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Understanding B-to-B Deals: Four Components of Touch Analysis

January 01, 2015

By analyzing patterns of interaction, organizations can uncover insights about what influences buyer and customer decisions

Touch analysis is a technique that b-to-b sales and marketing organizations use to understand buyer behavior and refine their tactics. By applying variations of the four components of touch analysis, organizations can tailor their touch analysis to specific analytical questions. In this issue of SiriusPerspectives, we describe the four components of touch analysis and the potential variations that can be applied to drive deeper insights.

Touch Analysis

One: Tactic

As the primary input into touch analysis, this component focuses on how individual buyers or customers respond to tactics executed by marketing and sales (e.g. white papers downloaded, webinars attended, in-person meetings held). Analysis may focus on one or more of the following variations:

Delivery mechanism. Because many organizations categorize tactics (and budget for them) based on how they are delivered, and the required data is typically available, tactic analysis often begins with the vehicle through which offers are delivered (e.g. email, company Web site, social media site, face-to-face meeting, advertisements on a third-party Web site).

Offer/offer type. Organizations can analyze individual offers (e.g. the newest analyst report, an invitation to a sporting event) or, if large quantities of offers are produced, categories of similar offer types (e.g. themes, buyer needs, products). Regardless of the approach used, each offer must be tagged to indicate its purpose. Tactics can be grouped by the buying process stage or customer lifecycle stage for which they are intended.

Messenger. This refers to one of three ways through which targets receive offers: outbound marketing, outbound contact made by sales, and inbound marketing. Messenger choices are meaningful in the planning process because they match tactics with the interaction preferences of targeted buyers.

Two: Player

In b-to-b environments, tactics are extended to individuals, or players, within buying centers. By categorizing players, an organization can compare how similar individuals within different companies and buying processes are responding to tactics. Analysis may focus on one or more of the following variations:

Buying role. Sales teams often label players in sales force automation system opportunity records by their buying roles (e.g. champion, ratifier, implementer). Practicing this sales process discipline provides insights on when and how roles participate, which provides visibility into the requirements of each buyer role.

Persona. Organizations that have clearly defined personas can use available contact data to map players involved in deal cycles to defined personas. Analyzing interactions by persona allows the organization to refine its understanding of a persona’s preferences and likely behaviors.

Job title. Organizations without developed personas may consider mapping individuals’ job titles to a small list of job roles that typically show up in deals.

Three: Deal

Touch analysis by deal can be a resource-intensive activity. For manageability, select a small number of similar deals to use for analysis. Analysis may focus on one or more of the following variations:

Opportunity. Choose a sample of opportunity cycles (e.g. 12) from different buying organizations with similar characteristics (e.g. type of company, product/solution purchased, opportunity size, sales cycle time). Investigate all interactions that took place between the company and members of the buying center during a defined period of time.

Account. Selling organizations whose customers typically engage in multiple buying cycles simultaneously may be unable to divide interactions that take place during one opportunity cycle from those that take place during another. Consumed assets often have no clear association with a specific buying cycle, and attempts to determine the buyer’s intent without conducting interviews are generally fruitless. In these cases, analyze overall account interactions during a set period of time across multiple accounts with similar characteristics. Select accounts based on characteristics like account size, tenure as a customer, stage of customer lifecycle, products purchased and market segment.

Four: Timing

Interactions with customers and buyers must be analyzed within a specific timeframe – typically one year, or any other recently ended time period that includes a full opportunity cycle. Analysis may focus on one or more of the following variations:

Deal chronology. The simplest way to look at activities is to place them on a timeline. Most organizations can use data on when an opportunity originated and when a deal closed as timeline anchors for comparing deals. Instead of using absolute timelines, create a model that lines up each deal by the opportunity origination date and places each deal’s tactics on the timeline before and after that date. For example, tactic consumption might show up as occurring on the opportunity create date minus five days, or plus six days.

Buyer’s journey. Organizations that have built and categorized their tactics around specific stages in the buyer’s journey may overlay these stages on their deal chronology touch analysis. Buyer’s journey stage placement can be estimated based on the type and sequence of activities that engaged buyers across deals. When analyzing against the buyer’s journey, organizations should identify tactics that are frequently used at stages of the buying process other than the intended stage. These misaligned tactics may reveal a gap in the organization’s understanding of buyer’s needs through the various stages, or an absence of appropriate content to meet a need.

Customer lifecycle. As with buyer’s journey stages, customer lifecycle stages may also be overlaid on a timeline. These stages often extend further than the period being analyzed, so it can be instructive to compare customers that are at similar stages of the customer lifecycle. Seek to identify stages of the customer lifecycle where tactic misalignment is occurring or buyer’s needs are not supported.

The Sirius Decision

Although touch analysis is necessary for organizations that want to understand how buyers and customers behave, it is vastly underutilized, as organizations often shy away from the seemingly complex series of options associated with this type of analysis. We advise b-to-b organizations to start small, beginning with the basics, and build toward the more complex variations, such as overlaying the stages of the buyer’s journey and customer lifecycle across basic deal chronologies. Even if analysis remains limited in detail and scope, knowing more about buyer behavior is always better than continuing to guess.