone, including in-person and remote attendees? Do they give you the opportunity to gather meaningful insight into what your customers really want?

Applications: Placing experiences in the buyers’ hands

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Real-time 3D technology makes it possible to place product experiences directly into the buyers’ hands via applications they can access from anywhere in the world. Courtesy of Visionaries 777

B2B buyers are operating in the 24/7 always-on digital world. Which means that your marketing strategy needs to allow for them to interact and engage with your products in their own time. This is an essential aspect of the buyer’s self-education process, and can act as the precursor to a better informed conversation with a sales rep, perhaps followed up by a professionally conducted in-person product demo.

Working in tandem with interactive experiences like product configurators and hybrid events, providing your buyer with a tool to view, understand and experience your product from the comfort of their own home is essential for today’s B2B marketers.

With real-time 3D technology it’s easier than you think to create interactive experiences and deliver them on multiple platforms, including augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), desktop and webGL. 

Providing a truly unique and personalized buying experience makes your buyers feel involved, engaged, and emotionally invested in the product they’re considering. Whether that consists of deploying an AR solution that allows buyers to view the product virtually in situ or adding a VR experience that extends beyond a screen-based product configurator, real-time 3D opens up the possibilities to reach your buyers wherever they are.

How do you engage your buyers beyond your website and events? Is it easy for them to get an in-depth understanding of your product before they contact a sales rep?

Four steps to start reviewing your marketing strategy

Step 1: Map your buyer journey

Get a clear understanding of where the critical touchpoints are, how your buyers access information, where they interact with a sales rep, any information gaps and opportunities for improvement. This is a great starting point for building your new digitally augmented journey. 

Step 2: Plan digital alternatives

Consider at which points of the journey you could offer an alternative or enhancement to a sales rep connection, allowing the buyer to engage with the product and answer questions for themselves. But don’t forget, many buyers still prefer regular touchpoints with a sales rep, so it’s essential to maintain that as an option.

Step 3: Get internal buy-in

By involving internal stakeholders in the mapping and planning process, you ensure that your new buyer journey works for all your customers, both internal and external. You should involve representatives from Sales, Customer Services, Engineering, and Design – anyone who has direct or indirect involvement with the buyer journey. 

Step 4: Implement, monitor and update

Implement new buyer experiences gradually, and make the most of activity-tracking solutions to monitor online buyer behaviors. Set clear and realistic expectations about how quickly changes in behavior will take effect and what level of change you want to see. Be prepared to make changes where engagement levels aren’t meeting your expectations.

Additional resources

The possibilities that real-time 3D opens up for transforming your buyers’ experiences are limitless. Get some expert insight into the big technology shifts in industry in our trends report

If you’re looking for more tips and advice on getting ahead of the B2B marketing curve, check out our e-book, Bringing B2B marketing into the metaverse.

Are you ready to level up your digital selling experiences? We’re here to help. Learn more about the Unity Forma marketing solutions suite, or contact us.

July 12, 2022 in Industry | 7 min. read

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