Business-to-Business (B2B) buyer behaviour has changed, as buyers delay their interaction with vendors until much later in the buying journey, having invested significant time in researching and assessing what options they have.
This new “tipping point” has changed the dynamic between buyer and seller. The marketplace is now “seller beware” as the power of self-research means that buyers already have extensive data and information available to them at the click of a mouse. In today’s market, 67% of the buyers journey is now done digitally as buyers actively seek to self-educate via the Internet.
The change in buying behaviour means that sellers are now slowly beginning to understand the need to adopt a new strategy on how to engage with buyers, to listen rather than sell.
According to Google research, B2B buyers conduct an average of 12 searches before they engage with a specific brand’s website. That means there can be between 7 – 12 touch points with a seller before a contact turns into a qualified lead, according to research from Walker Sands.
The increase in online search activity fuels far more research than ever before, so you need to make sure that as a business you have an impactful online presence, with you content distributed in those places your target audience will be seeking answers.
With so many touch points in the buying process the sales cycle has become longer and more complicated. Budgets are tighter, more options to consider, more stakeholders and a risk averse culture all contribute to a challenging sales cycle.
So how do you show that your company demonstrates focus, understanding and authority through its marketing messages?
The Power Of Self-Research and Inbound Marketing
Just as we do now in our own private lives, B2B buyers go online first to do their research and seek referrals and recommendations from colleagues and fellow professionals.
These changes in buyer behaviour mean that marketing teams now need to educate and qualify leads as they enter the sales funnel, nurturing them to build a relationship based on trust and authority.
For a lead generation programme, this means that the marketing role is extended further along the funnel, handing over to sales a warmer, more informed sales prospect.
The Inbound marketing methodology works to attract rather than distract customers. It does this by growing website traffic using educational and informative content that visitors are searching for to address a particular issue or opportunity.
How can companies respond to the new buyers journey?
The sales funnel maps the journey a person takes from prospect to customer. Although it is typically called a sales funnel, marketing has always been at the heart of the funnel. And, if marketing has one goal, it’s to nurture and attract a target audience who are at a stage in their buying journey when there is an opportunity to influence them.
Marketing has always sought to create and leverage these “moments of truth”, when a buyer is most susceptible. Marketers need to manage these touch points to show how their product or service addresses the customers needs better than anybody else, what makes them different, and why they do it better.
So what steps can you take to increase the number of sales leads in your pipeline?
Step 1. Brand positioning
When you need to differentiate yourself from your competitors, a well thought-out brand story can help you build an emotional tie with your audience. Prospective customers want to build a level of trust, so being open and transparent about why you are in business and what makes you unique is a good way to start defining for the customer your brand’s critical success factors. The following are some of the questions to start asking yourself to develop your storytelling:
- Why does my company/brand exist?
- Why would customers use you?
- What is it that your customers are trying to solve by purchasing your product or service?
- How do you do this better than any other business?
To help you define the critical success factors we have a template you can use with examples. Download it from our Growth Hacking & Inbound Marketing e-guide:
Step 2. Understanding your buyer’s pain by creating “buyer personas”
A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on research, your gut feeling and real customer data if it is available.
Without knowing who your ideal customers are, their backgrounds, goals, pain and how your product or service will benefit them, it’s very difficult to create content to attract leads.
Once you understand the buyer’s persona and their pain, invest time in creating relevant and timely content that responds to their needs, distributed in a format that they will read.
Download our Buyer’s Personas templates and guide, to get you started and focused on your customers pain.
Step 3. Capturing digital moments on your “buyer’s Journey”
You will need to review and detail the journey your customers take, identify the customer touch points and work on the kind of content or approach needed to influence their buying behaviour.
Where do you have most interaction with customers, is there a particular order to your buyer’s journey, and where could you influence them the most?
It is important to identify some of the variables that can affect a prospect as they travel along the buyer’s journey, and how they move from each lifecycle stage:
- Who are your competitors (local, regional, national or International)?
- Where is your sector or industry as a whole developing, especially locally is it based on price or quality?
- Which groups are becoming opinion formers or influencers in your industry?
- Do you have a competitor strategy (proactive, reactive, copy, run away, etc.)?
- What are the trends (type of business, customer requests, new source markets, etc.) that you have seen recently?
Step 4. Detailing your “Sales Funnel”
Typically a visitor to your website won’t buy from you straight away, it takes time for them to establish a level of trust and assess your solution as a match to their needs.
A funnel visualises the journey and helps you apply your marketing and sales efforts accordingly. For example, don’t talk about product features at the beginning of your conversation when visitors aren’t familiar with your brand or products or don’t realise that they actually have a need.
The concept of a traditional sales funnel dates back centuries and offers a simple metaphor to think about the path or buying journey a person takes.
The sales funnel will look different for each type of business, but we can think in common terms of the structure with a top of the funnel (TOFU), middle (MOFU) and bottom (BOFU).
The funnel traditionally has been a linear process where visitors start at the top of the funnel and then make their way down through different stages. There are more people at the top, making their mind up as to whether to continue, compared to the bottom of the funnel where there will be a small number of those ready to buy.
To understand more about the sales funnel Download our Content Marketing & The Sales Funnel e-guide, to get you focused on inbound growth.
Step 5. An effective website.
You did all that hard work to get the visitor to your website, so now you have to make sure that it is everything they thought it would be and you have planned out your conversion funnel.
It is critical now to look at your website through the eyes of your customer, ask yourself the following:
- Do you have content presented for a clearly defined buyer’s personas and their buying journey?
- Is content more sell, sell, sell rather than informing and educating one stage at a time?
- Are your conversion opportunities too high a commitment i.e. “contact me or buy now!”
- Do you have a mobile/responsive website design?
- Are you keeping up to date and applying your ongoing SEO strategy
- How are you measuring the performance of your website, and what actions are you taking
And of course make sure that when you get a visitor that you have thought through how to map their journey, depending on where they are in their buying journey.
Step 6. Get found – “SEO”
The digital marketing landscape has changed drastically and yet search engine optimisation (SEO) remains one of the most effective inbound marketing strategies.
SEO is not going to improve your onsite conversion rate by itself, but it will help visibility and, hopefully, increase traffic levels.
Content quality is an important aspect of SEO. That means content that answers a visitors questions with the necessary depth and breadth of information depending on where they are in the buyer’s journey.
It’s easy to get tied up with the detail, especially with SEO. Content and SEO are a match made in heaven, identify how you can get them working together.
A good place to start is to assess the quality of content that you are producing today, use our SWOT template to get to grips with your strengths and weaknesses download it from our Growth Hacking & Inbound Marketing e-guide:
Step 7. Address upfront the buying challenges
There are typically a number of challenges that buyers face in making a buying decision, factors that your business needs to address when you are developing your sales proposition.
Some of the questions you need to prepare for are:
- The decision challenge – does the buyer have a full and robust decision-making process in place?
- Switching process – is the customer unsure about the costs and changes involved if they are switching suppliers?
- VFM (value for money) – is the buyer able to measure the added value that your solution brings?
- Requirements needed for a new system – that include implementation elements and employee training needs.
- A prioritised list of technology requirements to help and inform a prospective buyer on how to select the right vendor.
So how do I know if I need inbound marketing?
I think it is quite common to challenge any methodology that seems new. I know as a business when we started using HubSpot ourselves we at first had reservations. One of the first things I would recommend is to go through our evaluation worksheet, and if you are not able to answer the questions, then may be now is a good time to think more about how you generate leads for your business, and the value of inbound marketing.
You can always book a free consultation with us to understand more about getting the most from your digital marketing and how inbound can become a part of your growth strategy.