Changes in consumer experiences, interactive new channels, and buyer expectations have ushered in a new level of information and transparency available to customers, reducing or eliminating the need for human interaction throughout the sales process. Instead, buyers are learning everything they need to know about you through your brand’s digital fingerprints.This paradigm shift holds tremendous opportunity for organizations that are willing to embrace the new buyer journey, reallocate budgets toward branding and content initiatives, and foster collaboration between sales and marketing. To be ready to meet customers at different points on their journeys, B2B technology companies must leverage digital tools to reach and convert new buyers. So how can you create a highly-personalized “human” experience online?
1. Know Your Buyer
What keeps your buyer up at night? The thing that confuses many of our technology clients is how to speak to their buyers, who often aren’t “technology people.” Our clients have built products to solve problems for users, not necessarily to help buyers make a decision. The Pragmatic Marketing framework reminds us that we “build for users, but we market to buyers.” This is where building your buyer persona becomes invaluable to the marketing process.
Many people don’t naturally associate B2B with emotion even though, like with B2C, there is an actual person (with actual human preferences) making the buying decision. You need the ability to put yourself in the buyer’s shoes in order to be successful. In this case, that means a full understanding of the problems that your buyer is facing so that you can present your solution to them in terms they understand. To do that, you have to understand the buyer persona incredibly well so that you make sure to address their concerns in design and messaging.
2. Solve, Don’t Sell
Tell a story that speaks to your audience’s pain points, not your product’s features. A study by Kentico Software found that 74% of the general public trusts content from companies that educate them on a topic, but when those same companies include a product-focused message in their content, credibility drops by 29%.
Tech companies are notorious for leading into the market discussion by asserting the virtues of their technology. They are proud of it and think everyone wants to know about what they have done under the hood. However, the truth is, the customer is just looking for a solution to their problem. They don’t necessarily care how the solution works — but how the solution works for them.
While there will come a phase where information about product features is necessary, in the beginning phases of the buyer’s journey (at the top of the funnel), content and other marketing messages should be targeted toward the benefits you provide as opposed to the features.
3. Build Trust with Great Design
Various studies show that an initial brand impression on a website only takes between 6 and 10 seconds to be processed. This is a critical time period to build initial trust. B2B researchers are trying to solve a problem. Are you current and relevant? How do you look? Do you speak their language—the language of benefits, not features? Do you “get” them? Just as we gather these impressions from initial person-to-person interactions, this digital impression should be treated exactly the same.
Good design will do this: it strengthens brands, instills initial trust and confidence, and begs further exploration. If you pass this initial trust test, the buyer will feel confident in moving deeper into qualified trust. They are in the right place to get the information they need. Be ready to give it to them. Engage them with blog content and articles. Give the man opportunity to further a dialogue via email newsletter or gated case study or white paper. At this point they are not ready for a webinar or to fill out a “Contact Us” form. Nurture them into deeper levels of engagement slowly and surely.
4. Make a Personal Connection
Despite what appears to be an impersonal buyer’s journey, people ultimately like doing business with people. Blog posts, emails, and other content should be authored and come from areal person. Though Google has discontinued authorship in blog posts as part of their ranking algorithm, it’s still a good practice to humanize the content-consumption experience.
“About Us” pages on websites, featuring photographs of key personnel allow B2B sellers an opportunity to digitally introduce themselves to the self-service buyer. Including other cultural nuances of your company such as mission statements, values, and cultural norms allows visitors to understand what’s important to you as a company, and as humans in a business world. These pages can truly matter.
5. Streamline User Experience
According to the Google’s B2B Path to Purchase Study, 42% of researchers use a mobile device during the B2B purchasing process. They’re not just using mobile in the initial stages of research, either. Over the past two years, there has been 91% growth in use throughout the decision-making process and a 300% growth in mobile queries. B2B buyers are using their phones to check prices, read product descriptions, compare features and connect to retailers.
Statistics on engagement also tell us that mobile communications have the highest response rates of any digital marketing tactics. Whether you’re sending them an email or they’re browsing your website, chances are good that it’s happening on a smart device. How are you catering your marketing to that reality? With buyers spending this much time on their smartphones, it’s vital that you provide them with a seamless user experience by optimizing your mobile marketing strategy.
6. Give Away Value
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. 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. It places you within conversations that facilitate introductions to the brand and positions you as an expert on the subject matter.
Content marketing tactics such as nurturing campaigns and video series create a digital dialogue whereby you create ongoing touches to your buyers. 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.Content marketing’s role in sales is 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 is about giving your customers tools that make their job (researching, analyzing, and — ultimately — purchasing) easier. If they can do their job easier on your site then on your competitors’, then you will win their business.
With the rise of the “self-service” 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.
There will be a wide range of digital interactions between you and your buyer throughout their journey from awareness to decision. 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 need by becoming a digital concierge.