The best solution is to talk to your prospects and customers yourself.
“67% of the buyer’s journey is completed digitally before ever contacting sales” is one of the worst Internet marketing myths out there. The stat is attributed to Sirius Decisions, a research, sales and marketing consultancy that originally published it in 2013. An example of how pervasive the use of this stat has become comes from Salesforce’s Pardot website in 2019:
We’ve all heard this popularly-quoted statistic: that 70% of the buyer’s journey is complete before a buyer even reaches out to sales (SiriusDecisions). Marketers and sales reps alike are having to adjust their strategies to cope with these changing consumer practices. But what can they do about the 70% of the buyer’s journey that they’re missing out on?Pardot
Sirius Decisions later debunked the myth at one of their conferences in 2015. The data for the 2013 pronouncement came from a joint study by CEB Marketing Leadership Council and Google in 2011 and updated in 2013. Here’s a link to the 2013 report.
It is amazing that a simple statistic can become technology marketing and sales gospel. We teach even our kids the importance of not believing everything you read on the Internet and to look at the actual source of a piece of information and make your own judgement of its credibility.
The Buyer’s Journey is a Mess
Conventional wisdom is that understanding the buyer’s journey is critical for enterprise software marketing and sales teams. Google list 80,200,000 resources to help understand why the buyer’s journey is important.
As Linchpin SEO describes, the buyer’s journey is pretty straight forward:
Vendermore presents a more complex, but realistic map:
Finally, Gartner suggests it is more complicated than that:
How to Understand Your Buyer’s Journey: Ask Them!
The reality is that the buyer’s journey for your products is unique to your market and products. The best way to understand the buyer’s journey is to ask your prospects and customers about it. If an individual has two interactions with your company (download two assets from your website, have at least two phone discussions with a sales development rep, etc.) politely ask them to answer a four question survey in exchange for a $10 VISA gift card. The four questions could include:
- You were looking for information about [problem X or solution Y]. Why did you start that type of research?
- What other information sources on the Internet did you visit in your search process?
- How credible did you find the information sources you reviewed?
- What are the next steps, if any in your research?
These questions could easily be worked into the scripts used by sales development reps. You could also leverage the intelligence from your marketing automation software and send an email survey to visitors who had registered and downloaded content from your website.
You could also launch a specific project to refine your buyer personas using qualitative interviews. Check out Using Qualitative Interviews to Refine Personas. Buyer journey validation is also often included in Win-Loss Analysis projects, which also leverage in-depth interviews of prospects and customers to learn market facts.
Don’t Just Follow the Buyer’s Journey, Enable It
Ali Din, ADP’s VP of Product Marketing, wrote an excellent piece on OpenView’s blog points out:
We are often rushing to build out a buyer’s journey, identify the personas and then map content along the journey. But it isn’t enough to have the buyer’s journey identified. It’s imperative that you assess the “jobs” that B2B buyers are trying to complete in the journey and find ways to reduce friction in the journey. The easier you make it for buyers, the more apt they are to choose your company and product.Source
Ali points out that there are six jobs you should understand about enabling the buyer journey:
- Problem Identification. Realizing there is a problem
- Solution Exploration. Researching what’s out there to solve the problem
- Requirements Building. Determining what is needed for the organization
- Supplier Selection. Shortlisting and making a final decision
- Validation. Ensuring the information and research collected is reliable and accurate
- Consensus Creation. Making sure other parts of the organization buy into finding a solution
Brief interviews with your prospects and customers about their journey is the best way to build your company’s map of the buyer journey. While frameworks from marketing and sales consultants can help, the best resource is built using data from your own primary research.