B2B Customers are not just Consumers 2.0

Frequent readers of this blog know that I’m into all things journey mapping, regularly reviewing articles on the subject. So I was particularly interested in How to: Create a digital customer journey map by Henning Ogberg, the senior VP EMEA of Sugar CRM. As it’s published by B2B Marketing, it’s obviously targeted towards B2B (business-to-business) audiences.

In general, it’s a great article. I especially like four of his five tips:

  • Accept that it won’t be simple. We find this is true of journey mapping in general – not just B2B. In our recent analysis, half of all journey maps weren’t successful. While we didn’t have sufficient numbers to compare B2B vs. B2C (business-to-consumer), business journey mapping is newer, so it seems likely that there would be fewer successful journey maps in this space. Business journeys are significantly more complicated than consumer journeys, since they involve more participants over a longer amount of time.
  • Capitalize on the insight and support of your team. Yes! In the post It Takes a Broad Team to Improve Customer Journeys I talk about the importance of involving a large cross-functional team in your journey mapping initiative. Not only does this provide better input to your map, it also helps to ensure your various teams are prepared to act on the results.
  • Don’t fixate on sales. I don’t often hear this advice, but I definitely agree. Focus first on understanding your customers – then look at your business opportunities.
  • Embrace the opportunity of CRM (Customer Relationship Management). This is a timely piece, since just last week we featured our interview with Dawn Mergenthaler on how to sync up CRM and CX (Customer Experience) in your organization. It’s the only way to institutionalize the insights in your organization.

As I said, I really liked four of his five tips.It’s his first tip that sounds good, but falls short: Learn lessons from the B2C world. On its face this sounds like good advice. He includes a quote that says that “It’s been proved that the basic need for a product, its function price, etc. comprises only 20 per cent of a customer’s decision-making process, with 80 per cent founded on social and emotional needs such as prestige, identity and pleasure.” Unfortunately, there’s no reference. I’d love to learn more about this. If it’s an accurate quote, that’s great data.

My biggest beef, though, is in his first sentence for this tip: “B2B customers are not so different from those in the B2C world.” This is where I have an issue.

While it’s true that all business buyers are consumers when they go home, the different contexts give rise to very different decision-making. The same person who buys a sports car on impulse without telling his wife can spend a year selecting a software package, involving dozens of co-workers, not making a move until everyone agrees. Business buying is simply different than consumer purchases.

The article does briefly mention one component from the B2C world that applies. Emotions are at least as relevant to the B2B journey as to B2C. In fact, I’d say they’re even more relevant. Let’s say you choose the wrong phone – an LG instead of a Samsung, for example. What’s the impact? You’re annoyed for two years.

But choose the wrong software package at work? You could be fired.

What I have encountered mapping B2B experiences, is that emotions are critical to almost any B2B experience. The emotions are different – I have yet to see somebody tattoo their tax accountant’s brand on their bicep – but they’re just as real.

So, the next time you look at B2B vs. B2C journeys, keep in mind that they really are quite different. In both B2B and B2C journeys, emotions are important. Despite the fact that emotions in the B2C journey may be more obvious, with lots of shareable joys or frustrations in the buying process, the emotions in a B2B journey are actually more complex and with higher stakes. Yes, you should learn from B2C journeys as you map your B2B journey. Just be careful that the lessons you take are the right ones.

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