Feel lost? Understanding the hidden B2B buyer’s journey

Feel lost? Understanding the hidden B2B buyer’s journey

As previously published on 8/5/21 in The Drum

by Scott Gillum
Estimated read time: 4 Minutes

Years ago, doctors treated gastric ulcers as a chronic disease, most likely brought on by stress or spicy foods. As a young pharma rep carrying the world’s first billion-dollar drug in my bag, I’d actively promoted how this wonder product could relieve the symptoms for their ulcer patients.

That was until the day I met a doctor who questioned why we weren’t selling a drug to cure the problem. It was a very valid point, one that would not be fully understood until a couple of years after I left that job.

Given the success of that drug, other similar products would soon follow, all for the relief of ulcer symptoms. Pharma companies followed the money, rather than investing in developing a cure.

Recently, I recalled this memory while looking at Scott Brinker’s Martech Landscape, which now includes 8,000 companies. There are companies investing millions of dollars into B2B marketing technologies that have hardly moved the needle on marketing performance – tools created to treat the symptoms of poor performance rather than fix them.

This issue has persisted for years. Performance should be improving by now, unless we’re missing something.

Here’s an example: ask a salesperson to describe their ideal buyer in detail and this is what you will likely hear. They want more buyers who are ‘risk-takers’, ‘innovators’, ‘people who are looking to make a name for themselves’ or ‘big-picture thinkers’.

What you won’t hear is prospects who are ‘technical buyers’, ‘budget holders’ or the ‘CEO’. Do you see what we are missing? Sales reps are describing personality attributes that make prospects ideal buyers, not their role, title or budget authority. The martech stack doesn’t capture those descriptors.

Still not convinced? Ask a salesperson why they lost a deal when they should have won it. You’ll probably hear “they had an existing relationship” (trust) or “they have used the solution/service in the past” (security). These are emotional decision drivers also not capturing or seen in CRM tools.

Get at the cause to find the cure

There is a buyer’s journey that is hidden. Our sales and marketing tools are not built to capture, track or provide us with insights into what to do about these ‘soft’ factors that impact deals. And it may be more important than anything we are tracking or measuring today. It’s time, like the doctor I encountered all those years ago, to ask the question of why we aren’t fixing the problem.

In 2005, a couple of Australian researchers named Barry Marshall and Robin Warren were awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for their work on linking the bacteria Helicobacter Pylori to the formation of gastric ulcers. They won this coveted prize after spending decades trying to convince the world of their discovery, even coming to a point where Marshall ingested H. Pylori to prove the causation to ulcers (it worked, he developed an ulcer three days later).

Marshall’s research was hugely disruptive and would eventually lead to the demise of a multi-billion-dollar therapeutic class of drugs. Their joint research in the late 80s was discredited for years, until the first drug of its type (the one I promoted) came off patent. Suddenly, gastric ulcers could be cured by prescribing a common antibiotic (which, ironically, was also manufactured by the same company).

Millions of dollars have been invested into martech tools, yet our sales and marketing performance have not improved. This industry is thriving by treating poor performance as a chronic disease – developing tools to keep the focus on extending reach and increasing scale, not on improving conversion rate or return on effort and investment.

Just as Marshall and Warren used postmortem research and forensic medicine to link the cause and effect of H. Pylori on the body, we are doing the same with breaking down deals closed, both won and lost. We are starting to get at the ‘cause’ – and to find a cure.

What we’re finding doesn’t necessarily match with the conventional wisdom of the day. Intent data may not actually show any real intent. Lead nurturing programs may be set up to nurture prospects that will never become leads. Campaigns may be targeting ‘buyers’ who are actually the exact opposite, a personality type that is more likely to kill a deal than help to close it.

It’s called personality-based marketing, and it has the promise to cure our ills… but please don’t make me ingest a lead to prove it.

The Real Audience for B2B Marketing is…

The Real Audience for B2B Marketing is…

As previously published on 5/21/21 in The Drum

by Scott Gillum
Estimated read time: 4 Minutes

Not the “C-Suite.” Sorry if you were hoping to hear otherwise. Despite the pleas from the sales and product organizations, unless you have a solution for a “c-suite” level issue (and few companies have that), they are most likely not your audience. 

Sure, they may have to make the decision and/or sign the deal because they own the budget which makes them an important target…for your sales organization, not marketing. 

There I said it feel free to forward this post to the head of sales. I can say this because the goal of marketing is to find an audience, get their attention and motivate them to take action. It’s not to sell them, which is often forgotten. 

So given that, who is the audience for B2B marketers? 

It’s a “director” level position. 

Now before you throw the baby “c-level” out with the bathwater, let me explain why they’re important. Actually, I’ll give you three reasons which are all backed by “the numbers.” 

