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September 1, 2016

Digital technology has made information, abundant & ubiquitous which can be leveraged to influence the B2B buying behavior among engineering & manufacturing industries.

Digital technologies have changed the way customers form opinions about products in order to make purchase decisions, both in the B2B and B2C segments. Recently, I met a teenager who wanted to buy a laptop. Before making the decision, he spent a significant amount of time reading and watching its reviews online, posting queries on online forums to other users, and so on. I had just witnessed the zero moment of truth (ZMOT) the online decision-making moment in the conventional B2C purchase cycle. That left me thinking about the relevance of ZMOT in the B2B purchase cycle, and its impact on the B2B buying behavior.

Are evolving digital technologies impacting the B2B space, where B2B buyers are usually dependent on the technical and commercial proposition provided by sales teams? The answer is a yes. In the digital era, your ability to connect with, and influence, B2B buyers with online content, will help your sales teams negotiate and crystalize deals. A Forrester survey found that 74% of B2B business executives conduct more than half of their research online before making an offline purchase.

Another recent survey shows that more than half of all B2B buyers (51%) now depend on content to support their buying decisions. Almost all the buyers surveyed (96%) wanted more inputs from industry thought leaders, and 47% buyers interacted with three to five pieces of content before calling a sales representative. Regardless of the engagement metrics, you can be certain of one thing: during online engagement with brands, people are more likely to develop strong relationships with companies. And, in the B2B industry, strong relationships are the foundation of strong sales.

So are you moving in step with the new B2B customer who looks up information before making a purchase decision?

Lets take the case of the auto industry to demonstrate the value of taking an integrated approach to content. The entire auto industry value chain involves a high level of technology, is supply chain-driven, and interlinked.

Extensive collaboration between different stakeholders is required to integrate various customer needs ranging from design to technology in the end product. As a result, every new trend, technological advancement, and need of the customer is captured by the automotive purchasing organizations. A 2015 ITSMA survey shows that B2B buyers spend 51% of their time online to keep up with industry and technology trends.

Adopt an integrated approach to communication

It is clear that B2B buyers spend a considerable amount of time understanding what they want by searching for relevant information. Armed with their consumer buying experiences, B2B buyers gather pre-purchase information through various content channels.

Today, key stakeholders, such as the head of engineering, CXOs, and head of manufacturing, are actively involved in critical decision making. This presents numerous opportunities for marketers to engage decision makers at purchasing organizations with the right content, and influence opinions on offline proposals submitted by their sales teams. For instance, you could publish relevant content in online media that demonstrates a deep understanding of the pain points faced by a decision maker, and position your offering as the solution to the problem. Such an integrated online-offline approach can help shape the decision makers opinion in your organizations favor.

Position content to influence the ZMOT

Just like in the auto industry, it is essential for marketers across engineering and manufacturing verticals to identify the impact points in the B2B buying behavior and leverage the ZMOT to their advantage. For sustained success, you must preempt customer requirements, and position content around such moments. Creating thought leadership and other relevant content can help you move to a proactive marketing paradigm a shift to pull marketing from push marketing. Not just creating content, but distributing it in the right manner is important too. Use multiple digital channels frequently accessed by your target audiences to reach them. Adopting an integrated approach to communications will provide a significant competitive advantage to your business.

Chiranjeeb, is the Global Marketing Head, for Engineering & Industrial services, TCS. He has over 10 years of experience in Marketing, Market Development, Sales (Institutional & Project), Marketing Communication & Project Management. He has a Masters degree in Marketing from IMT Ghaziabad. He is also passionate about recycling & other social causes.


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