The Changing Buyer Journey: Key Insights for Healthcare B2B Marketers
The B2B buyer journey has become increasingly complex, with buyers conducting more self-directed research before engaging with vendors. Marketers must rethink their strategies to attract and influence prospective buyers in this environment. Fresh research from Endeavor Business Media’s annual B2B marketing benchmark report sheds light on key trends and best practices.
The Evolving Nature of Lead Generation
The benchmark report reveals that investments in lead-generation activities are increasing. However, it’s become clear that the traditional definitions and expectations around a “lead” are shifting. As Paul Mattioli, VP of Intelligence at Endeavor explains,
“What does a lead mean and how do you go after that?”
We spoke to Paul for the most recent episode of the Healthtech Marketing Show.
Rather than chasing lead quantity, B2B marketers are refocusing their efforts around lead quality. They recognize that a smaller number of well-qualified, sales-ready leads will drive greater impact than a large volume of loosely qualified names.
Listen to the Episode
Capturing Quality Over Quantity
This emphasis on quality over quantity reflects the changing B2B buying process. With so much information available, buyers are further along in their decision-making before engaging vendors directly. As the research indicates, buyers typically have researched options extensively before reaching out.
Marketers must ensure their brands are top-of-mind across channels to attract and capture these well-informed prospects when they raise their hands. Thought leadership content that educates buyers can familiarize them with products and perspectives early in their research process. Then, when they are ready to talk to vendors, they will already view your company as an authority and trust your guidance.
Thought Leadership Drives Awareness
The benchmark report revealed that awareness building is shifting from a broad-reach model focused on maximizing brand impressions. Instead, an integrated thought leadership strategy is becoming core to visibility. By providing valuable insights to buyers through assets like reports, ebooks, and webinars, brands can organically build awareness and consideration.
As Mattioli explained,
“Quality and thought leadership go hand in hand.”
When prospective customers consume educational content, it generates higher-quality engagement. This nets better leads and also pays dividends in brand reputation across the buyer journey.
Rethinking Budget to Focus on Buyer Education
To fund thought leadership programs, B2B marketers may need to reallocate the budget away from areas like events or loosely qualified lead gen activities. However, as the research indicates, they struggle with this prioritization due to ingrained processes.
Mattioli noted that the core budget tends to get allocated to “keeping the lights on” with foundational platforms. The next priority is often events, assuming face-to-face engagement is critical for lead generation. Demand generation focused on volume then soaks up additional dollars. This leaves awareness building, content, and research fighting for leftovers even though they are integral to education.
As the buying journey evolves, marketers must revisit budget planning from the ground up. The question should be how investments map to buyer education across the entire path to purchase. Allocating totems focused solely on lead volume versus lifelong customer value won’t cut it anymore.
Understanding Events’ Modern Role
Events remain a line item that garners significant budget but does not necessarily have a significant impact when isolated. In reality, events should be connective moments within an integrated awareness strategy. Mattioli said,
“It’s a tentpole, not a breakdown.”
The days of booth scans directly translating into sales are gone. Now, events are optimal for elevating thought leadership, building relationships, capturing buyer insights through surveys and interviews, and sustaining momentum from your ongoing content cadence.
Blending Qualitative and Quantitative Research
Advanced marketers are using blended research approaches to help inform content and experiences. Quantitative data around buyer demographics, firmographics, and behavior signals intent. Qualitative insights directly from the voice of the customer via interviews explain the “why and how” behind the numbers.
Mattioli believes deeply in marrying survey data, buyer journey analytics, and predictive models with real-world buyer interviews. He emphasized that the personal insights this qualitative work surfaces help humanize personas and problems to solve. Together, these inputs paint a more complete picture so marketing can act accordingly.
AI Enables Better Research Scalability
Conducting comprehensive qualitative research presents challenges to scale across contacts and markets. This is where artificial intelligence opens new doors – AI tools can digest vast quantities of interview transcripts, support quantitative survey analysis, and even generate unique insights teams may miss.
As one example, it was explained that AI applied to interview transcripts with health insurance executives helped thoroughly process ten lengthy discussions compared to manual methods. The technology was able to highlight relevant commentary a human listener might have overlooked or tuned out due to bias. It then automatically categorized and summarized findings to feed into strategy.
Overcoming the Marketing Identity Crisis
Despite recognizing the evolving buyer journey, many B2B marketing teams are stuck. They may see the need to focus on quality over quantity, invest more in lifecycle awareness tactics, or blend quantitative and qualitative intelligence. However, executing these initiatives can prove challenging.
Why the disconnect between knowledge and action? As Mattioli framed it, there is a bit of an identity crisis occurring. Budgets, org structures, KPIs, and executive expectations evolved to support a lead volume-driven paradigm. Now as priorities force a shift from quantity to quality, from funnel stages to lifecycle, from product-out to audience-in, and from generalization to personalization, tensions mount.
The path forward lies in education and alignment:
- Educate executive teams on B2B buying evolution through research reports, presentations, and workshops
- Ensure marketing budget plans map programs to buyer enlightenment along their entire journey, not simply lead gen
- Set pipeline goals focused on deal velocity and very well-qualified opportunities instead of volume alone
- Build content and experiences aligned to buyer questions across their evolving timelines
- Motivate cross-functional collaboration across CRM, MarTech, product marketing, sales enablement, and customer success to coordinate reach.
The B2B Path to Purchase Continues to Twist
At the core, B2B marketing comes down to understanding buyer decisions and illuminating the path in their moments of darkness. Mattioli concluded,
“We’ve lost the voice of the customer.”
But reconstituting this understanding is now possible through:
- Omnichannel content strategies centered on education over promotion
- Thoughtfully blended data inputs combining behavioral signals declared research, and human conversations
- Consultative sales partnerships to decode prospect progress
- Customer advisory panels to workshop scenarios and surface needs
With rich insights into the modern B2B journey, marketing leaders can confidently reorient strategies. They can shape awareness, coordinate touchpoints, strengthen influence, and sustain lifetime relationships as partners dedicated to customer missions.
The buyer path ahead may still have hairpin turns, but you’ll have the headlights to guide decisions and the GPS to recalibrate when needed. With customer enlightenment powering the journey, your brand and target customers can reach their destinations faster together.
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