Rumor has it that the B2B food and beverage industry is leaning more and more towards a customer-centric approach.

Unlike the B2C world, where food purchases are driven by the hunger pangs in our stomachs and mouth-watering billboards peppered around town, the B2B buying process isn’t so impulsive.

In fact, the B2B customer journey has always been more of a “clinical” affair that involved hard facts, large quantities of technical information, and a little bit of persuasive sales aimed at various team members.

But today, the food industry — which, let’s face it, is a pretty exciting one — is starting to realize that it doesn’t have to stick to the old ways of thinking and can instead evolve with the times.

As a result, we’re starting to see a shift in the customer journey for B2B food and beverage brands, as well as a change in the way brands that fall into this category interact and connect with their buyers.

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Today, just like in the B2C world, B2B customers expect a smooth user experience, a hearty dose of personalization, and a large sprinkling of support at every single stage of the customer journey — and brands are rallying around these new expectations.

Why the Customer Journey Is Important

B2B buyers who have an enjoyable and — most importantly — positive customer experience, are far more likely to spend more with the supplier that provided that experience. They’re also more likely to pay a premium for that service and recommend the supplier to colleagues, friends and peers.

The more you understand the customer journey and the thoughts and pain points buyers have at each stage of it, the better equipped you are to provide a compelling experience that keeps them coming back for more. It’s as simple as that.

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But anyone who has ever been involved in B2B sales knows how complicated it can be. In fact, CEB actually asked a number of senior executives at B2B companies around the world to describe the B2B purchase process in one word.

Any guesses at what some of those words were?

We’re talking about things like “awful”, “painful”, “hard” and “minefield”. Ouch.

This is particularly prevalent in the B2B food and beverage industry, because you don’t have the whole delicious food, tasty drinks angle to go off. Instead, there are more people to impress (including cynical budget-holders), the price point tends to be much higher for B2B brands, and the process isn’t driven by even an iota of emotion.

This puts B2B brands in this industry at a disadvantage.

However, if you become well-acquainted with your customer journey and start to identify key points where you can interact with buyers and make the biggest impact, then you’ll start to find it far less “painful” and much less of a “minefield”.

The Ideal B2B Customer Journey

The ideal customer journey in the world of B2B food and drink is simple, intuitive, personalized and flexible. The one true goal is to help buyers navigate easily and painlessly from product searches through the actual buying process and beyond, to the aftermath of sales and service.

In order to do this, you need to know:

  • The exact process your customers go through when buying from you. (Do they usually start with a generic product search and then refine what they’re looking for from there? How many gatekeepers does the decision need to go through? At what point do they need their objections answered?)
  • What they need at each step of that process. (For example, when they’re running a product search, what will make it easier for them? The benefits of your product? The service specifications? Price?)
  • What tips buyers into the next stage of the customer journey? (Do they need reassurance? Is there a specific piece of information they need to make them go from hesitant to a dead-cert purchase?)

Remember that things are different in the B2B world.

Whereas B2C food brands can slap a few delicious pictures of food up on their websites and let those do the talking, B2B brands have to work a little harder — not least because they have to convince two different people.

First, they need to convince the users, who tend to be more concerned about the details of the product, its specifications and its characteristics. Second, they have to convince the final decision makers, who are all about price, contracts and post-purchase guarantees.

It’s important that you’re aware of the customer journey for both of these different types of buyers so that you can serve them the right information at the right time.

Get to Know Your Customer’s Journey

If you don’t know the customer journey your buyers take, now’s the time to get to know it.

With B2B food and drink brands wising up to the fact that buyers are increasingly searching for a positive experience, you’ll get left behind if you don’t.

The customer journey for B2B brands isn’t as “clinical” as it used to be, and we’re seeing more and more brands tapping into B2C tactics to drive more sales. Your job is to explore the journey your customers take, and make it as easy as possible for them to go from one stage of the sales cycle to the next.

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