Expectations from the consumer purchase process, particularly in the digital sphere, are influencing the the way that business buyers research and make decisions. In fact, 89% percent of B2B researchers start their research with an internet search, learning about you and your product and vetting you independently. This means your sales team won’t hear from them until much further in the process, if they hear from them at all.
With the rise of this “self-service” sales model, your sales team might not have any influence over the buyer’s decision until it’s too late — however, your marketing has tremendous influence. That’s why it’s vital that your marketing strategy and lead generation efforts are focused on priming buyers during their self-education process, so that when they reach out to your salesperson, they are already interested in what you have to offer.
We call this consumerization of business buying the “self-service” model and it speaks to the growing importance of delivering an exceptional, B2C-influenced online experience to your buyers. Here's how B2B tech companies can preemptively meet their prospects' needs by becoming a “digital concierge.”
Catering to Buyers' B2C Expectations
According to George Day's The Market Driven Organization, B2B organizations that adopted a B2C-influenced approach are 31% more profitable, are faster to market, get a higher price point, and have fewer product launch failures. He concluded that “organizations that [...] offer a consumer-like experience will be well-placed to compete in their markets."
In other words, B2B companies should be taking cues from the B2C customer's journey and adopting a market-focused approach to meeting buyers’ needs. And this approach pays off: embracing the new B2B buying paradigm and aligning marketing and sales to speak to that buyer in meaningful ways can have more quantifiable results in sales organizations.
The numbers from McKinsey’s research on the subject speak for themselves: “Our experience with upward of 100 B2B sales organizations suggests that while the change required is significant, so are the benefits: an up to 20% increase in customer leads, 10% growth in first-time customers, and a speedup of as much as 20% in the time that elapses between qualifying a lead and closing a deal.”
There’s no question that a prospect who has discovered your offering themselves during their initial research phase will be more likely to convert into a customer. But how do you capture their interest and communicate your brand promise before you even meet them? It all starts with content.
It All Starts With Content
Since customers today research their options so early in the sales cycle, content marketing takes on the education role that used to belong to sales. Because prospective customers may engage many resources on their path to purchase, including your website, collateral, social, and sales people, companies need to align marketing and sales to preemptively meet the prospect’s needs.
Strong content puts you in the room with a prospect before you even meet them. White papers, industry-based emails, case studies, blog posts, webinars, infographics, videos, podcasts — whatever its form, great content is absolutely essential for ushering target audiences into the sales funnel and promoting lead generation.
Content marketing tactics such as nurturing campaigns or workflows and video series create a digital dialogue whereby you create ongoing touches to your buyers. It places you within conversations that facilitate introductions to the brand and positions you as an expert on the subject matter.
Think about relationship-building in your own life: if you want to move an acquaintance into deeper friendship, you have to pursue an ongoing, persistent dialogue with them. You can replicate that in your marketing strategy through content marketing to help push potential customers through the sales funnel.
When creating content marketing assets, it is helpful to think about how content can help answer customers’ questions and concerns along each step in the customer journey, from the top of the sales funnel to the moments right before the close. Self-service sales is about giving your customers tools that make their job (researching, analyzing and, ultimately, purchasing) easier.
With B2B buyers drawing on their B2C experiences, doing business in this self-service model requires more attention and purpose in the strategy phase of your marketing development. Developing your personas, looking at the competitive landscape, and positioning yourself with an empathetic and pragmatic approach to problem solving, are all achievable.