B2B customer experience is as much about what you do as what you say.
Whether designing or dissecting experiences, I typically apply a five-stage pattern based on the buyer’s experience to organize ideas, findings, and recommendations. Using a buyer’s perspective rather than a seller’s leads to remarkable insights and an experience design that is easier for customers to relate to. Diana LaSalle is the originator of this idea.
The five stages that a buyer goes through include:
Awareness > Consideration > Purchase > Usage > Sharing
The first article of this series covered the awareness phase where I described the beginning of my own B2B customer experience journey with Worldwide Business Research. This article focuses on the next stage of the experience—consideration. In the consideration phase, prospects evaluate their different options, they become clearer on their own intent, and create their own decision-making criteria. That’s just what happened with me.
We’re deep in now…
1. After several conversations, it looks like Future Stores will be the event I focus on first.
Insight: WBR’s rep took time to understand my retail thought leadership platform. He was open about his firm’s direction and their clients’ and exhibitors’ needs. He was also able to share detail around project economics. I really appreciated that. Getting clear on value to be exchanged up front makes it easier to have more detailed conversations without having to ‘hold back’. I have a clear understanding of the retail decision-maker audience, their roles, their relationship to customer experience, and WBR’s expectations for this event. I also know what this event is not about and the outcomes it is not intended to deliver.
2. Even though WBR was pursuing me, they made sure that I wanted to attend—and participate—as well.
Insight: Giving people the authentic option to opt in is an important part of any considered purchase. Here’s an example. When I went to the Apple Store to shop for a new laptop several years ago, my wife came with me. Of course, I wanted in the high-end model with lots of bells and whistles. All it took was one raised eyebrow from my wife for the sales rep to spend the next 20 minutes going through my work style my new computer’s intended workload to make sure that a less expensive model wouldn’t fit the bill just perfectly. The rep was actually trying to sell me less!
I ended up getting the higher-end machine, but left with the confidence that it was absolutely the best choice for me. There was no buyer’s remorse – from me or from my wife. That was priceless.
WBR has done exactly the same thing by not pushing attendance or sponsorship on me or ‘selling’ me. Their warm and competent process is designed to inform me and let me make my own decision. I believe they’ve picked the right approach. At the end of the day, nobody likes to be sold. Whether its B2B or B2C, customers like to be the ones doing the buying.
3. As we dug deeper into the details of content and participation, it just got better and better.
Insight: One of the best clues you can put into an experience for others to discover is evidence of the brand promise. Future Stores’ brand promise is about advanced programming, highly qualified attendees, and a relaxed yet stimulating atmosphere.
As the rep and I looked through a number of ‘their’ ideas and ‘my’ ideas, we quickly realized the value of combining some of the elements. Their open-mindedness let me see that they were thinking forward (that’s not an easy feat in a business as process-driven as event management and promotions). We landed on some programming ideas that will lead attendees to helpful insights in a friendly and entertaining way, enhance their one-on-one experiences, and lead them to the breakthrough ideas they seek for their own company’s customer experiences.
When people figure out that what a vendor is doing creates value for them, the setting on their trust meter rises. When people become aware that the way a company’s people are treating them is warm, their willingness-to-engage meter also rises.
There will be two more articles in this series. The next one will share some specifics about the June, 2014, Future Stores event (once they are finalized): the frame, the experience design, and some content ideas. The fourth and last one will compare our expectations to what will have really happened.
The Bottom Line
This B2B customer experience is on track. What I see under the covers matches my first impressions and expectations. I have no reason to think anything will be different in the future. But if they are, I’ll let you know!
If you’re interested in Diana LaSalle’s model for the stages of customer experience, check out her book, “Priceless”. It’s over ten years old, but like fine wine, it gets better with age.