Discover, Explore, Buy: How Referrals Play into the B2B Buyer’s Journey

In today’s world, the B2B customer has more choices than others. And that means their journey to purchasing something is more complex than ever. They’re constantly inundated with cold calls, emails, and other noise, to the point where they willfully tune out much of it.

How can you, as just one business, break through the noise and be heard?

Part of that is understanding what the B2B buyer’s journey looks like. Once you have an intimate understanding of how these customers make decisions, you can position yourself as the best choice.

First, Understand that there is No Single Buyer’s Journey.

Every customer is a little bit different. Some will spend several weeks deliberating over options, while others will simply pick the first one that stands out to them and move on. So how can you appeal to every B2B customer, regardless of their time frame or patience level?

The answer is simple: referrals.

Referrals are a powerful tool. Statistics show that 92% of buyers trust referrals from people they know, and they’re one of the most trusted forms of advertising. If you’re not harnessing the power of referrals with a dedicated channel, you’re missing out on quality leads.

But when in the customer journey do B2B buyers want to get referrals?

At the beginning.

This is the point that the B2B customer realizes that they want or need a certain service. A well-timed referral here can stop their journey before it even begins — which, although it sounds ominous when phrased like that, is actually convenient for them!

Remember, the B2B customer journey is complicated. And it takes them away from the time they could be spending doing other things, like actually running their business.

So if you have a well-timed referral, you can save them that hassle. In many cases, the suggestion from someone they trust will make their decision for them. This will help you — and them — close the deal quickly.

During their research.

Another great time to encourage referrals is while someone is doing research. Often, this is a very easy time to give referrals, because the prospect will be asking for them.

Social media might be your first instinct for these referrals, since that is frequently where people will be asking. But our research shows that verbal referrals are actually far more effective at creating leads that convert to deals.

Encourage your referral partners and customers to meet with prospects face to face during this time. This will help make you memorable.

While they’re deliberating.

This is closer to the end of the buyer’s journey, where they’ve narrowed down their choices and are trying to decide on the best one. Often, you will have already been referred to them as an option.

But here, a second referral can help drive the point home that you’re the fit for their needs. It will bring you to the forefront of their mind, and position you as the most impressive candidate, since you have multiple people talking about you.

Getting referrals at any stage of the game can be beneficial, but getting referrals strategically is how you generate steady revenue. However, this can be difficult to maintain without help. That’s what makes a referral software so important.

By automating your referral channel, you can ensure that you’re hitting B2B customers at the right time, in the right way.

The Small Business Web 2017 – Connecting with SMB

Working at a startup, we are always looking for new ways to learn and grow. Therefore, when a customer of ours told us about a boutique conference called the Small Business Web Summit we decided to explore what it could offer. Arriving in San Francisco last week, we found a collection of SaaS companies from startups to goliaths all focused on selling to SMB. The result was a exceptional salon where we could exchange information on marketing, sales and partner development.

Taking on the challenging SMB market

There are many different ways for companies to go to market – outbound, inbound, partners, app exchanges, etc. And companies have many different models – freemium, free trial, direct sales, etc. The one common theme I heard at Small Business Web was that businesses need to find better ways to reach the SMB market, as traditional approaches aren’t working well enough.

Common questions/challenges I heard were:

  • What is the right channel to focus on for growth?
  • How do I find the right partners to work with?
  • How can I enable my partners to drive business for me?
  • Which ecosystems and integrations should I focus on?
  • How do I break through the noise and get the attention of SMBs?

Mike McDerment, CEO of FreshBooks stated that “SMB is the hardest market to go after, and yet the one with the best opportunity”. It is so difficult because it is hard to pick a target (so many industries), there is lots of churn and a small wallet share. For FreshBooks, their success has been about being micro-focused on a narrow target and connecting with that persona via marketing acts and product innovation that’s fixated on their needs.

It wasn’t just FreshBooks that gave sage advice on how to go-to-market:

  • Andrus Purde, CMO of Pipeline discussed how they entered the US market and stated that “the only 2 things to focus on are getting referrals and being findable.”
  • Dropbox, who is famous for growing via referrals, was represented by Thomas Hansen, Global VP of Revenue, who discussed how their next layer of growth will come from developing a multi-channel approach with MSP Ingram Micro.
  • Kevin O’Brien, VP of Strategic Alliances for JazzHR discussed how he developed a network of partners to drive referral business first at Constant Contact, then Hootsuite and now at JazzHR.
  • Eric Groves, CEO of Alignable, told us about the Constant Contact vs MailChimp story. His advice was, “Embrace and enable customers and they will help you sell.”
  • Our own CEO, Larry Angeli, got on stage with Randy Fahrbach, Sr. Channel Mgr at LogMeIn and discussed how to leverage referral partners for scaling SMB growth.
  • Lars Helgeson, CEO of GreenRope discussed how they grew by going direct and using niche resellers.
  • Stéphane Donze, CEO of AODocs discussed how they grew via the Google ecosystem.
  • And many more SaaS executives told their stories on winning, losing and the battle to grow.

My takeaway – everyone is looking for better ways to connect to SMB and grow revenue. It is no wonder that the conference is seeing tremendous growth, as it is the only conference dedicated to this space. The President of Small Business Web, Sunir Shah, also announced that they will be rebranding the group to be more in line with the problems they are trying to solve. My vote is to have “connect” in the name, because fundamentally you can’t force your way in to SMBs, you need to connect your way in.

If you share that challenge and would like to be part of this incredible networking event you can check it out here: