The truth is that every buyer will go through a series of touches in a sort of logical order. Some buyers will need more touches than others because it's a buying journey -- open-world style, not a single, well-trodden path.
If you look around the Internet, you're likely to find competing answers. The truth is that chasing a precise number is a fool's errand. It always has been—even when the authorities have tried to give a solid answer. But that doesn't mean we can't understand it or influence it. We'll show you how.
What Is Considered a B2B Touchpoint?
The goal of an aligned B2B marketing and sales team is to create a seamless customer experience. The transition between the two should be invisible from the outside looking in.
So, B2B customer journey touchpoints are touchpoints regardless of where they come from.
A touch is any single point where someone encounters your brand, even in passing (impressions), although we won't focus too much on that.
B2B customer journey touchpoints can include ads they click, ads they don't, seeing you in the search results, web page views, segmented emails, influencer mentions, reviews, retargeting, social media posts, blog posts, drip campaigns, email sequences, chatbots, downloadables, and sales calls.
You also have touchpoints after the sale. These are critical to retaining customers and generating social proof that attracts new customers. These B2B customer journey touchpoints include thank you letters, surveys, onboarding, upselling, and continued engagement through social media.
The point is that there are many ways a B2B buyer may touch your brand. And by the time they're contracting, they may have touched your brand over 50 times.
For example, some buyers will follow you on social media and engage with your posts for months before they take the next step. But this doesn't have to be (and shouldn't be) a chaotic process. It can become very repeatable and scalable with predictable revenue growth to show for it.
The goal is to understand how these touchpoints guide a buyer's journey and get all of these touchpoints moving in one direction (mostly) by aligning your content with the B2B customer journey:
Understanding the B2B Sales Cycle
In inbound marketing, we have the Buyer's Journey. Awareness > Consideration > Decision-making.
Easy enough. 1, 2, 3.
But a Gartner representation of the B2B customer journey shows just how complex what's happening behind the scenes can be and why keeping your B2B customer journey touchpoints moving in the right direction is so critical.
They break it down into:
- Problem Identification (Awareness)
- Solution Exploration (Consideration)
- Requirements building (The cusp of Consideration and Decision-making)
- Supplier Selection (Decision-making)
1. During the Problem Identification / Awareness Stage
Your buyer is doing independent research online. 90% of buyers start their journey the same way you would. They Google it.
So, paid and organic (SEO) search marketing is critical here. You need to be visible in the searches where your target audience is searching for information about their problems.
Your content helps them understand their problem, talks about solutions, and encourages the person to learn more about the solution with a download or sign up for a more in-depth look at the solution.
This leads them into the next phase. At the same time, you generate a marketing lead and now have a contact. So far so good.
2. Solution Exploration / Consideration
Most B2B buying decisions involve multiple decision-makers. So several things could happen here.
That's why the fact that you exchanged contact information for lead nurturing is vital.
Scenario 1: They read your whitepaper or attend a webinar, have everything they need to know and move to the next phase. They might follow you on social media and read reviews, but they're actively moving forward.
Scenario 2: Your solutions seem misaligned with their problem, and they go back to Google.
Scenario 3: They share your content with other decision-makers.
In Scenario 3, they have peer discussions, budget talks, running it by their consultant, learning more about the brand through reviews, website, and social media.
Any one of these behind-the-scenes activities is an opportunity for this progress to stop or stall.
Now, more decision-makers are sharing and discussing your content, following you and you probably collect more contact information from others in the company.
During this time, you're nurturing these leads with emails, retargeting ads, and social media to keep them engaged in the consideration process.
But you're also providing them with new information. They may need that to make the case to other decision-makers.
3. Requirements Building
Can your brand provide this buyer with what they need? That's what they figure out in the next phase.
If you're a B2B technology company, they're looking at how well your technology integrates into their existing tech stack.
At this point, they need content like a demo, free trial, case study, virtual walkthrough, buyer's guide, and side-by-side comparisons of different plans, packages, and options. To whatever extent possible, they need to be able to experience the solution.
They're invested now, so they're less likely to back out. But you want to stay on their mind so that this process doesn't take longer than it should.
If it gets drawn out, priorities or leadership could change, and they sail back to square one.
Once they receive decision-making content, you follow up with email sequences and sales enablement content that connect them with the face and name of a sales representative ready to help them hash out the final details.
This may be the first time someone is physically talking to them. By now, your goal is to have a very informed buyer ready to move forward.
If the buyer ignores the email sequences or dodges sales calls, send them back to the Solution Exploration / Consideration phase. It may just not be the right time.
A Gleanster study found that 50% of leads are qualified in every aspect except one. The timing is off. Sales representatives can better use their time on the 50% who are ready now.
It's worth the wait. A nurtured lead spends 47% more than those who buy outright.