  1. There are more of them 
  2. They feel the pain 
  3. They’re motivated to take action  

Think of an organization chart: there is a pyramid with the “c-level” executive on top, vice presidents in the middle and directors near the bottom. As you cascade down the pyramid there are more and more positions. Logically, for every one c-suite executive there are possibly 10’s of director level positions. And marketing, like sales, is a numbers game. More important, is the role each level plays in the purchase decision process. Typically, the “c-suite” executive is the decision maker, the VP the budget holder, and the directors, well, they’re the users. And as the users of the product or services, they are also the ones who feel the pain. 


Feeling the pain makes for a motivated audience and that’s who marketers need to get in front of with content. There is also another really important reason that directors are important and it also has to do with motivations. 

Being a source of information and bringing new ideas, vendors, and solutions to the table is a smart way to demonstrate value to the organization. They’re motivated by career ambitions so feed them information. 

Not convinced yet? Here are some numbers to back up my argument. Over the past year we’ve collected data from clients on over 10,000 prospects and leads sources from marketing activities, lead nurturing programs, and new MQL entries into CRM. 

Guess how many had “director” level titles? Over 60% and that number went even higher for MQL’s. Yet for some reason when we plan marketing campaigns, the target audience is often defined as the “c-suite.” 

The problem, the c-suite does not actively seek information from marketing channels. If they are looking for a new solution or vendors, they are relying on their network. Peer-to-peer is the number one source of information, and it’s not even close. 

Marketers, it’s time to step up and defend your audience. You need to understand and build content for directors with the understanding that they will share it with their bosses and perhaps their bosses’ boss. They are the door openers as well as the path to decision makers. 

For sales, they’ll also one day realize that they are key for them as well. Directors are at the beginning of the buyers’ journey and without motivated participants it doesn’t move. 

The truth is, just like the fact that the c-suite is not a viable marketing audience, marketing doesn’t actually motivate prospects to take action. Rather it finds motivated audiences who are seeking information, and that audience is dominated by directors. 

How To Productize Professional Services IP

How To Productize Professional Services IP

Productizing an organization’s intellectual property makes sense for many reasons. It can help build scale, improve valuations and create efficiencies. The challenge is to get the desired outcome it may require new skill sets, a change in culture and significant investment. Learn how to avoid the pitfalls and create a strategy for success from Eisha Tierney Armstrong, author of Productize in our latest podcast.



To hear Scott’s entire conversation with Eisha Tierney Armstrong, author of Productize about “How To Productize Professional Services IP”, listen or download here:

How ‘false positive’ personality types disrupt B2B intent data

How ‘false positive’ personality types disrupt B2B intent data

As previously published on 4/16/21 in The Drum

by Scott Gillum
Estimated read time: 5 Minutes

How ‘false positive’ personality types disrupt B2B intent data.

There is no argument that when a B2B buyer begins their journey, they start online. All of the research and data points are right, the journey starts with a search; often times with a solution and/or vendor in mind. Do you know what else B2B buyers do? They search for information even when they’re not in a buying cycle, which is a problem because our tools don’t know the difference. Here’s what you need to keep in mind.

If your organization is in the “advisory” or information services industry, and/or considered to be a thought leader in the industry, congratulations, the majority of the people consuming your content are not buyers, they’re fans.

The expensive intent data you’re buying or retargeting campaign is going to waste because it is tracking engagement, and not real intent. To get to intent, you must first understand the audience’s motivations.

In particular, there are two segments of your audience who actively search and use content but neither doing as part of a buying journey, and if they are, they’re planning to make things difficult. Take for example these two scenarios.

1. The false positive “C-level”. Nothing will set off the bells of a lead nurturing program like a C-Level hitting your content. A senior executive “Seeker/Sharer” personality type is constantly scanning the horizons searching for new insights. The problem is they don’t own anything. They love finding new solutions, ideas, tools and vendors, but a resulting action will require someone else’s involvement. These personalities will “turtle” on you, hitting your content especially if you’re a thought leader, and then disappear only to reappear again in three to four months. It’s super frustrating for lead nurturing programs because they are not linear. They’ll hop around from topic to topic as they search for information to share with others. Unfortunately, this personality type only meets the “A” on a BANT scoring index, the budget and need, most often, will sit with someone else.

2. The entrenched “status quo seeker”. This is a tough one. Not only can this personality fool marketers, they can also trick sales into thinking there is interest. The “Neophobe” personality type seeks to reinforce their own point of view by consuming information that aligns with their own beliefs. Think of this person as someone who only watches Fox News or CNN as their source for political news and information. Your content doesn’t move them to take action, it entrenches them in their own world. Even if it was different from their POV, they will read it through their own filter that will align with how they think. As for confusing sales, this personality is friendly, in fact, it’s one of their key attributes, but they will do nothing to advance a sale, advocate for your brand and/or solution. It’s just not in their DNA.

