Three reasons marketers get the B2B buyer’s journey wrong

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October 2023
We marketers are often guilty of pushing or pulling buyers through that “inside-out” view of the customer’s world called the marketing funnel.
Guess what? Buyers are over it.
What if we let them lead us? What if we could better connect with them to drive campaign results skyward?
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By only focusing on static segmentation models and expecting a straight-line [buyer] journey, companies risk missing out on the deeper insights underpinning behavior — and the ability to drive new value and relationships.


Face down these three truths to drive higher marketing results.


Personas are a strong start, but often not enough.

Personas are a valuable start to understanding markets. They tell us which buyers to target and why. But when we lean too heavily on static profiles, we miss that buyers are dynamic. Motivators cause them to move toward purchase, sometimes quickly. Barriers can halt even the most attractive purchasing cycle.


Buyer’s journeys don’t follow the funnel.

The funnel-shaped journey isn’t a given anymore. Today’s buyers reorder steps. They skip stages altogether. And they progress through emotional states based on motivators that move them forward and barriers that put an end to the purchasing cycle. We need a better way to capture this new truth.


Message maps need more.

Message maps give teams the complete story of your value proposition. Components of message maps help writers tell a consistent story across content types (e.g., video, white paper, blog post), but they may not help teams know what components of the story to tell in which channels.

These truths can be campaign killers. Don’t let them. So, how can you overcome them to optimize campaign results?

Build a clearer understanding of buyer moments

Uncover emotional states that buyers go through

Start by asking your buyers how they make purchases — from their perspective, in their words. The diagram below, for example, reflects the emotional states a new employee might go through selecting a laptop. You may notice that a new employee might not start with the company list of approved laptops.

B2B buyer journey diagram 1
Connect motivations and barriers to each emotional state

Buyers have different journeys. This new discovery model reveals specific pieces of your story that matter most to that buyer as they progress through very personal emotional states. The key is to deliver hyper-relevant content, but not all your bells and whistles at once or continuously.

Buyer journeys are defined by motivators that press the buyer forward or barriers that prevent them from making progress. These are often different from “pain points.” Not all motivators are pain points, nor are all pain points important enough to start a buying cycle. Barriers could be a lack of confidence or budget gaps. They stop progress on the buying cycle.

B2B buyer journey diagram 2
Understand “where” they learn about “what”

The last step to a buyer journey map is to understand where buyers go to understand more about their motivations and behaviors. Channels are no longer connected purely to a stage of a marketing funnel — they’re connected to a buyer’s emotional state. The key is to deliver hyper-relevant content, but not all your bells and whistles at once or continuously.

This is a shift from the traditional pain point/solution orientation. It’s a continuous process of reinforcing motivators and removing barriers — and showing up to do it the way buyers want and expect you to.

In the example below, you can see how Twitter and Game Advertising are focused on a specific set of emotional states and very specific motivators and barriers.

B2B buyer journey diagram 3

Live your killer truth

With each buyer experience, you have a chance to knock it out of the park — to surprise the heck out of buyers by giving them:

  1. What they want (the parts of the story they need)
  2. When they want it (in the right sequence at the right time)
  3. Where they want it (in their preferred channels at that precise moment)

And, by selecting the right type of content (e.g., punchy video, dimensional piece, influencer information, motion ads), you can create peak moments that amplify peak motivational moments or address a barrier or bad experience in a surprising way.

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The buyer experience journey approach requires checking your assumptions at the door.

Get over the funnel as the starting point for campaign planning, get beyond personas, and get on to driving higher-performing campaigns — with buyers’ journeys that focus on emotional needs, make more meaningful connections, and return better results.

1 Accenture, “The human paradox: from customer-centricity to life-centricity,” 2022
Eric Meerschaert
Eric Meerschaert
Executive Director, Growth and Innovation
Eric gained his strategic background at Global 500 software companies and McKinsey & Co, where he learned that analytics, not instincts, drive the best B2B strategies.

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