Digital has forever changed the way in which the B2B buyer makes a purchase decision.
What was once a linear process, one where we could rely on our customer to follow a relatively short, step-by-step method to a decision, has changed substantially due to the overwhelming amount of information that is readily available. With all of the information at their fingertips, 2/3 of the buying process is actually complete before the buyer even comes in contact with a person at your company. Before the digital revolution, marketing efforts were more mainstream – companies would buy an ad that would be launched into the universe in hopes that it would return a plethora of customers. The company also relied on that ad to bring those customers to them in a relatively short timeframe. Enter the digital revolution and now things aren’t as simple. Today, the ad that once may have driven customers directly to your company, will now prompt potential customers to research your company, read online reviews about your company, and send messages across their social media networks asking if anyone has had an experience with your company.
As a result, the buying process is more complicated as customers are now jumping back and forth between the different stages of the buying process as new information becomes available to them. As much as we try to guide our customers as carefully as possible through the buying process, providing information that we feel will help secure a purchase, it is an extremely hard thing to manage because there is so much information coming at them from other sources – something we have no control over.
“Digital has muddled what was once a straightforward buying process. Now, somewhere between when your customers receive your message and when they are ready to make a purchasing decision, they are bombarded with content from other sources, bringing them back to the beginning of the process.”
With all the information out there as well as many different media channels available, the process has changed dramatically.
How do you ensure that your message is reaching your B2B Buyer?
When does your customers first interact with your company? It’s hard to tell. It can be at the beginning of the buying process when they are doing their research. Or maybe it is later on in the process when they are getting ready to purchase from a competitor, and your message may be what makes them second guess their initial decision and brings them back to the research stage of the process. You can’t determine when a customer receives your message, but you ensure that you are constantly engaging with your customers throughout the entire buying process.
According to the Reputation Institute, 60% of people’s willingness to recommend, buy from, work for, and invest in a company is driven by their perceptions of the company.
So engaging with potential customers is a sure way to get noticed. Why does this matter? Let’s say for instance your potential customer is looking for a cloud provider and “Rackspace” cloud hosting, there may be three well-known companies, plus your company that appear in the search results.
What determines which of the four companies she “clicks” on or ultimately selects? You will have no way of knowing if she has had previous interactions with one of your competitors. It could be as simple as an e-book sent to her from a friend or recognizing the other company through a previous email campaign. Although you may rank higher in the search results, you can’t guarantee that your link will be the one that she clicks on. If she has an initial perception of your competitor, it may be all she needs to associate with that company and ultimately select them. If she has a positive perception of your company, you will more likely be the one she selects.
Be part of the conversation to influence your B2B Buyer’s Journey
How do you ensure that you are part of the conversation throughout your potential customers’ journey through the buying process? Find out where your customers are looking for information and doing their research. Do they look over reviews, go to forum sites and post and read questions and answers. Do they ask friends? Are your customers even going as far as doing more research such as reading white papers and interacting with past customers? Don’t forget about beyond the sales – the customers who have already made the purchase are influencing the next breed coming forward.
74% of your B2B buyer is looking at online publications – so it’s a good chance that they will be there.
Ensure that you are present in all of the mentioned areas and that you are regularly engaging in the conversation. By regularly engaging, you can monitor the conversation, interact with potential customers and control what is said about your company – reputation is key. So you know who your customers are and where they are doing their research and now is the time to disseminate the information. Rather than distributing your content to a large audience in hopes that someone will read or listen, shift to an inbound marketing approach and strategically place valuable content that is useful to your customers in the places that they are. If your customers are reading blogs about cloud computing – create a blog that will be valuable and useful to them. If your customers are reading white papers on Desktop-as-as-Service – create one. Providing valuable information that your customer can use, conveniently located where they are looking, is a good way to build trust and drive the customer to your company. Inbound marketing allows you to pull customers to you, rather than pushing products and services at them.
How do you constantly engage and what do you say? Take a look at the conversations that your customers are having.
First, you need to know who your customers are. Understand your audience and your customers and why they buy your products and services. Look at the demographics of your customers; what are their habits and their buying behaviors? What information are they looking for and what content can you provide them that will help them choose you over the others.
If you’re not sure who your customers are, you’re really just throwing stuff out there and hoping that somebody sees it. Knowing who your customers are will help you identify what content will be of value to them.
61% of consumers say they feel better about a company that delivers custom content and that they are also more likely to buy from that company. It pays to invest the time getting to know your customer. A good content marketing strategy and social media presence will help you engage with potential customers.
Once you have built the foundation, it will be easier to gain trust from your potential customers and move the buying process along more quickly. Patience is key with content marketing, as there may not be the immediate pay-off, but in the end, it is definitely worth it. A combination of useful, well-optimized content that engages your customers and pulls them back towards your company will help speed up the buying process. There is no doubt that the buying process will continue to change as there are new technologies that replace our current ones and new avenues in which we research our potential products and services, but if you ensure that you know your customer and integrate valuable information into the buying process, you will be able to keep one step ahead of your competition.
Interested in learning more about how you can influence your buyer’s journey and increase your sales?