I’ve seen a few research studies recently that underscore how we should think about B2B marketing and what customers are trying to tell you as a marketer.
They can’t hear you. Marketing Guru Seth Godin says that consumer are subject to 30,000 messages A DAY. The challenge of breaking through the clutter has never been more, well, challenging.
They start with Google. They DECIDE with Content. Every study we see on how B2B audiences decide on what products to buy points to what we know – they begin their journeys with search. But that’s not where it ends, of course; it merely gets your company into the discussion. Getting to a purchase depends on more than just brand awareness, but brand PREFERENCE. And that ties back to having content that matters, content that gets people to choose YOU over your competitors. Go back to the basics: build your content with sustained campaigns that involve multiple touches, built upon consistent, simple-to-follow messages that tie to customer pain points.
They decide in packs. B2B buying decisions aren’t linear; they’re a combination of impressions created on search, on websites, at trade shows and by salespeople. And, they’re also not made in isolation. In fact, as a sale becomes more complex, the number of people on the buying team grows. Most models count five buyers: Decider, Influencer, Gatekeeper, Actual User and Buyer. Understanding the buying process at the target account becomes very important; and growing your database with deeper account penetration becomes critical. Think of it this way: the size of your database should be measured as the number of buying sites/customers (Total Addressable Market), multiplied by AT LEAST three names. For most of us, if your database is not measured in the tens of thousands, it’s likely not adequate.
To engage and be part of the conversation with so many team members, your content needs to be easy to share, follow and forward: simple checklists, infographics, videos, one pagers, comparison guides, Powerpoints/Slideshares (especially narrated).
They want to hear about your brand. Really. Particularly for the technical sale, purchase decisions are made based on specs and functionality, then brand reputation. Price, warranty and delivery are at the bottom of the list, according to CFE Media and other studies on the engineering buyer. A company’s reliability, technical sales support and long-term staying-power are key factors in getting spec’d and recommended for a buy, so invest in programs that invest in your brand. Companies can’t live off the cheap end of the B2B spectrum forever, on organic search and email campaigns alone. They need a balanced program that builds brands in order to build sustainable lead pipelines.
When they contact you, you’re at the end. Forrester says that 90% of the buying process is OVER by the time a prospect contacts or emails your sales department. That sounds high. But others peg it at 60-65%. Whatever the actual number, buyers do a tremendous amount of homework before they call. They’re far along the buyer’s journey at that stage and rarely are conducting early-stage information-gathering.