As B2B marketers, we’ve come a long way. We understand our role as helping buyers progress through their buying process. We know that we’re more successful when we align marketing efforts with the ways our prospects prefer to buy as opposed to the ways we want to sell. And to do this, we know we need an ever-improving understanding of our buyers.

Organizations committed to understanding their buyers draw upon solid research. They build buyer personas and learn about their buyers’ preferences, including the issues that matter to buyers and their preferences for consuming information. Research may include interviews, analysis of market trends, conversations with analysts and third-party research. All these are great steps, but once marketers begin executing, too many skip a critical step – analyzing how buyers are actually behaving.

While it takes some elbow grease, you need to extend your organization’s conceptual understanding of how buyers are likely to behave into an understanding of how buyers actually respond to your organization’s offerings and tactics. Here’s one way to do it:

  1. Start by deciding what a “good deal” looks like. A good deal may be one that closed at the right price, occurred within the right timeframe, involved the right people or happened in the right market segment.
  2. Gather some deal data. Grab 10 to 12 deals that closed last quarter with those desirable characteristics, and pull your full interaction history with those accounts. This should cover interaction histories of every individual within the customer’s buying center. This data will likely come from your marketing automation platform (MAP) or sales force automation (SFA) system, or both.
  3. Line up buyer personas. Assign each individual from each deal to an established buyer persona. If personas haven’t been developed, you can simplify these assignments into buying roles like decisionmaker, user or ratifier.
  4. Plot out interaction histories on a timeline. Starting with a single deal, note the interactions that took place with each player, indicating the offer that was accepted and how it was delivered. Repeat this exercise for each of the identified deals.
  5. Draw conclusions from the patterns. Identify similarities between the successful deals, focusing on similar players and similar tactics at similar times. Patterns that emerge may point to some tactics as more effective with different personas at specific stages in the buying cycle. Document these patterns as assumptions. Test these assumptions against other groupings of deals to learn if they continue to hold or if (and how) they change.
  6. And there’s your start. With this type of touch analysis exercise, you’ll develop a better view into how your buyers are interacting with your company. Compare these findings to your current understanding of buyer personas and their preferences – then make tactical adjustments based on how your buyers are actually responding. It’s time to stop ignoring this critical step.