Shortening the B2B sales cycle with inbound marketing

kennedy group ab

There is no magical formula to growing a business apart from a lot of hard work and sometimes a little luck. If you add to this the multiple new, ever “noisier” communication channels, an increasing number of mobile devices to distract us and the rising influence of a new generation of consumers, it’s no wonder that as businesses we may sometimes wonder where and how to apply effort to generate and nurture new leads.

The Internet and access to cheaper technology have levelled the playing field in today’s competitive market place to some extent, providing access to the same new tools, platforms and strategies to fuel our growth no matter the size of your business – small, medium, large and solopreneur.

Whether you are beginning your journey as a start-up, or ready to give up (hopefully not), or may be your brand is ripe for change, all businesses can benefit from a better understanding of their customers. 

In today’s economy most companies work in a crowded market place, finding there way through the noise and advertising clutter with a limited budget – so how can your brand stand out from the crowd?

Starting the inbound marketing journey

We have put together five steps that as a business you can tackle all in one go, or work on the steps one by one that you feel will have the most impact. All of these steps can be undertaken with little cost but will need you to invest some of your time.

Step 1 – The Buyers Journey

To lay out a plan it is vital to have a clear view of what your company stands for, and how you are going to be different and fulfil your customer’s needs better than the rest. The complex nature of a buyer’s journey today (see chart below), with an increasing number of touch points, different stakeholders and multiple decision makers has made the B2B buying process far more complex and longer than it has ever been.

Content Mapping secmaker v4-025614-edited.jpg

To fuel growth in a business it is important to adopt a mindset that is “customer focused or buyer-centric”. 

For a more mature company being solely customer focused could represent a significant mind-shift to employ tactics that target increased buyer engagement, to listen rather than always be ready to automatically switch in to a “selling mode”.

So Get To Know Your Audience!

If you don’t know or understand the profile of your ideal customer, how can you be ready attract them to your business? If you don’t know what their challenges or opportunities are how can you position your products or services effectively to this target market?

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Step 2 –  A Buyer Persona

Each type of ideal customer has different wants and needs. And when you know what these are, you can target a relevant message that builds trust and credibility around your solution. A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on buyer research that uses avatars and names to help you visualise a persona.

The first step is to challenge your own personal view of the customer, as it could be a little narrow if you rely just on your own feelings. To start researching your personas look through your own contact database, capture information from forms and data fields on your website, and get feedback from colleagues and customers.

Step 3 – The Sales Funnel

The concept of the sales funnel is to show the theoretical journey that your B2B sales prospects take as they go from discovering their problem right through to shortlisting vendors and making a purchase.

At the top of the funnel (TOFU), the widest part of the funnel is where you will want to make the most noise possible to make people aware of your brand. In the chart below, this is the area between Need recognition – Research. The middle of the funnel (MOFU) is smaller, as there are less people who would qualify as being able to buy from you, this is the area Evaluation and the bottom of the funnel (BOFU), this is the area Buying decision – is the most narrow as these are the smallest segment of people ready and able to buy from you. 

The structure of the sales funnel can vary considerably but there are some basic points to consider on how buyers find their own path.

  • Discovery – Gathering options and establishing criteria for what they want as they may not realise what kind of problem they have, and at this early stage they are looking to understand more.
  • Shortlists – Prospects may choose a set of options to check your solution against, in order to assess whether you make the list after their initial research.
  • It’s all in the detail – At the later stages if there is more interest and the customer is considering your product worthy, they will want to understand more about your product features.
  • Validation – When buyers are close to a purchase decision, they often look for alternative sources of endorsements or recommendations that they feel they can trust.
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Step 4 – Your Website or “Shop Window”

Being found online and creating a positive website user experience are key to generating and engaging with your leads. But building a website doesn’t have to be a costly and time-consuming experience.

Start with the basics – You can get started with just a Homepage, About us page, Contact us page, and a Blog (for all that organic traffic you’ll want to attract). Then, once you start creating content you can add landing pages to capture details of your visitors as they click on links and download content.

Designing your website – You don’t need to have the flashiest website, but a basic approach that supports your business values and generates qualified visitor traffic.

Symbols and iconography – Icon visuals can illustrate a concept well and a distinctive look helps guide visitors around your site.

Text – Make sure your colours work together, always test the legibility of what you write. And be consistent with the fonts that you use across the website.

Image compression – the need for speed – Nothing kills engagement like slow load times in a world of short attention spans.

Keep your site clean and clutter-free – Keep everything simple with only your most important content highlighted and focus on a great user experience.

Design with your customers behaviour in mind – Don’t forget the mobile revolution.

Large imagery – Images on your home page can positively impact how your visitors feel if this is what your persona research tells you. 

5) SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)

The SEO practices today are about optimising for those making the search (humans), rather than the search engines themselves (machines). When you are assessing your SEO performance keep in mind the source channel of how visitors arrive at your site, how long they stay, the pages that they visit and where they leave.

Page titles – A page title is the text you see at the top of your browser window when viewing a web page so make sure you use your keywords here as well. 

Meta descriptions – A meta description is a short summary that you can write for a web page, which search engines display in search results. These descriptions don’t count toward search engine rankings, but they are still add value for the reader.

Headings – If a piece of text appears larger or more prominent than the other text on a page, it’s probably part of heading.

You can verify this by checking the HTML code of your website and look for a <h1>, <h2> or <h3> tag surrounding it.

Typically, you would have only one header <h1>, make sure you include keywords here. Keep in mind that <h1> tags give the text more weight as keywords than <h2> or <h3> tags so do not dilute the impact by using the keyword too much and keep to a proper hierarchy. Subheadings (<h2>, <h3>, etc.) break articles into smaller, more specific sections easy for the visitor to scan them.

Images – Use appealing imagery to enhance the user experience, and remember to use “alt text” with keywords to cater for image searches and titles if the images are not rendering properly.

The inbound sales and marketing methodology is about attracting prospects to your website, to pull them in, rather than push them away with an interruptive style of communication that may suit your needs but not your audience. 


Take Away

Evaluate your buyer persona and their buying journey. Remember that customers are engaging with your brand outside of the impact of your marketing activities. So keep an open mind on how and where you can interact with them.


Assess how effective your communication approach is. Are you creating the user experience for example on your website that your customers prefer, do you know which digital touch points you can influence to get a greater share of mind? 

Next month:

Don’t forget you’ll need to get started with producing content as it takes time for your customers to search, find and digest what you have produced. Typically it will be 3 – 6 months before your published content begins to see some organic traffic traction. 

Remember also to check what type of content your prospects need depending where they are in your sales funnel and regularly assess your SEO performance to check if your levels of organic search.

Next quarter:

Sales and marketing can only increase their impact if you allocate time for strategy and planning. Be dynamic in your approach, A/B test, experiment and assess all the time your actions and their results. 

If you cannot measure it – you cannot grow it. It is valuable to assess what the particular pain points are of your buyer personas, and then put them into some order of priority for you to address in your content marketing.

If you want to upgrade your company’s ability to get found, get leads and close sales, then read our blog on creating a SaaS sales funnel.

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John Kennedy

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