Engage B2B Buyers in an Uncertain Environment

June 24, 2020
Contributor: Gloria Omale

B2B marketing leaders should employ these strategies to reduce B2B buyers’ uncertainty and unlock purchase decisions.

Chief marketing officers (CMOs) at B2B organizations go all-out to break through to buyers with personally relevant communications, yet nearly two-thirds fail to see returns on their investments in message targeting and relevance. This challenge is rooted in the multiple layers of uncertainty faced by B2B buyers when considering a major purchase, which often lead to delayed or smaller deals.

According to one B2B marketing executive in the technology industry, “If you don’t come at it in a different, unique way, you’re just not getting the conversions. We have to be more precise and more personalized in our engagement. We don’t have a choice if we want to hit our numbers.”


Scenario Planning for Marketing

Anticipate the future and create suitable action plans to stay ahead of market disruption.

Impact of COVID-19

B2B marketers continue to strive for personally relevant communications amid the heightened uncertainty of the COVID-19 crisis. According to a Gartner B2B Marketing Leaders COVID-19 Poll, 59% of B2B marketing leaders have created more personally relevant communications as a result of the pandemic. However, the crisis has added a new layer of uncertainty for potential B2B buyers, amplifying the uncertainties that buyers already face when considering a major purchase.

“Even under relatively stable conditions, B2B buying is inherently uncertain,” says Sharon Cantor Ceurvorst, Director, Research, Gartner for Marketers. “The average buying group now includes 11 active members and up to seven occasional participants, and buying groups spend an average of 15% of the buying cycle reconciling different information sources. In the face of shifting stakeholders and conflicting information, coupled now with the effects of a global pandemic, buyers feel more uncertain than ever about how to move forward.”

Read more: Adapt Your Marketing Strategy for COVID-19

Organizational changes that contribute to uncertainty

Compounding buyers’ uncertainty, 93% of B2B purchases take place in the context of organizational change, such as a shift in business operations, market environment or organizational structure. These changes create further uncertainty for buyers — raising questions about which information signals to pay attention to, where organizational influence is shifting and whether their organization will follow through on its vision.

Even before facing the coronavirus crisis and probable global recession, 81% of B2B buyers experienced moderate to high levels of environmental uncertainty, agreeing with statements such as:

  • My organization is paralyzed by uncertainty.

  • It’s not clear how organizational change will affect me or my team.

  • The amount of change in my organization is overwhelming.

Learn moreThe Secret to B2B Account Growth

Reducing buyer uncertainty

Gartner research found that improving the quality of buyers’ decision making is associated with an 8% decrease in uncertainty. When B2B buyers make and implement what they believe to be rigorous, well-considered decisions within their organization, they feel more confident about their ability to navigate inherently uncertain conditions. 

To reduce uncertainty and improve the quality of decision making for buyers, Gartner recommends that B2B marketing leaders:

  • Prioritize a high-impact organizational change for a key customer segment that can be supported by your category. “As B2B buyers make strategic and operational changes to return to growth following the COVID-19 crisis, it is even more important to understand and support the organizational context behind a specific purchase decision,” says Cantor Ceurvorst.

  • Document discrete tasks that target customers must complete to achieve their organizational change objectives, and create or curate enablement content pieces that support task completion. Organizing enablement content around the change that target buyers are trying to make creates pull for multiple colleagues and aids their decision making.

  • Deliver enablement content using direct-to-customer channels and through sales reps by providing resources that help customers with changes surrounding a purchase. 


Gartner for Marketers clients can learn more in Engaging B2B Buyers in an Uncertain Environment. Gartner clients can also visit the Gartner COVID-19 Resource Center to learn more about how to lead through the disruption of coronavirus.

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