What Are Buyer Journey Decision Frameworks?

Written by
Tony Yang
Buyer Journey

In the many discussions that I've had with other marketing leaders, marketing or revenue ops practitioners, and sales executives, the notion of buyer journeys mean different things to different people. Some view it as a user flow or journey that highlights – often in specific detail – how a prospect or customer flows through your various systems...from pages of your website to product features used and everything in between. Some like to take an exercise that outlines what they believe to be an ideal flow for customers, while others explicitly want to see what's happening in reality and see actual user flows. Still for several others, some of them consider a buyer journey to be synonymous to their lifecycle funnel or demand waterfall, as defined by various stages such as MQL, SQL, Opportunity, etc.

I think of a Buyer Journey Framework as a methodology to understand the decision-making process that a prospect takes to go from being unaware of a problem or pain point that you can help solve, all the way to understanding the value that your offering can bring in specifically solving that problem for them. This is helpful because it informs our messaging across all of our go-to-market channels.

Marketing & Sales Funnel ≠ Buyer Journey Decision Process

The way I look at it, what we know as the funnel IS NOT the same thing as the decision making process that a prospect takes when considering a solution to purchase. These are two different things – I'll tell you why.

While there have been several versions of the funnel (or demand waterfall as SiriusDecisions calls it) introduced over the years, most of us in B2B have some version of it implemented within our organization that is probably similar to what most other companies are using today – e.g., lead, marketing qualified lead (MQL), sales accepted lead (SAL), sales qualified lead (SQL), opportunity/pipeline, closed won.

The point that I wanted to get across is that the notion of the funnel is essentially what we think the prospect is going through in their buying decision with us. However, the buyer themselves may actually be at a different stage of their decision making process than from you think they're in. The ideal scenario is if these two continuums are aligned...meaning that our funnel is well aligned to where the prospect is at in their decision making process. But in reality, this is usually not the case...unless you have proactively set up your internal systems to track to this. More on how to do this in a later post.

What Happens When Buyer Decision Frameworks Do Not Inform Your Messaging?

Now, there are plenty of times where I've seen symptoms of these two frameworks being misaligned. I've seen this a lot when I was working in-house at a couple different companies and also as a consultant these days. For example, a common symptom that I see a lot is when an SDR sends messages that goes something like:

"Hey there, my name is so and so I work at this particular company, and we do this. And here are some of our customers [name three customers]."

And then maybe some of them might take it a little bit step further and say:

"We do this differently than our closest competitor."

And then they hit you with a very salesy call to action, which is something along the lines of:

"What does your schedule look like in the next day or two for 15 minutes or 20 minutes?"

And in reality they'll probably end up taking about half an hour to an hour of your time where they're just pitching you their company and their products.

I don't mean to pick on SDRs – after all, I've built and managed the SDR function at several companies, so I can empathize with how difficult and thankless of a job it can be at times. However, I've been on the receiving end of these messages via email or LinkedIn messages more times than I care to count, and it's all more or less the same across the board. And to be fair, this is also common in many marketing campaigns as well.

And thus it's not surprising that most of the time, this kind of message doesn't work. It doesn't get the attention of your prospect. And the primary reason for this is because the prospect is probably at a different stage of their buyer journey than where you thought they are. You're assuming that they're at the exact stage where they're ready to buy and thus willing to speak to you. For those who did actually respond to this type of message in a favorable way, you just got lucky because you approached them when they're already in-market for a solution and you just didn't know it.

My buddy Gaetano DiNardi (VP of Growth at Aura) put it eloquently in this recent LinkedIn discussion with another friend Tito Bohrt (CEO of AltiSales):

"The problem is that B2B companies are refusing to accept the reality of how many accounts are legitimately in a buying cycle at any given moment. Marketing teams are marketing to the 99% of non-buying cycle accounts as if they are the 1% that’s in a buying mode."

(see original LinkedIn thread here)

Actually, it bears pointing out that proper messaging aligned to the buyer journey decision process presupposes the fact that you are targeting the right audience in the first place, i.e., the right Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) in terms of the type of organization, and the right Buyer Persona with an understanding of their actual decision making roles. I'll get into these topics in a later article, but you can see in the original LinkedIn post by Tito that Gaetano replied to highlights two things: 1) the need for targeting the right audience, and 2) the need to apply the right messaging aligned to buyer journey decision process is required for ALL go-to-market teams, including Marketing.

And so, it's extremely important to understand the concept that at the buyer journey framework or the decision process is a completely different concept than your sales funnel. Ideally, they would be aligned.

In my next post, I will go more in detail of how I use the Buyer Journey Framework from SiriusDecisions. My hope is that you'll be able to implement this concept within your organization so that your prospects will begin to actually delight in hearing from you...because you've got your messaging down and understand your prospect's challenges.

Did you like this post and found it informative? If so, I would really appreciate it if you would share this to your network (i.e., LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, telling your mother…) using the share links on this page. Feel free to mention me @tones810 to share your thoughts on this topic with me – I’m always open to hearing other points of view and new ways of doing things!

Also, consider subscribing below if you’d like to receive updates on new posts and articles as they get published. Thanks for taking this journey with me!

Tony Yang

Tony is a long-time marketer with over 17 years experience in B2B SaaS companies. While he started his marketing career at IBM, for the past 14 years he's been leading marketing and revenue operations at various startups, including Mintigo (acquired by Anaplan), Qordoba (rebranded to Writer.com), and Conversion Logic (acquired by VideoAmp). He's been recognized as a thought leader and speaker on various topics such as ABM, PLG, marketing ops and revops, growth, and B2B marketing at past events including GTM Summit, FlipMyFunnel and SiriusDecisions. In addition, he is the Head of Growth at Mucker Capital and also serves as a coach and mentor at several startup accelerator programs.


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