Mapping a journey of the B2B customer is a handful. There are so many variables to keep in mind that it becomes overwhelming. A customer journey in B2B is longer, more complex, and has some domain-specific touchpoints and stages that you should know before diving into mapping.
At UXPressia, we didn't want to leave this stone unturned, so we came up with this guide. Here, we will cover the key differences between mapping customer journeys for B2C, B2B, and B2E. As well as some pitfalls you should avoid.
And at the end, you will get a free CJM template to map a journey of your B2B customer. You will be able to download it in PDF, CSV, PNG, PPTX, or change it online.
1. Conduct a research
Now, researching a business market is so much different from researching a B2C. So you have to pick a radically different approach here. And here are some points to keep in mind:
Businesses are less open than consumers. You will have to convince them to share intel with you in most cases. If we take B2E, then squeezing information becomes close to impossible.
A B2B research has to be a lot more profound, so the hypothesis will not work here. However, given the previous statement, you will probably start with the hypothesis anyway.
It is harder to define needs, pain points, and decision-makers due to a complex network of stakeholders from different departments.
There's a larger geographical spread for B2B, so it's unlikely for you to have face-to-face interviews or focus groups.
But a considerably smaller sample size will make it up for the pains mentioned above.
What information to collect
The nature of data you're going to look for the journey of your B2B customer is quite different from data for B2C. So for the latter, you want to know your target audience's expectations, pain points, and motivations. And knowing expectations and pain points is so not enough. Let's see what information you should collect during the research:
- Business model;
- Organization structure;
- Purchasing & other processes;
- Their customers and competitors;
- Levels of influence of each stakeholder;
- Hierarchy of needs.
Note that this is by far not the complete list. When researching, you should think of every detail that can impact the journey and lead you to priceless insights.
Sources of data
Finally, once you know what you are looking for and what to expect, it's time to identify what sources of information you will use. For a B2B research, there are a couple of well-tried sources.
- CRM data;
- Phone interview with existing customers;
- Online search;
- Existing knowledge from sales and customer relations departments.
Of course, options will vary depending on what kind of business and customers you have. But this is something you can start with.
2. Personas in B2B Customer Journey
When it comes to creating a B2B persona, the critical difference from B2C is the number of decision-makers you will have to deal with. Of course, if we're taking small or medium biz, it can be that there is just a couple of individuals who make the decision.
But once we move one step up the ladder, the number of stakeholders starts to grow. You will have all sorts of representatives from different departments who will participate in the process of decision-making. Each will have their own expectations, demands, and pain points.
How to deal with complexity?
Making a corresponding persona for each stakeholder is probably the ideal option, but you can start with something simpler and more generic. You can take the entire business and treat it as your persona.
The benefit of this approach is simplicity and speed. In a situation where there is no time to develop 10 full-blown personas, a "business" persona is a fine workaround. And once you got enough resources and data, you can start splitting it up into separate personas.
Another approach you can take is to break down this hoard of stakeholders into groups. It can be:
- Informers - individuals who find your product and spread the word about it within their company.
- Decision-makers - are the ones who decide whether they want to use your service or not.
- End-users - the actual people who will use your product.
The major challenge here is figuring out how much influence each party has.
Some may say that business personas are more rational than consumer personas. This isn't entirely true. People are irrational and it's their nature. However, there are many constraints in business that make the process of decision-making less irrational.
So if we take each stakeholder individually, we will see notes of irrationality. But, once they're in one room, they will have to appeal to rationality in order to come to a decision.
Also, if in B2C the buyer persona is often the end-user, customer journeys in B2B are a great example of a buyer vs. user persona division.
What to describe
Depending on the type of a particular persona, you will want to pay attention to different things. Thus, for informer personas, you will want to pay special attention to information channels they use. And for decision-makers, you will want to focus on their higher-level goals and pain points.
But the trickiest part will be to map all relations between each party to figure out whether informers and decision-makers are the end-users as well. Or how much influence informers and end-users or buyers have on the decision-makers. So you may even create a separate section in your persona for this.
3. The process
In B2B, customer journeys are typically longer than journeys in B2C. Not only are they longer, but they are also often more complicated considering the number of people taking part in the process. Let's take a look at some aspects of a customer journey in B2B and B2E and how those are different from a typical consumer journey.
Unlike it is for customer journeys in B2C, stages for a B2B or B2E customer journey have some extra steps that you don't want to miss. They are critical to the entire journey and can be so-called moments of truth.
So for a typical consumer journey we have stages like Aware, Research, Consider, Buy, and Use. Here's what a B2B one would look like:
- Contact & Request a Demo;
- Make a Decision;
- Contract Negotiations;
- Delivery & Integration;
And this isn't the entire list. Depending on your business and your customer or buyer expectations and processes, there might be stages like Trial, Conducting an audit, Legal procedures, and so on. At some point, they can fork, loop, or go back. For example, a legal issue at the Contract Negotiations phase may push the whole process back to the Consideration stage.
To make it all worse, different decision-makers will come into play during certain stages and they will have serious influence. Well, that is obvious. But, and there's always a but, at some particular stages there will be multiple decision-makers having quite the opposite opinions. For instance, before deciding, an IT director is happy with how your product fits in the current infrastructure, but the legal procurement team has their doubts.
So, to minimize risks (if that's remotely possible), you can mark stages and phases where interests of different parties intersect. This way you will know where you need to go the extra mile in order for the journey to be less bumpy and your chances for success a lot higher.
B2B customer journey touchpoints
There are a number of B2B-specific touchpoints that you must consider when mapping your customers' journey. And not just because businesses may use different approaches and channels when looking for solutions. Which they do. Here are a couple B2B customer journey touchpoints you can find in your:
- Product Demo;
- Sales Meetings;
- Business Conferences;
- Business proposals;
...and a whole bunch of others. So no matter how many touchpoints you find, all of them must end up on your map.
4. Take action
What to do next once your journey map is ready?
Mapping a B2C customer journey alone isn't particularly easy (not to mention it's not even effective) but doable. Being a lone ranger while mapping a B2B journey is just insane and counterproductive. Ideally, you should involve representatives from all teams across your entire company. Front-line staff, back-end folks - everyone. If it's not possible to let them participate in the process of mapping, at least make sure they can have a look at the complete map.
Your map cannot, I repeat, it cannot end up collecting dust on a shelf. It must be put to the test right away. Whether you come up with a list of ideas, features, or recommendations, a CJM must work for you. Not the other way around.
And, of course, mapping a journey of the B2B customer isn't a one-time activity. It is a process that, once started, must go on for as long as your company functions. So, depending on your case, make sure you always get back to your map and update it according to the new data, changes in your company's internal processes, or changes happening on the market.
As you can see, mapping a customer journey map for a B2B case is a tough row to hoe. But once armed with our tips and tools, it's pretty manageable. Speaking of tools, UXPressia has quite a handful of those suited for all possible journey map scenarios. With our Customer Journey Mapping tool, you can create, update, share and export all your journeys (and personas!) in a matter of minutes.
And just as I promised, we created a B2B persona template and set of B2B journey mapping templates that are absolutely free to use. Make sure you check it before you start your next B2B CJM project! 😉