This may sound chaotic and counter-productive to someone sales prospecting with an outbound mindset. This is not the linear path you may have envisioned.
But marketing automation like lead scoring, automated hand-offs, email sequences, and segmented B2B marketing email workflows will make this process seamless for the buyer and the marketing-sales team.
They don't even know if they're in Sales or Marketing.
Keeping the B2B Customer Journey Moving in the Right Direction
First, your website should be designed and optimized to guide buyers through this B2B customer journey regardless of how many B2B customer journey touchpoints they need to get there.
Track website performance. Constantly work to reveal the visitors you can't see because of private browsers or third-party cookie restrictions by enticing them to become a contact through an exchange of value for value. E.g., whitepaper or webinar.
Work to get the right content in front of buyers based on where they are on the B2B customer journey. Frequency, timing, and medium matter here.
Make lead nurturing and sales prospecting as automated as possible to ensure this is streamlined and seamless for the buyer.
You want leads to encounter B2B customer journey touchpoints with some frequency, so you stay top of mind, and they are encouraged to take the next step.
But you don't want to communicate too frequently, or they become annoyed and block you.
Timing is about sending the right message at the right time. If they're already in decision-making, you don't want to send them back to an earlier stage.
What would this person find most helpful right now? What does their boss need to see to authorize this purchase?
We live in a diverse omnichannel world. You can have multiple B2B customer journey touchpoints on one medium, but those touchpoints will most likely be spread across mediums.
For example, if someone sees your optimized profile on LinkedIn, they will probably check you out on Facebook and review sites. They'll visit your website and signup for your email too!
Each of these and more are part of the B2B customer journey.
The more "mediums" through which you can reach this person, the better chance you have to keep them moving through the B2B sales cycle:
- Pay per Click (PPC ads)
- Social media posts
- Social Ads
- Video content
- Your blog
- Website service/product pages
- Live chat
- Video chat
- Troubleshooting guides
- Buyer's Guides
- Owner's Manuals
- White papers
- Phone calls
- Self-service buying and upgrading
- Customer Success Outreach
- Customer-led Forums
You may or may not want to tackle all of them. But the truth is that the buyer will be looking for these from your B2B marketing, sales, and service teams.
Mapping Out the B2B Customer Journey
The more data you've already collected about your customer journey, the easier this will be. And if you currently feel your data analytics is lacking, know that that's really the first step to understanding this path.
1. Start with a General Outline
One of the simplest ways to look at this is awareness > consideration > decision-making > onboarding/choosing to stay.
2. Define the Touchpoints in Each Stage
This is a little different for each company. We've provided many B2B customer journey touchpoint examples to get you started. But make this your own.
If you just want to focus on one stage of the journey right now, because that's your problem area, put your resources there.
3. Prioritize Touchpoints
We all have to start somewhere. Try to tackle it all at once by yourself, and it will be hard to gain traction.
With that said, a B2B marketing agency like LAIRE has a proven system and a team that can help you get your priority touchpoints up and running so you can build on them.
These priorities need to enhance two vital company goals because these two things impact your ability to do anything:
- Increasing revenues: If you're not making money, you won't have any to invest, improve, and grow.
- Delivering a delightful customer experience: If you don't put emphasis here, people will demand refunds, write bad reviews, and take other actions that could cause permanent damage.
4. Establish Best Practices
Describe what you want a customer to experience at your priority touchpoints. Then work your way back.
What do you need to do to make sure they have that experience? What barriers must you overcome to make sure that happens?
Develop a list of best practices for that touchpoint from this exercise.
5. Establish B2B Marketing KPIs for Each Touchpoint
Research benchmarks and set KPIs using a SMART goal structure.
Specific. Measurable. Attainable. Relevant to business success. Time-bound.
Measure your results against that KPI for this touchpoint, test, optimize, and hold yourself accountable for the outcome.
6. Automate As Many Touchpoints As You Can
Frequency and timing are very automatable. You can also establish triggers to automate the hand-off into the next stage and from marketing > sales > service. For example, automatically send the appropriate content using the right medium, frequency, and timing to close this deal.
7. Scale It
Continue to Test, Refine, Rinse, Repeat, and Scale it to grow your business.
The Easiest Way to Streamline B2B Customer Journey Touchpoints
We'd love to say that there's a direct line between awareness and revenues and there will be this many touchpoints. But the B2B customer journey is just not that straightforward.
It does, however, not have to be complicated or inefficient. You can design a well-oiled machine, through the proper use of marketing automation and inbound marketing strategy.
A B2B marketing agency partner like LAIRE has tried-and-true methods and one very talented team that can help you meet strategic goals.
We work with you to define your customer persona and the touchpoints that matter most to their journey from awareness to delighted customers.
Don't try to navigate this journey alone. Let's talk.