The B2B customer journey from awareness to purchase can be a long trip.

Or a short hop.

In either case, the B2B journey to the product or service you offer is guided to some degree by your own awareness of your prospective customers’ buying process. That includes everything from the fundamental nature of what you have to offer, the multiple personas you are offering those benefits to, and their preferred method of purchase.

What I mean by the latter is that some prefer to take the scenic route, where they luxuriate in the view and absorb what they learn along the way, continually gathering confidence that they’re making the right decision. Others prefer the historic route, looking to discover what others have experienced in previous interactions with your company, product or service. And still, others just want to take a decision and arrive at their destination as quickly as possible – although that approach can backfire as a false economy.

Whatever the case, B2B marketing that helps to guide a customer journey is far more intricate than it might first appear, and that’s largely because, when done well, the process is far more complex than many who would offer their advice (for a handsome fee) would have you believe.

In this blog, we’ll examine certain aspects of that complexity and demystify some of it.

It won’t cost you a penny. But understanding it will improve your sales success.

So what, exactly, is a “customer journey”?

At Napier, we define it as the experiences a customer has while moving from becoming aware of a product or service to becoming convinced that they need to purchase that product to the time the customer has no further need for the product.

You can’t just establish a brand and expect it to do all the hard work for you. And you can’t just pre-sell what you have to offer and expect it to sustain an ongoing business relationship.

A customer journey, at least an enduring and mutually beneficial one, can be long and potentially circuitous, but understanding that journey and how best to undertake it in every unique situation is the bedrock of B2B marketing.

Although certain principles apply throughout, it’s abundantly clear that one size does not fit all.

The funnel of love

Traditional sales funnel models are well-known, and often over analysed.

That said, they still exist in B2B marketing, and they all start with…


It’s true. You can’t buy it if you don’t know about it. Awareness has to be the first marketing mantra. That’s why so much research, market testing, and product development takes place before you’ve ever heard of a new brand of facial tissue. The first impression must be a good one, and that requires a lot of research and insight to appeal to the personas you want to reach. You want awareness, but you want to be sure you get it for the right reasons.

That’s because if your potential customers become aware of you, your brand, and your product, with a well-planned marketing campaign they will develop an interest.

Use interest to drive customers down the B2B customer journey

If you’ve already managed to get on their radar through advertising, trade show participation, social media (both paid and organic!), Google ads, word of mouth, and many other avenues, you hope to capture – and hold – a prospective customer’s interest.

According to a 2020 report by Neilson Norman Group (as reported by Pragmatic Institute), you have approximately 10 seconds to communicate your value proposition to keep your prospect’s attention, and that can vary widely depending on the platform or media used to capture it. Whether it be LinkedIn posts, your website, content, personal visits or even TikTok, the adage remains the same: “You never get a second chance to make a first impression”. Therefore, make it a good one.

Doing so can often shorten the buying journey, reducing the meandering that might otherwise divert your customer’s journey to your door.

But making a favourable first impression isn’t the end game. It is only the first step, and it only buys you a bit more time, and even then, not much of it. According to the Neilson Norman Group study, a good first ten seconds buys you another 20 seconds to make your case.

So be prepared to make those 30 seconds in total count. Make sure they know who you are, what you do, and why they should select you and your product or service before they choose one of your competitors, do it themselves, or do absolutely nothing.

Remember, your prospective customer always has a choice. You have 30 seconds, max, to convince them you might be the one.

Sizing up

In truth, customer journeys are long, require multiple touchpoints, and dedicated activity. Simple lead nurturing is not enough, and the evaluation stage can be extensive and gruelling, with multiple opportunities to build your case, or see it collapse.

This typical ‘middle’ stage can be difficult to manage and is heavily dependent on the customer. Putting in the ‘grunt’ work is vital to this stage, and mapping out your journey and tactics could be the difference between the close of a sale or leaving one out in the cold.  There’s no ‘right way’ to approach this middle stage, but it should be approached with the degree of flexibility you judge to be appropriate, based on the personas you are targeting.

If you’ve reached this stage, you’ve made it past the threshold and managed to get in front of your customer. The goal now is to stay there long enough to fully make your case, all in the face of interested, but intense, scrutiny.

Brass tacks

So, you got in front of the right people, made your case. and provisionally reached agreement. It’s looking good, When you’ve made it this far it’s tempting to reach for the champagne.

