Mapping The AI Buyer's Journey

Posted by Rob May on Mar 8, 2018 8:12:13 AM

For almost a decade now, the "buyer's journey" has been the lens through which B2B marketers view their customer. The general concept is that the typical B2B buyer does a significant amount of research before engaging with a seller, and the framework makes it easier to map content of various types to the stage of buyer research. But artificial intelligence has thrown a wrench into the buyer's journey.

Most of the time, the journey starts with awareness of a problem, and your best content strategy is to create content that helps the potential buyer understand that problem. But every once in a while, the journey starts with awareness of a new disruptive technology. This difference in starting point has a strong effect on how you interact with a buyer because in this latter scenario, the buyer isn't coming to you with a specific problem. Instead, they are investigating a specific technology to understand what problems it can possibly solve.

If you are reading this in 2018, when it was written, you are most likely in tech, or reasonably forward thinking, and so AI might not be such a big stretch for you. But imagine you suddenly started seeing "floogleantlers" on the news, and in some advertising, but couldn't figure out what they were or if you needed them. If you don't understand what "floogleantlers" are, then you can't really ever assess if they can solve a problem for you. Your buyer's journey, in this case, will start with figuring out what floogleantlers do. This is why the buyer's journey is a bit different during early phases of tech markets, where you have to be more evangelical.

What does this mean for buyers and sellers?

If you are a B2B buyer, it means part of your vendor evaluation will almost certainly be how generally knowledgeable they are about AI. This makes sense because when implementing any new technology, you want someone to help you in plain English. Too often, early markets are lead by people with deep technical experience who expect you to be in awe about their technology rather than how you can apply it. Choosing AI vendors with good high level material to educate you about the space makes sense, because they are probably better at finding the right application to your business.

If you are a seller of B2B AI software, this means you have to market further up the content funnel than you otherwise might. You can't just start with the problem you solve, because the buyer may not be educated enough yet about your general market.

And for both buyer and seller, it means there may be a "pilot" stage for the technology roll out, regardless of size. While pilots are common in large enterprise sales, they aren't in the midmarket. But that changes when technology is brand new and there aren't many documented use cases or case studies yet. In new tech markets, pilots are common for companies of all sizes.

At Talla, we have dealt with the buyer's journey in 3 different ways. Obviously we create a lot of high level content that we hope will be helpful (like this post!). We also push customers with low problem awareness into paid pilots instead of straight into paid licensing deals. This does a better job of mapping both sides to a successful outcome. And finally, when pure tire kickers come in who just want to know "what can AI do for my business" we offer an initial assessment for a small fee, which of course can be applied to a purchase if it all works out. This helps separate the most serious potential buyers from the pure tire kickers. It also proves to be a tool that is very useful to buyers to help figure out exactly what they want, and if Talla is the right solution. But it isn't something B2B companies typically do, and we don't plan on doing it beyond 2018 because the AI market is maturing fast enough that we think buying behavior will look more traditional by the end of the year.

Whether you are an enterprise buyer looking for an AI solution, or an AI company looking to sell to the enterprise, I hope this post has been helpful for you. And of course, if you are looking for a tool that is part "intelligent, thinking, knowledge base" and part "digital worker with simple skills" to replace some of your existing internal infrastructure and workflows, I hope you will give Talla a look.

Topics: Marketing, knowledge management, Digital Workers