Today’s modern B2B buyer is a DIY specialist. They leverage search, social and web to self-educate on specific products or services. This has changed the buyer journey for many companies, requiring marketers to find new ways to reach prospective buyers early in their research phase. If this sounds familiar (and maybe a little overwhelming), have no fear! We’ve got some tips to help you increase your reach and effectiveness.
A quick overview of the buyer journey
Before we dive into how to optimize it, let’s first make sure we’re all on the same page with how the buyer journey is defined. The buyer journey encompasses the stages someone takes to evaluate your product or service from start to finish. It typically includes these primary stages of evaluation prior to purchase:
- Stage 1 – Awareness – this is when buyers become aware of a need or problem that your product/service addresses. This can happen through word of mouth, advertising, text ads or really any other imaginable source of information. In this stage, the buyer’s awareness can eventually become actionable interest. That’s when they progress to the second stage.
- Stage 2 – Comparison – the buyer begins to evaluate and compare available solutions. In many cases, this is done online. They may conduct a Google search for comparative vendor information, download third party reports, read peer reviews, visit vendor websites and more. As they collect more information, they begin to develop a vendor short-list.
- Stage 3 – Engagement – the buyer has enough research to form a general idea of which vendors they want to engage for more information. This is when they begin to actively reach out to your sales team if you haven’t already engaged with them first. They’ll evaluate each solution in more detail, obtain pricing and, most importantly, get a feel for how you treat your customers.
The final stage in the buyer journey is when the purchase is made. Vendors that establish themselves as leaders or innovators in stages one and two are going to have significantly greater success in stage three than those that contribute very little to the buyer’s research and evaluation phases.
How to reach buyers earlier in their journey
Reaching buyers earlier in their journey is going to require you to rethink your inbound and outbound marketing strategies. You can’t simply wait until someone contacts you. You need to find a way to direct them to you through awareness creation, interest generation and educational content. Here are four methods we’ve seen work really to optimize today’s very digitally-driven buyer journey.
- Find new ways to stand out and create awareness. Digital has become so critical in today’s marketing world that sometimes traditional methods are overlooked. Just because it’s not online, doesn’t mean it won’t be effective in grabbing someone’s attention. Consider traditional tactics that may help you stand out in addition to your go-to digital tactics. For example, direct mail still has a lot of value if it’s done correctly.
- Create helpful content that aids their research. If you know your prospects are going to need third party vendor evaluations, for example, consider purchasing those reports and providing them for free on your website. If not, consider writing your own white papers or ebooks to help educate them on your products or services. With good SEO and SEM practices, you can surface that content to people progressing into stage two of their journey. You can also use a form to capture who is downloading that content so you can begin to nurture a relationship with them.
- Nurture known prospects with both digital and personal outreach. As you capture prospects through gated content or your website, make sure you communicate with them in a meaningful way. Consider a welcome email, thanking them for their interest in your content. Offer to send them more information, perhaps through a drip campaign of industry resources or hot topic articles. You should also trigger an alert for your sales team so they can reach out to the prospect. You’ll want to engage in both digital and personal outreach during this stage – don’t purely rely on marketing outreach. It’s important you get in front of buyers and offer yourself as a resource.
- Make sure you leverage a bi-directional workflow between marketing and sales. This is extremely difficult to do without marketing automation but it’s absolutely critical. Not only do you need to mix your outreach as described above, you should also make sure that sales can collaborate by adding or removing leads from campaigns. This will help you create a single voice across your various types of outreach, as well as give your sales team the ability to influence each buyer’s individual journey. Consider creating nurture campaigns for each buyer persona so your sales team can move prospects from one campaign to another based on their conversations with them. This will help you create a more personalized experience which, in today’s world, can really make an impression on a buyer.