Not so fast. All you’ve done is succeed long enough to start the discussion on what it is all going to cost, both for you to deliver your product or service and for your prospective customer to purchase and maintain that product or service.

The wheels can still come off. They have not yet signed the cheque. It’s your job to guide their hand.

To do that, it’s important to know exactly what it will cost you to deliver your goods. Too many B2B marketers, giddy with the excitement of having ‘won’ the business, price themselves too low, sometimes even being the lowest – by some distance – of those bidding on a project.

This is a bad, very bad, idea and savvy prospective customers will instantly know that you are only ‘cost effective’ because you are going to go bust trying to deliver what you’ve promised at such a low price. That would leave your customer stranded with no service, no support, no spare parts and no recourse should things go wrong. Better to look to another provider with demonstrable evidence that they can support what they’ve promised.

Arriving at a realistic transactional price is one of the most prized negotiation skills in the B2B marketing canon and should be treated with the reverence it deserves. It’s soul destroying to get to that point of the customer journey only to find that here is no ‘there’ there… at least not at the price you need to charge to deliver, and make a profit. Your customer’s destination should be a lush and comfortable oasis for both of you, not a mirage that hides a stagnant, dying pond.

Sealing the deal

So, you’ve arrived at a price that is affordable and profitable for both parties. Now is the time to mark the occasion, but not with a bottle, a handshake or a photo – at least not quite yet.

The first order of business is for a payment to take place. Someone has to let go of some money, even if it’s just a token payment.

Each customer journey is different, but they all require the assured movement that comes with experience, integrity and due diligence, irrespective of the length of the actual journey.

Concluding that part of the journey with an exchange of funds is satisfying and promotes additional confidence that the path is the right one. However, the journey continues…

The delight stage of the B2B Customer Journey

Once you’ve made a sale, enjoyed success, and built momentum, the next step on the customer journey is to sustain the relationship. Service and support are vital components of the B2B customer journey and start the moment a product is purchased, or a service is agreed upon and rendered. What happens after a sale or agreement is not an afterthought, but an integral component of what you hope will be an ongoing program or repeat purchase.

Keeping a flame alive is achieved by investing the time and expertise required to replenish what fuels it, and that can be expanding the business relationship into new areas (account-based marketing); growing the number of standard devices being used throughout a facility; or keeping the client informed about, and encouraged to, follow upgrade paths as new products, services, and techniques become available.

This all goes back to revisiting what made the original relationship so appealing in the first place. The customer had a need that you were able to fill. If you’ve done your part to maintain the relationship in the ensuing years, your customer will develop new needs that you may also be able to fill as you grow together over time.

It is these long-term relationships that are the ultimate aim of B2B marketing. Despite the variable lengths and complexities of the journey, a professionally examined sales funnel never gets stuck, clogged, or overfilled. It is a conduit, graphically depicting the supply of the right product or service at the right time with, don’t forget, the right level of expertise to sell, service, and support it over the long term if desired.

The business relationship may, and probably will, end one day, but the sense of customer satisfaction will remain – and give rise to new customer journeys based on that perception alone, which is why it is so important to understand, and get right.

The customer journey is paved with good intentions, but touch points are the signposts that show the way

We all set out to do our best for our customers and guide their path, but in our enthusiasm sometimes overlook some of the most important parts required to help them move from interest to purchase.

There are numerous touchpoints, not all of them necessary in every case but all equally important when they apply. The following are the most common:

Triggers – Something will set off a prospective buyer to make a purchase. This can be a result of desire, need, happenstance or, in some cases, serendipity. Being in the right place at the right time – and having the confidence to recognise a mutual opportunity and seize the moment – can set the tone for an entire journey. If you’re lucky, these touchpoints can sometimes ignite.

Steps – Contrary to popular belief, the touch point stages of the typical customer journey are not linear. That’s largely because so many decisions are made by individuals who are buffeted by potential influencers along the way, each of which is yet another secondary touch point that has the potential to change the course of that buying decision at almost any stage.

