“Sixty-seven percent of the buyer’s journey is completed prior to interacting with potential vendors.”
In today’s environment, B2B marketers struggle to deal with this reality. Usually, the first reaction is to take this number at face value and attempt to communicate everything about your product or service via your website.
However, without a deeper understanding of the buyer’s journey and the specific stages a buyer goes through before they interact with you, your website may do more to eliminate you from consideration than support you.
Many B2B websites present their content wide and deep. But, that’s not how most buyers go about researching and evaluating potential solutions. Their information needs escalate as they refine their business needs. If your content isn’t presented in a way that coincides with the buyer’s journey, you may never make it into the consideration set.
In the earliest stages of the buyer’s journey, buyers are looking to understand who you are and find out whether you provide a solution that meets their needs. They want your site to be easy to find and easy to navigate.
The operative word is “easy.” Your message needs to be clear and concise: Here is what we do and here is the value that we deliver. Many B2B websites miss this key objective altogether. Basically, they offer digital product literature sheets that talk about “feeds and speeds” vs. solutions to specific pain points.
As the buyer’s journey progresses, they look for more in-depth information that illustrates how their business problem can be solved. They are interested in solutions tailored to their industry. Your case studies should reflect this. Your content should also address the specific POVs of the prospect’s evaluation team: the financial buyer, the operations buyer, the IT buyer, and the end user. All of these prospects have different pain points and your content needs to speak to them individually. Prospective buyers will not identify with the results presented in your case studies unless these results are relevant to them.
In the final stages of evaluation, buyers look for content that supports their mission: how to solve their business problem. They want comparison charts, video demos, pros and cons of a particular solution, and easy-to-digest visuals. Their objective is to gain senior management’s approval to proceed … they want to look good.
Most important, do not assume that there is no opportunity to interact with a prospect during the research phase.
Will they be highly resistant to sales contact? Initially, YES. Our research indicates that prospective buyers avoid sales contact at all cost until they are ready to engage. BUT they will interact with subject matter experts. Q&As and demos led by a subject matter expert can work wonders to circumvent their reluctance to engage with a salesperson. You should not only offer these generously, you should also consider making a sales engineer or other technical expert a key member of your sales team. Some companies even make them responsible for making the outreach calls.
Keep in mind that research is an educational process for the buyer. At some point, buyers will present their recommendations to the senior leadership team. They will need to be knowledgeable about all aspects of a recommended solution.
We strongly recommend that you allow interaction at all phases of the buyer’s journey, in a nonintimidating way that is respectful of the prospect’s contact preferences and his time. Be clear about where and to whom inquiries are going when you gate your content. Ask prospects whether they want to be contacted by email or phone? What’s the best time frame? Be sure to respect their preferences. Make a subject matter expert available to them to answer questions. If prospects ask not to be called, don’t call them. If they ask to be removed from your email list, don’t continue to email them. And don’t stalk them after they visit your website or follow them around the internet (retargeting). It may work in B2C marketing, but in B2B marketing, it’s just creepy.
Simple steps like these will help alleviate prospects’ objections to a sales call and encourage dialogue earlier in the research process. Plus, it’ll make those sales leads much warmer when prospects are ready to interact.
Jeff Cleary | Managing Director
Jeff, a University of Massachusetts grad, worked for others for many years. In 1990, Jeff teamed up with Mike Osborn to form Catalyst. Smart move. In his role as managing director, he continually strives to meet and exceed client expectations as well as his employees’, always ensuring a positive, productive workplace.