The digital world has changed the face of consumerism for all buyers, including B2B. If you’re continuing to leverage traditional, funnel-based marketing and sales methodologies alone, you may be experiencing diminishing returns from your efforts.
Even with compromised performance, many marketers double-down and think that repeating these same outbound strategies in a bigger way will produce scaled-up results, including more leads and more sales. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case; it’s been reported that “57% of the purchase decision is already complete before the customer even calls the supplier.”
Filling your funnel with more of the same doesn’t produce better results.
Leading the customer from the awareness phase to the prospect phase — and finally to a sale through the traditional funnel — has lost much of its effectiveness. In a content-driven world where self-education has largely become the norm, it’s important to understand how to engage with prospects in order to drive them toward your solutions. Today’s business buyers tend to be self-educated and hyper-aware of their needs, pain points and options. They also leverage experts on their teams and within their professional circles for answers and possible solutions to their challenges.
This shift in behavior is a growing problem for marketing professionals. How can we make our brands stand out among the competition in order to find qualified leads and close sales?
Start with Personas
The earliest IBM PC advertisements demonstrated a keen understanding of their target market. They pictured professional-looking men and women using IBM PCs, and the ads were content-heavy with informative, educational copy that appealed to its target personas. The company advertised in publications such as the New York Times and Newsweek, and sold its revolutionary systems alongside home appliances through Sears. IBM knew that its new technology was something never seen before in the retail market and used pointed market data to educate its consumer base through all the right channels. The response was overwhelming, and the company ushered in the PC generation.
Today, things are more complicated. Technology and content are everywhere, causing companies to up the ante of their marketing efforts. In order to build a marketing strategy for the digital age, it’s critical to understand exactly who is interested in your product and why. Then you have to go one step further and express the unique value your solution provides that differentiates you to that specific group.
By clearly defining the buyer and user personas for your product — and laser-focusing your marketing efforts so that your message reaches people who are already looking for a solution like yours — you will be setting yourself up to uncover higher quality leads, and ultimately an accelerated sales process.
Warm Up Your Audience
Modern buyers are a self-educating society. Websites, landing pages, emails and social posts should offer visitors and prospects content that allows them to educate themselves. Content that answers their questions starts the conversation that can ultimately convert them from prospect to customer.
When creating content and communications, keep your personas in mind. Anticipate their needs and make sure you’re clearly illustrating the value propositions that make your product a unique fit for them. If you warm them up by providing the information they need in a way that lets them consume it at their own pace, you’ll have a better chance at setting up a sales meeting.
Focus Your Funnel
In the not too distant past, it was assumed that throwing more into the top of the funnel would generate more sales out the back end. It was a numbers game.
However, the complex nature of B2B solutions leads to a much more complex qualification process. In tech, everyone is not your customer; adding more to the top of your funnel creates more work for your marketing team and sales reps. Qualified customers often get lost in the shuffle while your team spends time, energy and money focusing on the wrong leads.
In order to maximize your marketing spend, tailor your efforts to focus your funnel with prospects that best fit your personas. Take advantage of analytics and automated CRM tools to filter your contacts prior to the nurture and qualification phase. You will end up with fewer leads, but those who come to you educated and armed with the right questions are already closer to the sale. You also focus your sales team on the opportunities that matter most while giving them breathing room to better serve and build a relationship with the prospect.
As important as it is to stay on top of the latest technology, channels and platforms to help you reach your audiences most effectively, it’s equally important to stay ahead of the game with your value proposition and message to market. By understanding market trends and how they factor into the needs of your target personas, as well as anticipating your customers’ needs before they express them, you can produce highly relevant content that sets your brand apart. Additionally, you can proactively follow up with your customers and warm leads, pointing them in the direction of your proposed solution to their problems as they’re becoming aware of potential impacts to their enterprise.
In B2B marketing, your ability to anticipate the needs of your customers’ industries and quickly deliver information and solution proposals to the right people can become the key to your marketing success. The better you understand your market, your target personas, the trends in your industry and your product differentiators, the more equipped you’ll be to attract your ideal prospects and convert them into customers.