Once you are able to filter out the false positives, you can get to real intent. “Intent” is shown through intentions…e.g. someone has to do something. Downloading a piece of content or attending a webinar doesn’t dig deep enough into motivations to satisfy that criteria.

To do that you need to understand how different personality types interact with each other in the buying group, this requires watching their online behaviors. The key is not consumption of content or engagement, it’s sharing.

The “Seeker/Sharer” whom I mentioned earlier, they are the most important audience for marketing. Stop chasing them and find out who they are sharing your information with…that’s your target. Seekers will find the “doers” inside the organization. And those people will most likely also have the need and the budget.

Now you have intent, that person intends to drive the buying process forward… because it’s their personality, they champion other people’s good ideas. Sharers need champions, champions need sharers, and you need to know them to be successful.


Want to convert that B2B sale? You’d better be aware of these 4 buyer personalities.

Want to convert that B2B sale? You’d better be aware of these 4 buyer personalities.

As previously published on 3/22/21 in The Drum

by Scott Gillum
Estimated read time: 5 Minutes

B2B marketers are great at targeting customers, but often not so great at understanding the personal motivations behind each buyer. Carbon Design chief executive Scott Gillum explains what you need know about the four key B2B buying personalities.

We all have different personalities but for some reason when it comes to business marketing, we forget that point. We often treat a person as a specific role, say a chief executive officer, the same as any of their peers. A CEO is just a CEO, they all have the same needs, goals and interests.

It’s one of the reasons why our campaign performance suffers. Despite our best efforts, benchmark performance for all key metrics hasn’t moved in the last 20 years or more. If we look at our best performing campaigns that achieve double digits response, or click thru rates, our failure rate is still in the 80-90% range.

After a year of using AI-enabled personality profiling tools, we’ve now seen a common trend among customers, responders and quality leads, according to a recent study conducted by Carbon Design. The commonality: 70-75% of audiences are influence-able through the use of marketing activities, the rest are not, at least using marketing only.

In search of ‘sharers’ and ‘success-oriented’ personalities

Personality type reveals a buyers’ motivations and behavior. The good news is that there are two personality types consistently show up in our research that are active information seekers and they typically make up 65-70% of the audience. It skews higher in North America, and lower in Asian countries.

The first segment, the ’Sharer,’ actively seeks information to share with others. Sharers use a broad set of sources and, in particular, likes to leverage their network. They also like high level, big picture content that’s easy to share — think of short, animated videos and infographics. This segment brings new thinking and solutions into the organization and they can sell it to others.

The second segment, the ’Success-oriented’ person is looking for information that can help them, their team, or company improve performance. This person is a driver and if you can connect with them they will become an advocate for your brand or solution.

B2B marketing awoke to the need to infuse emotions into its messaging years ago and now we know that this personal connection resonates with this particular audience segment.

These are your marketing targets. They may or may not be decision makers or have a ’C-Level’ title, but one thing is certain, they are critical audiences for marketing messaging and performance.

Avoiding ‘Steady Eddies’ and battling the ‘challengers’

Now, let’s turn our attention to the two groups who are not targets. First up, are the ’safety-oriented’ individuals. These are your ’steady Eddies,’ and like nothing more than to stay within the status quo. They will take your content and use it to reinforce their current position. Marketing alone cannot dislodge them. That’s why you need to rely on an influencer, and/or others within the buying group to move them.

Last, but not least, are the ’challenge’ folks. They are motivated to deny or debate anything that is counter to their existing point of view. Happily labeled as skeptics, they engage late in the buying process and are often the last hurdle to overcome for a final decision. The upside is that once won over, they can become advocates but to win them you need a salesperson or an internal influencer.

Here’s the point, any one of these four personalities can be the CEO you’re targeting. But yet, we use one approach to develop content, and/or one way to engage them. Yes, they may have similar needs in the role, but they search and use information differently – and that is determined by their personality.

Until now marketing hasn’t had the ability to effectively read audiences. With sophisticated AI tools we can now customize content and approaches to attract certain types of prospects – the ones key to starting and advancing new opportunities. We can also improve lead nurturing activities by better understanding motivations, interest and connection with others within the buying group.

Finally, we have the opportunity to make a significant improvement in performance and satisfy audiences’ needs at the same time. Capturing this opportunity will require getting to know buyers, as not just a title or a role, but as a person. Because at the end of the process, a person is making a decision and that decision is personal.

How To Get A Better Return From ABM

How To Get A Better Return From ABM

Today there are an abundance of solutions available for sales and marketing, yet sales productivity still lags. On average, an ABM program could be using up to 16 different platforms. Scott interviews Usman Sheikh, Founder & CEO of xiQ on their solution and how organizations can get a better return on their sales and marketing investments.



To hear Scott’s entire conversation with Usman Sheikh, Founder & CEO of xiQ about “How To Get A Better return From ABM”, listen or download here: