In typical fashion, as B2B buyers become elusive, sellers pop up everywhere – normally at the least opportunistic moment.
Changes in B2B Buyer Behaviour
Traditionally, the pattern of behaviour in a buyers-market, has been for sellers to become even louder to stand out from the crowd, or to resort to price discounting to try and hook a customer.
Recently, how buyers engage with sellers, and the behaviour they adopt when searching for information has changed. Research from Sirius Decisions found, 67% of the buyers journey is now done digitally to source information and self-educate.
With this change in the dynamic from buyer to “seller beware” it makes reaching and engaging with a B2B audience much more difficult – a fragmented media space, cluttered with competing businesses all vying for attention.
So, it’s no wonder that buyers are prone to filtering out what is irrelevant content at the expense of your message.
Website visitors have the power to jump off whenever they want – which is the norm as the majority are not ready to buy but are building up their knowledge and trust in your brand.
So with the changes in B2B buyer behaviour, it’s clear that buyers are moving outside the confines of the traditional definition of the sales and marketing funnel.
The End of the Traditional Sales Funnel?
Marketing created to generate awareness is designed to attract leads into the top of the sales funnel, hopefully to add sales leads into the pipeline to then hand over to sales to convert.
Figuring out where people exit your website or “bounce off”, helps you to work backwards to finding a particular touch point that may need improving to keep your website “sticky”.
Using Google Analytics to track where the site traffic enters, the number of steps users have to take while navigating from page to page, and tracing their exit point will also offer great actionable insights.
The problem with much of the sales funnel conversation is that it describes a funnel with a definite end – buy or not buy. If you don’t buy, you must be either stuck in the middle or fallen out of the bottom. A common mistake is to assume that if a visitor doesn’t progress from one stage to the next that they must have dropped out and disappeared.
Moving from one stage to another in the funnel, entering and leaving at different points, is contrary to the idea of a traditional funnel – which has only two openings, one at the top and one at the bottom and fails to track any leakage.
Today a sales prospects is moving across multiple devices and channels, as they jump into and out of the funnel, behaviour which has changed with the new buyer’s journey as it has gone digital.
In the same sales-funnel you’ll have visitors entering part way through the funnel, some will exit early, some will skip stages, and others will engage multiple times at the same stage – all in a non-linear way. There are as many different buying journeys as there are buyers.
If Google was the first place you went to search for your latest purchase, then you have joined the 97 percent of consumers that go online to research products and services.
When we as customers follow a sales conversion path, logically, the company that we ultimately buy from needs to have been exposed be to us at some point along that journey.
Buyers are more selective that ever before, they don’t need to hear from a brand directly to make a buying decision. And that’s a problem, because the traditional approach to doing business that many companies are hanging on to – the outbound-centric models are not effective, as buyers filter out the noise or the direct approach.
Conversion rates require ongoing maintenance and should be regularly assessed. However, when conversion rates are dropping, it’s common for businesses to start panicking.
But before you start slashing prices there are some important questions to ask yourself to seek out the problem:
A Complex Sales Cycle
If your sales cycle involves a high-cost investment or is a high-consideration sales process, then you need to take into account how buyers have changed their approach.
In a recent survey, 74% of business buyers told Forrester they conduct more than half of their research online before making an offline purchase.
B2B buyers have had to evolve their approach to buying because of an increase in the complexities of their own decision-making process.
An elongated sales cycle, the various vested interests of stakeholders, a focus on cost and a multitude of different vendor options – all complicate the process.
Put Yourself in Your Customers Shoes
Use your expertise and knowledge to educate prospects, build authority in what you say and trust in what you do.
By asking questions and learning about the consequences of failure for your buyers, it’s easier to develop content around how you can answer a buyer’s questions. By creating a buyer persona you’ll learn how to recognise the signs when prospects are open to engage.
Being able to offer advice and value to prospects regardless of whether they’re ready to buy, builds credibility and authority for your brand.
Is There A Market For Your Product?
Analysing the marketplace for your product is something you do in the early stages of product development. It’s part of gathering initial research on your audience and understanding what they need and how your product fulfils that need.
So, it makes sense to revisit your research to assess how your product is performing against the customers’ needs. Is the price point positioning right for this market – can anybody afford what you sell or you are under-pricing it?
An important marketing lesson to learn is that when you have a B2B product that is highly complex, customers may not actually realise or just simply ignore that they need it. Or maybe the segment you are targeting is not big enough to support the sales you need?
Start conversations around your buyer’s plans, goals and challenges. What options do they have, what are the consequences if they fail? And remember when necessary to point out how you are different from your competitors.
How Do You Select A Market For Your Product?
Start with what you can manage – a small market. Probably only a small portion of the population will be interested in your solution. The perfect target market is a small group, concentrated together and served by few or no competitors.
If you try to market to everyone, you waste both time and money. Ask yourself how does your product meet the needs of the people searching for it?
Do You Have An Effective Targeting Strategy?
It’s frustrating to see large numbers of visitors landing on your site, but not see any convert.
If you’re getting the visitor numbers but lacking sales, one of the first questions you should ask is whether you’re targeting the right people? Conversion is more about the quality of your visitors rather than the quantity. Qualified visitors will be smaller in number to your site, but are more likely to convert.
How to Establish Trust
Asking visitors to share information for example to allow them to download gated content requires a level of trust, that you’re not about to use and abuse their email address or information.
One study from Taylor Nelson Sofres showed that consumers might terminate as many as 70% of online purchases due to a lack of trust. People may really want what you’re selling, but if they don’t trust you, then they’ll never convert.
Do You Have A Compelling Story?
Storytelling is a powerful sales tool when it connects with an audience.
Public relations (PR) and inbound marketing are mutually effective in boosting brand awareness, increasing website traffic, creating a brand identity, and distributing your content to the right audience. PR are accomplished storytellers, creating narratives or angles to advance the agenda of their client in order to protect, enhance or start to build a brand’s reputation.
Inbound marketing can augment PR efforts and serve as an amplifier to the content that is created. An inbound strategy can benefit in many ways, providing a platform to post fresh, new content along with optimising relevant and targeted keywords, and building thought leadership.
Celebrate What Makes You Different
If a visitor to your website can’t identify your company’s unique value within those first 3 seconds of being on your homepage, chances are you’ve already lost their interest and their business.
When visitors first arrive on your site, you need to tell them exactly what makes you different and what problem you are going to solve to help them succeed.
A good way to address a new visitor is to prominently place your value proposition to detail:
- What you do
- Who you do it for
- How you do it differently
Your brand’s unique personality should help to differentiate your business from the competition, aligning imagery and messaging will reinforce this positioning.