GuidesCustomer researchUnlocking the B2B customer journey: step-by-step guide

Unlocking the B2B customer journey: step-by-step guide

Last updated

22 February 2024

Author

Dovetail Editorial Team

Reviewed by

Hugh Good

Regardless of your industry or the unique goals of your business, every customer interaction is important. From the time a customer discovers your product or service to when they make a purchase and beyond, you and every member of your team should pay attention to the impression you’re making. A positive customer experience can make the difference between a one-time sale and a customer for life.

The B2B customer journey helps businesses understand how customers perceive their products and services. It can assist sales representatives and customer service agents in uncovering opportunities to serve clients better and highlight ways to improve your products and services. 

Whether you're new to the world of B2B or a seasoned marketer looking for new ways to serve your customer base, this guide will help you.

What is a B2B customer journey?

A B2B customer journey contains all the touchpoints a customer has with a B2B business. This journey starts with the first interaction a customer has with your business and extends to the post-purchase timeframe.

The journey of a B2B customer generally takes longer than a B2C interaction (contact between a sales agent or customer service representative and the customer).

The B2B customer journey stages

There are typically five stages of the B2B customer journey. The exact route can vary from organization to organization, but these five steps represent the basic outline of a customer journey:

1. Awareness stage

The awareness stage starts well before a customer discovers your business. It begins when a person becomes aware of a problem they have or a pain point that needs resolving and they begin to look for solutions.

Through your marketing and sales campaigns, you'll connect your product or solution with that customer's needs.

2. Consideration stage

The consideration stage is when a potential customer discovers your product or service and starts to think about how you can resolve their problem. This stage can take from a few hours to a few weeks or more, depending on how many stakeholders are involved in the final decision. 

During the consideration stage, a customer could be checking your website for reviews, reading case studies, or watching videos on your site to learn more about the product or service.

3. Customer conversion

When a customer decides to commit to your brand, they have entered the conversion stage of the B2B customer journey. The conversion stage doesn't necessarily have to be a purchase. It could be:

  • Signing up for a newsletter

  • Creating an account

  • Registering to receive a product demo

This stage can also include product delivery if a purchase is made, and onboarding work for your sales and customer service teams.

4. Service

Conversion is only the midway point of the B2B customer journey. Once a customer has been converted, you'll need to continue to serve them via interactions with customer support. If a customer has questions or concerns, they must be handled promptly to keep satisfaction high.

5. Retention and advocacy

Ideally, you'll have a customer for life. Retaining customers and encouraging them to become brand advocates should be the goal of every business. After all, satisfied customers are more likely to not only purchase again but to encourage their friends and family to check out your business if they are in the market for a product like yours.

When creating your customer journey map, try to align the customer journey with your sales funnel. You'll create a symbiotic process that allows you to better control touchpoints and make it easier for your sales and service teams to track the customer's journey.

The difference between B2C and B2B journeys

While B2B and B2C journeys share many similarities, including stages such as lead acquisition, there are also distinct differences.

B2B customer journeys tend to emphasize personalized engagement, while B2C journeys can feature a one-to-many mindset that prioritizes sales and marketing steps. Additionally, B2C marketing is often aimed at the general consumer. B2B is more industry-specific and focuses on target customers.

There can be multiple stakeholders involved in a B2B journey, while B2C journeys are usually individuals or families. Finally, B2B journeys involve greater discussion about return on investment (ROI), while B2C outcomes are often based on benefits to the individual or end user.

How to create a B2B customer journey map in seven steps

Creating a B2B customer journey map can help your organization understand where to devote resources by identifying every point where a potential customer might come into contact with your business. When you can appropriately prepare your sales, marketing, and customer service teams, you'll be in a better position to retain more customers and grow market share. 

Creating a customer journey map can take time and might involve contributions from multiple stakeholders. Here are the seven basic steps for journey mapping:

1. Analyze typical buying groups

While B2B journeys target specific customer groups rather than general consumers, multiple groups can often be involved.

You'll want to ensure you understand everyone involved in the journey and their requirements as you complete the journey mapping process.

Different groups might also have varying levels of influence on the buying process.

2. Understand your customers' goals

The first stage in a B2B customer journey is the awareness stage, when a customer becomes aware of a problem they need to solve or a goal they wish to complete. For the most successful customer interactions, familiarize yourself with your customers' motivations and concerns.

Take time to thoroughly understand their goals by reading your target customer personas and try to put yourself in their shoes. If you fully understand their needs, you'll be in a better position to address them.

3. Make use of data and analytics

Analytics are some of the most powerful tools in your arsenal. Data and analytics will give you factual insights into what's working and what isn't.

It's easy to make subjective decisions, especially when multiple stakeholders are involved. Use data from multiple sources, including your CRM, to figure out which touchpoints need more attention and which are functioning according to plan.

4. Build out the B2B customer journey stages

Every business has different goals and different definitions of success. You will have unique ideas of the customer journey, depending on your industry and the products and services you sell. Customize your customer journey accordingly.

It's a good idea to start with a standard outline of a customer journey, such as the stages highlighted above, and flesh it out as you go. Think from your target customer's point of view and sketch out components to account for the final journey mapping.

5. Outline the different touchpoints

It's important to identify all the areas where your customers interact with your business. These touchpoints can include direct contact such as:

  • Demos

  • Sales meetings

  • Phone calls

  • Onboarding sessions

They can also include indirect contact, such as:

  • Organic searches

  • Social media posts

  • Websites

Some of these touchpoints are more personalized and vital than others, but they should all be taken into account and mapped in your customer journey.

