The rapid changes in technologies and business models continue at breakneck speeds. Shifting the landscape of buyer behavior along the way. Fermenting the once dormant ability of buyers to redefine the seller-buyer relationship . Creating a buyer revolution marching on unabated.
B2B business, marketing, and sales leaders are faced with rethinking long-held strategies and redefining tactics. Confronted with a new reality, which bears little resemblance to just a few short years ago. One thing has become clear in the buyer uprising B2B businesses face today – they must evolve or they will be toppled.
The buyer revolution is resulting in new demands. Buyer demands can be boiled down to two essential elements involved in all revolutions. Information and knowledge. Buyers are demanding more access to information and want more knowledge. Just as the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenburg in 1440 changed the world forever, new digital technologies are changing the seller-buyer relationship forever. Sellers can no longer hold back information and knowledge – or – there will be no relationship.
Information And Knowledge
To evolve today means staking out a leadership position in meeting the demands of buyers. Specifically, meeting the demands for information and knowledge. A mistake companies make in their attempts to evolve is focusing on the former versus the later. Inundating buyers with so much information, it actually harms more than foster relationships. Information is dumped without thought to knowledge, which the buyer desires to internalize.
Misguided attempts with information are becoming more evident. The newest is the fad-crazed use of the word “insight” today. Recasting information as insight. Insight has no value unless it can be translated into knowledge. Let these words from a recent interview illuminate:
“Recently, I did spend time on the phone with a rep from (Vendor A). Not too long but was interested in hearing more. He said he would send valuable insight on how my issues and such can be fixed. Well, basically what I got was product information. Nothing new so to speak.” Vice President, Retail Banking Group
As you can see here in this simple statement, what actually happened is expectations were raised for knowledge to be gained, only to fall short significantly. In the end, this does more harm than good.
Evolve You Must
To evolve today, B2B marketing and sales today must work in tandem to bridge the gap between information and knowledge. What the buyer revolution is all about is buyers no longer want to feel like they have to pull teeth to get the knowledge they need. The more sellers resist the freeing up of information and knowledge, the more the ramifications of the buyer revolution will persist. What can B2B businesses do to evolve in the face of the buyer revolution? Here are four suggested steps:
Identify Gaps Customers Have In Knowledge
This is a crucial step. B2B companies today will need to engage in buyer insight research to identify the gaps customers and buyers have in knowledge. Not easy for buyers often have difficulty in articulating and may not use standardized terminologies. Yet, it must be done.
Once you know the knowledge gaps of your customers, it is important to evaluate your existing information. If you have done your homework, be prepared to cringe. This effort goes well beyond the content audit often recommended today. It goes to the heart of what you are willing to give.
What we may call content, buyers think of as information. Not getting this could mean your content will be just plain bad. You need to know what information means to buyers, design it, and deliver it. One of the causes of content marketing ineffectiveness is related to this issue. Too much inside-out thinking on content means no connection to the information buyers are seeking. Frankly, they do not care how cool your content is if it says nothing.
Build A Bridge To Knowledge
Buyers are seeking knowledge. We may be getting confused with insight being knowledge. The true difference maker is helping customers to translate information they are receiving into to newfound knowledge they seek. The role of insight is to be the bridge itself. Companies who get this right will separate themselves from competitors dramatically.
History serves us well. Institutions who embraced Gutenberg’s invention and evolved the knowledge of societies flourished. Those who resisted perished. The buyer revolution today means flourishing by providing customers and buyers with knowledge they need to accomplish their goals. Following these four steps helps you to evolve the capability of bridging information to knowledge.
Time is running out. The pace of change is only quickening. Evolve you must.
(Schedule time with me and a conversation to help you understand how the buyer revolution impacts you. I am very interested in getting your thoughts and perspectives on these impacts. Please share widely – your peers and colleagues are trying to evolve before it is too late.)