A seemingly simple matter of buying, for example, a garden tractor will be heavily influenced by the nature of the desire. Is it for a small or large garden? Is it to maintain rough, cultivated, or manicured turf? Should it have options for additional mechanical apparatus as attachments? Is money an object? The answers to each of those questions – and many more – have so many variants that can keep a journey to buying your garden tractor on track – or derail it entirely. Your sensitivity to those touch-point variables and the way you nurture the B2B relationship through them will influence which of those paths your customer takes.

Key players

The key players in a B2B customer journey are less likely to be individuals and more likely to be part of a decision-making unit or buying committee. Both of those mean that you now have more than one touch point to influence and each of them – despite being on the same ’team‘ – will have different values and areas of interest that need to be appealed to. When they ask questions, they will want them to be satisfactorily answered in a way that addresses their needs.

You, therefore, need to be able to consider multiple angles outside your straight-up value proposition, recognising that what will be of value to the finance director may be of little or no value to the operator.

Buying style

People are different (go figure) and have different buying styles. To be successful, develop a sense of how to ensure that your substance appeals to your customer’s style. Each persona is a touch point that may have pre-existing preferences, i.e., they believe they know what they want and who they want to buy from (and if it’s you, you want to be sure it remains you).

On the other hand, do you know if they are open to any vendor that meets their criteria? Are they ‘certain‘ about what they want, or can they be influenced? Moreover, do they strongly believe they know what they want, but do they actually know what they need? The former may be the case in some instances, but guiding them toward the latter is where B2B marketing skill benefits both parties. Shining a light down a road previously untravelled will hopefully illuminate the one that leads to your warehouse door.

Value drivers of B2B customer journeys

What you value is not necessarily what is the real value proposition for a customer. You may love the fact that your electronic vehicle can get 300 miles on a single charge, but your customer may be more impressed by its lack of carbon emissions, and still another customer may be charmed by its powder blue interior.

It’s about being attuned to those differences and identifying what is actually driving a purchase decision – which may very well be something you had not considered – and appealing to that value with evidence that backs your proposition.

B2B buying concerns

Still, it’s a fact that B2B business customers won’t always buy from you, even if what you have proposed offers them very good value. They may decide that a longer, more circuitous route to get to where they want to be is, if not better value, at least comfortable and well-trodden territory. It is that comfort zone that may ultimately be of more perceived value to them than a demonstrably competitive product/solution from a new vendor, which may have been you. It is therefore important to assuage such concerns from the start by presenting a well thought out road to purchase, installation, commissioning and ongoing support that feels familiar and comfortable. It is quite surprising how many manufacturers and vendors fall victim to believing that the benefits of their product or service will be so readily apparent that a quick decision in their favour will be forthcoming, despite little or no effort to understand or satisfactorily address any concerns a buyer might have. Confidence in a product or service is admirable, and a vital part of the B2B marketing mix, but overconfidence, bordering on arrogance, can be a cold and steely deal breaker that catches many B2B marketers unawares.

There are no shortcuts

The path of a customer journey may not always be a direct one, nor may it be easy. Sometimes it’s long. Sometimes it’s short. But no matter what course it takes, it’s important to reiterate (so we will, again) that there is no one ’right‘ way to map it out. However, there are many ways to get it wrong, usually by neglecting to gain an understanding of the fundamental parts of the customer journey. The very fact that customer journeys differ is, ironically, what is consistent among them.

Take the time to build your customer journey

If we can leave you with anything, it is this: Think about the customer journey. Devote time, care, and attention to putting yourself in your customers’ shoes, both for the near term and the long haul.

Do extensive homework to make sure you fully understand where your customer wants to be and how you can help them avoid the roadblocks they will surely encounter along the way if they do it without your help.

Investing in this homework upfront will help you remember that B2B journeys- of any length are often complex. That potential for complexity – with many variant factors being introduced into the marketing mix on the way to a single sale or long-term contract – means that in certain cases it might be a better option to divide the overall journey into smaller, bite-size micro journeys that can be achieved, savoured, and learnt from to make the next stage smoother and even more rewarding.

This approach also helps ensure that you take into account the different personas that will have a stake, not only in the outcome but in the longer-term service and support for the account.

You do this by keeping a close on opportunities, as well as missed ones, that can be analysed, assessed and, if necessary, repaired or improved, thus securing customer satisfaction and an ingrained desire to do business again in a way that promotes the good business fortunes of all parties.

Remember, your customer’s journey is ultimately going to determine yours.

Make sure it’s a good one.