Why B2B Organizations Fail To Turn Buyer Insights Into Growth Opportunities

Tony Zambito

Tony Zambito

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We have all encountered times when we offer wisdom or counsel to a loved one or a friend – and they fall on deaf ears.  The stubborn teenager comes to mind.  As parents, no matter what advice we share does not seem to get through.  The same may occur with a friend during troubling times.  Where they ask for help but seem unwilling to accept it or see it.

Sometimes, B2B organizations can act and behave in the same way.  Not even aware that they are.

Since 2016, various surveys have shown that approximately 70% to 75% of CEOs in B2B organizations believe buyer insights are important to their growth opportunities.  Yet, this same percentage is often stated when insights are identified as what they need the most.  An indication that the buyer insights they are receiving are inadequate.  Or a telling indicator they are not receiving genuine buyer insights at all.

Obtaining buyer insights is oftentimes not enough.  Many B2B organizations struggle to interpret buyer insights into actionable growth strategies. 

Not Connecting Insights To Strategy

A senior B2B executive I interviewed articulated the above point very well:

“To tell you the truth, I am not even sure what can be considered a buyer insight.  What I do know is that much of what I see is just redundant information about our buyers.  Nothing new in a way that helps us.”

Why can this happen?  There are several reasons why B2B organizations can struggle in translating buyer insights into strategic growth opportunities:

Inward Culture

New and older B2B companies can develop a culture that continually looks inward versus outward.  Even start-ups that may be just a few years old can develop an inward habit.  Like a lot of concepts in business, phrases become accepted speak but oftentimes are rarely put into practice.  For example, universally now, you will expect to hear “it is all about the customer” or “ we are customer-centric.”  How many actually put this practice into place?  This is one of the reasons why B2B organizations must shift their buyer strategy focus from centricity to enablement.

Decisions Are Decoupled From Buyer Insights

When strategic growth decisions are being made, we can find that they are being made without first considering important buyer insights.  Whereby strategic decisions are not matching up to important buyer behavior insights or market shifts on the horizons. 

Tactical vs. Strategic

Buyer insights can be defined narrowly and pigeon-holed into tactical buyer-facing activities.  For example, this has become prevalent in B2B marketing.  With the focus on activities that buyers engage in, such as what content is being accessed and how often. 

Hierarchy Gets in The Way

Closely related to the above is organizational hierarchy can get in the way.  Where layers of reporting prevent critical buyer insights from bubbling to the top.  This is an actual example: a marketing specialist was tasked with getting insights for a specific content campaign; she reported to a marketing manager; who reported to a director; who reported to a senior director; who reported to a Vice President; who reported to a Senior Vice President.  You get the point.

Focus On The How vs. The Why

B2B organizations can often seek buyer insights in the context of how as opposed to why.  Gathering insights on how buyers interact and engage.  Missing critical insights on why buyers are seeking help to fulfill goals.

Wrong Methods Employed

B2B organizations can employ basic levels of surveying their buyers and then call it a day.  Or they can be led to believe that basic intelligence such as identifying initiatives or buying criteria, counts as buyer insights.  When wrong methods are used, little to no buyer insights are discovered leading to strategic growth opportunities.

Insights and Analytics Are Not Connected

While the latest advances in data analytics, AI, and machine learning can provide meaningful insights, they are often incapable of providing deeper emotions-based buyer insights.  More importantly, interpreting and connecting qualitative-based insights to analytics-based insights remain challenging.  Causing companies to miss out on the greater sum of two insights capabilities combined.

Insights Tied To Sell More vs. Help More

If the goal of gathering buyer insights and creating buyer personas is to sell more, an incremental gain may occur.  Even if poor insight methods are employed.  If the goal is to help more buyers to achieve their goals and overcome challenges, then substantial strategic growth opportunities can occur. 

The global coronavirus pandemic has heightened the need for buyer insights.  Buyers and their behaviors continue to change significantly. To recover and rebound in 2021 will take strengthened buyer insight capabilities. 

Pre-pandemic, the conventional thinking was buyer insights helped pave the way to competitive advantage.  Post-pandemic, basic survival may very well depend on buyer insights. 

This will no doubt be difficult.  It comes at a time when resources and spending are limited and being cut.  However, this is a time for more buyer insights, not less. 

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