February 10, 2014– Byline by Gavin Finn, published by the American Marketing Association
B-to-B buyers are empowered like never before, and marketers are in the midst of the most dramatic disruption in their industry in the last 50 years. With the growing prevalence of mobile devices and digital channels, buyers exert more control and strategies that worked in the past no longer work now. The average B-to-B buyer completes around 60% of the purchase decision process before engaging a sales representative. It is imperative that B-to-B marketers give buyers effective and engaging tools to better research and analyze the company’s products independently.
B-to-B marketers now are required to rethink the importance of customer self-guided buying journeys. Buyers demand control of their purchasing experience, and successful B-to-B marketers will facilitate this trend by delivering dynamic content that truly allows the prospect to drive his own personalized engagement experience. Here are five tips on what marketers can do today that will help sales accelerate the “self-serve” sales cycle and close more business.
1. Research and understand your buyers at a deeper level. Develop buyer personas to identify their problems, what drives them to purchase, what affects how they make decisions, and the new path to purchase for their particular organization. As buyers come to expect more personalized experiences, irrelevant information is quickly disregarded, which means that marketers need relevance (a unique understanding of their prospects’ challenges, objectives and needs, and how they operate as buyers). Outlining buyer personas will allow marketers to hone their messaging to each unique purchaser, making for a more meaningful and impactful sales process.
2. The sales process isn’t linear and your marketing content shouldn’t be, either. To eliminate this one-size-fits-all messaging, create non-linear, customer-driven experiences that allow each prospect to investigate only the information that is relevant to him, at whatever level of detail he desires. Typical animated Web pieces and videos provide the same information every time, but no two prospects are looking for exactly the same information. By letting prospects control the direction and pace of their interaction, your customers will learn more. Give them the ability to directly interact with your products, content and messaging. This will result in a much higher level of knowledge transfer than a canned sales presentation would.
3. Leverage the new wave of cross-channel engagement. Users are accustomed to using multiple devices in their everyday lives, and the B-to-B buying process is no different. Rather than developing unique content for each hardware platform or venue, marketers must create reusable content and provide this level of engagement, interaction and education for prospects and customers at every turn. By allowing your prospects to have the same engaging experience no matter where they encounter your brand (website, mobile app, face-to-face events, sales meetings, briefings, etc.), the buying process will be consistent and familiar, regardless of which venue or channel they choose.
4. Arm buyers with information, not just content, to give them (and your sales force) a deeper understanding of your products at a more accelerated pace. Instead of static brochures, collateral or PowerPoints, provide buyers with truly interactive tools containing your company’s most updated business benefits, solutions stories and relevant product content. Many innovative companies are leveraging virtual 3-D product models that look and behave just like the physical products for a highly intimate, hands-on buyer experience. Customers can access these virtual 3-D product demonstrations anywhere, on any device (iPads, laptops, touch-screen appliances, websites), to investigate features, benefits and competitive differentiation in ways that might not be possible even if they were to have the physical product in front of them.
5. Use analytics to develop buyer insights. The best way to know your buyer is to look at hard data showing how he chooses to interact with your brand. Take advantage of any user data that you have, including information regarding his product offering interest and geography, and the hardware devices that he’s using to research your products and solutions. This will enable you to modify and improve your sales and marketing processes.
Gavin Finn is president and CEO of Kaon Interactive Inc.