6. Define your goals

With any project, it's vital to have a goal in mind. Whether your end result is increased revenue, greater customer retention, or both, having a defined goal in place from the outset of your customer journey mapping can help you and your team stay focused and motivated.

Along the way, gather customer feedback to accurately capture the voice of the customer and refer to your analytics, to see how well you're doing at serving your customers and achieving your goals.

7. Monitor and improve as you go

Things rarely go perfectly from the outset. Even the best-laid plans (and the most carefully created customer journey maps) can have blind spots and weak areas. Rather than dwell on mistakes or slow starts, commit to improving your processes as you go.

The best way to do this is to closely monitor analytics as they come in to see at what points customers fall out of the funnel. For example, if you see a pattern of potential customers falling off after the initial conversion, look into those touchpoints and see how you can improve them.

How to improve your customer journey for B2B

Shopping online, whether looking for a new product or a new service, can be time-consuming and stressful. For many consumers, especially those who don't consider themselves tech-savvy, the idea of spending time online making a purchase isn't a pleasant prospect.

As a marketer or someone who is in the business of pleasing customers, anything you can do to streamline this process is ideal. When you make your customer's life easier, there's a good chance they'll turn to you again and again.

Here are a few ways to improve your B2B customer journey:

Refer to buyer personas

Buyer personas are descriptions of your company's ideal customer. The buyer personas you define should guide your sales and marketing activities and help you better understand what your customers are looking for. This can help you create a stronger marketing funnel and enhance the touchpoints in your customer journey.

If you haven’t yet created any buyer personas, take time to make them. Include specifics such as:

  • Age

  • Interests

  • Geographical location

  • Profession

Create quality content

The content you create and distribute has the power to attract, convert, and retain customers. It should be:

  • High quality and thoughtful

  • Crafted to address customers' needs

  • Aimed at improving the overall customer journey

Structure your content around issues that directly affect your customers. Never create and share content just for the sake of it.

Focus on the onboarding process

Arguably, the most important stage in the customer journey is the onboarding process. A smooth onboarding can make or break your future relationship with the customer.

This lays the groundwork for success and shows your customers you care about their experience.

Wherever possible, tailor the experience to their needs and hone in on potential weak points to streamline and eliminate problems before the customer comes across them.

Stay visible

Even as you work to gain new customers, make sure you stay front of mind for your current customers.

Stay in touch through email newsletters, boosted social posts, and other regular check-ins, so you can see how things are going and let them know you care about their experience. If the product they purchased is subscription-based, send a renewal notice promptly.

By simplifying and streamlining the customer journey in as many ways as possible, you'll be creating a customer for life. This can make the difference between a one-time purchase and multiple purchases and referrals.

The time you invest now in creating an efficient, effective customer journey can pay off hugely in the future.

B2B customer journey map templates

While customer journey maps should be customized to the needs of your business, working with a template can be helpful. Here are several examples of journey maps and questions that can help you step into the shoes of your customers and develop a customer-first mindset.

Customer daily routine template

This template can help you consider how your target customer spends an average day. By highlighting what the customer thinks and feels throughout the day, you can figure out how your products or services fit in.

  • What is the customer thinking and feeling in the morning? By the afternoon? Late at night?

  • What are the customer's actions and priorities in the morning? By the afternoon? Late at night?

  • What are the customer's biggest pain points in a day?

  • How can the customer interact with our product in a way that resolves their pain points?

Service template

This template is focused on the factors that can create impressions about the quality and prices of the service, rather than on specific phases in a customer's journey. These questions can serve as a standalone template or be incorporated into a more hyper-focused template.

  • What is the customer feeling?

  • Why is the customer feeling like that?

  • How can we make the customer's experience better?

  • What actions can we take in the background?

  • What actions can we take when interacting with the customer?

Adjust the questions in the template to suit your industry. Every template should reflect the unique nature of your organization as well as your buyer personas.

Classic buyer's journey template

A classic buyer's journey, consisting of a series of defined stages, is an excellent starting point for any customer mapping journey. Here are some questions to consider:

  • What is the customer thinking and feeling during the awareness stage? The consideration stage? The conversion stage?

  • What is the customer's action during the awareness stage? The consideration stage? The conversion stage?

  • How is the customer researching products or services?

  • How can we move the buyer along in their journey during the awareness stage? The consideration stage?

Customer journey mapping is the most effective way to visualize how to serve your customers. Whether you're developing a new product or refining your customer service processes, creating a B2B customer journey map is an exciting opportunity to grow your business and build a more satisfied client base.

FAQs

What are the 4 types of customers in B2B markets?

While B2B markets vary widely, many experts point to four types of business customers in B2B markets: producers, governments, resellers, and institutions. Producers are companies that purchase goods and services that they transform in to other products or services. Governments include local, state, and federal government agencies. Resellers are companies like Wal-Mart that sell goods and services produced by other companies. Institutions are primarily nonprofit organizations like churches, hospitals, and charitable organizations.

What is the B2B lifecycle?

The B2B lifecycle is generally thought to comprise four stages: discovery, evaluation, purchase, and loyalty. This is a more compressed form of a customer journey, which includes stages before and after a customer discovers a product or service. The B2B lifecycle only includes the stages that occur from the time a customer discovers a product to the moments after purchase when the customer chooses to either seek out other options to fulfill their needs or remain a loyal customer.

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