Understanding the B2B Customer Journey and How It Differs from B2C


The B2B customer journey resembles the B2C experience in many ways, but there are also some important differences. In this article, we’ll look at the B2B vs. B2C customer journey to see what’s the same and what’s different. We’ll cover the basics of:

  • Customer journey mapping
  • How journeys differ for B2B and B2C customers
  • How to analyze your customer journey
  • How to optimize it for maximum client satisfaction and retention

Basics of Customer Journey Mapping

To understand the difference between B2B vs. B2C customer journey mapping, let’s start with a review of the basics of customer journey mapping. A customer journey map charts the stages your customer progresses through during the course of their relationship with you. A full journey map covers all stages from lead acquisition through subscription renewals, upsells, and referrals, although some maps abbreviate this to focus on the post-sales part of the process. Typical stages which may be covered in a SaaS context include:

  • Awareness: through marketing efforts, prospects become aware of a brand and its value proposition
  • Engagement: prospects interact with a brand’s website and become freemium users
  • Conversion: freemium users convert to paying customers
  • Onboarding: customers complete the set-up process to begin using their purchase and deriving the value they paid for
  • Adoption: customers learn how to use a product and integrate it into their workflow, receiving practical value from their purchase
  • Escalation: customers seek support to remove obstacles preventing them from deriving value from their purchase
  • Renewal: customers decide whether or not to renew their subscription based on their perception of the value they’ve been receiving
  • Growth and expansion: customers adopt advanced features and make additional purchases, increasing the value they receive from your brand
  • Referrals: satisfied customers become advocates of your brand, sharing the value they receive with others and bringing others into the customer journey

For each stage, a journey map breaks down key information designed to optimize the customer’s experience of that phase of the process, answering questions such as:

  • What is the customer thinking, feeling, or doing at this point in the process?
  • What should we be doing to optimize their experience?
  • What obstacles might impede customer experience at this point in their journey?
  • What can we do to remove these obstacles?

Mapping out this type of analysis enables you to plan actions to optimize your customer journey at each point in order to maximize retention and turn satisfied customers into promoters of your brand. Customer success software such as the Totango Spark platform enables you to automatically trigger actions that promote optimized customer journeys.

This is only intended as a very brief introduction to what customer journey mapping can involve. For a more detailed introduction with practical guidance, see our guide to customer journey mapping. You can find online templates to help you design your customer journey map.

B2B vs. B2C Customer Journeys: Comparisons and Contrasts

Generically, the stages in the B2B and B2C customer journeys are similar, beginning with lead acquisition and progressing through sales to repeat business and referrals. However, the specifics vary significantly, particularly in a SaaS context, because of differences in marketing, customer engagement, and customer personas.

With respect to marketing and customer engagement, some of the outstanding differences between B2B and B2C journeys include:

  • With B2C e-commerce, the marketing and sales process is often pursued at high volume and velocity one-to-many, while with B2B there is often more emphasis on one-to-one engagement
  • In B2C selling, decision-making typically resides in a single individual, while in B2B, decision-making authority may involve several individuals or a formal procurement process
  • The B2C marketing process often aims for a direct e-commerce sale, while B2B marketing may require more active cultivation of leads through CRM data and pursuit of inbound and internal leads
  • B2C marketing and sales may aim at the general consumer, while B2B may be more industry-specific and customized
  • B2C sales strategy for SaaS products typically starts with freemium trials, while B2B may or may not have a freemium option and usually sells at a higher price point
  • B2C buying decisions are based on pain points and benefits relevant to the individual, while B2C buying decisions are based on considerations relevant to the organization and the relevant decision-makers
  • B2C friction points affecting retention may involve individual issues such as emotional frustration with a support issue, while B2B points of friction may involve issues such as integration with other apps the organization uses or workflow between departments
  • B2C renewal or churn outcomes may be based on more individual factors, while B2B outcomes may involve a more calculated analysis of return on investment

Customer personas, which define the characteristics of ideal buyers, may also differ between B2B vs. B2C customer journey mapping. Points that may differ include:

  • B2C stakeholders are individuals or families, while B2B key stakeholders are defined by position and may include multiple stakeholders
  • B2C buyer needs involve consumer issues such as personal finances or convenience, while B2B buyer needs involve organizational issues such as profitability or efficiency
  • B2C prospects may consume different content on different interaction mediums than B2B prospects, such as e-books vs. white papers, for example

Bearing these types of differences in mind will help you develop your customer journey map in a way that is better optimized for B2B customers.

B2B Customer Journey Analysis

The practical value of B2B customer journey mapping increases when combined with a customer journey analysis. Customer journey analysis combines your journey map with data from each stage of your customer’s journey by incorporating KPIs which correlate with your map’s journey stages.

This brings the power of data analytics to bear on your map, allowing you to make data-driven decisions and implement data-based actions. You can set KPI goals that define customer success, analyze trends in your journey map data to identify where customers are meeting KPIs, and isolate sticking points in your processes. You can also monitor whether individual customers are progressing smoothly through their journeys and take steps to intervene when customers encounter snags in their journey.

Totango’s Spark platform helps you leverage a customer journey analysis by providing SuccessBLOC modules which come out-of-the-box with KPIs, client engagement tools, automated workflows, and a reporting suite. For more details, see our tips on How to Perform a Customer Journey Analysis.[link]

How to Optimize Your B2B Customer Journey

B2B customer journey mapping sets the stage for journey optimization. Optimization involves implementing procedures that promote successful and satisfying outcomes for customers while taking steps to prevent dissatisfying experiences. When optimizing journeys for B2B customers, bearing a few considerations in mind will help you achieve better results:

  • Focus more on personas than you would in a B2C environment, considering factors such as the position of your customer in their organization, what their business needs are and how they fit into the decision-making process
  • Make sure the steps in your journey map are applicable to large enterprises with multi-person teams
  • Make acquisition and onboarding as seamless as possible to differentiate your brand from any potential alternative product. This will, in turn, set your customers up for success and increase the stickiness of your product.
  • Make renewals a no-brainer by utilizing tools where you can create campaigns that send either monthly or quarterly updates keeping customers abreast of how they’re performing against their core KPIs.
  • Continually focus on nurturing current customers and innovating as much as possible to keep them excited by your product and not inclined to shop around
  • Have a path and a plan for customer escalations to eliminate unnecessary frustrations and satisfy customer’s needs more efficiently.

Following these guidelines will help you make your customer journey more relevant and satisfying to B2B customers.

Improve Your B2B Customer Journey to Boost Retention and Revenue

Customer journey mapping helps you plan the steps for an optimized customer experience as well as what to do when things don’t go as planned. While the basic steps are the same in a B2B and B2C context, the B2B experience involves a different target market with different personas. Your customer journey analysis should take this into account and focus on the needs of the B2B customer. This requires making adjustments such as emphasizing B2B multiple personas, thinking in terms of large enterprises and prioritizing smooth onboarding, renewal, and engagement.

Totango provides software tools to help you with B2B customer journey optimization as well as extensive guidance on how to plan a successful customer journey. Download our B2B customer journey map template[link] to begin putting your journey optimization strategy into action and start increasing retention and revenue.

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