Simply put, the ability of your customers to research solutions and get information online has forever changed the power balance in the purchase process, and it won’t ever shift back.
"The B2B buyer fully controls the vast majority of the purchase process. They’re in control. Ignore that reality in your marketing and sales strategy and you’re going to find yourself outside the consideration set every time."
Marc Blumer, VP, Director of Demand Generation Strategy
So, how are major B2B marketers adjusting?
If you’ve read pretty much any B2B marketing publication over the past six months, then you have surely heard about the new Demand Unit Waterfall from SiriusDecisions.
Here’s the thing. There is obviously some solid thinking here around integrating the marketing and sales pipelines as well as recognizing that for enterprise organizations, large purchases are made by buying teams (i.e., “Demand Units”).
© 2017, SiriusDecisions Demand Unit Waterfall
This is obviously a deeply researched and considered approach. But there’s also a few deep holes. I mean some really, really deep ones—like, Dean’s Blue Hole sinkhole deep.
First off, where is the buyer in all this? The one who is in control of the buying process? The one who won’t even take a meeting with sales until they’re two-thirds of the way through the buy cycle? Changing your culture to focus on the buyer’s needs falls right down that deep hole if all you do is change your funnel model.
Second—and we are by no means the first ones to point this out—the whole notion of approaching buyer Demand Units requires a market that is both large and addressable. In B2B, we have multibillion dollar clients that really only care about fewer than 3,000 companies worldwide. So, unless you’re in tech, SaaS, medical devices, etc., this is an academic theory at best.
Third, how do you actually implement this in a way in which your marketing technology can truly recognize the information needs of not just the company but the person (or, the buyer), in that moment, and give them exactly the right content they need at that moment based on their needs and intent?
Fourth, and perhaps the biggest limitation, B2B buyers are not in one buy cycle at any given time—they likely are in dozens. We’re all trying to solve multiple problems all the time and are in different phases of figuring out those solutions at any given moment.
When you look at the buyer journey from the buyer’s point of view, their specific informational needs—needs that require your support—come quickly into focus:
- Identifying a problem and learning more about it,
- Finding solutions to that problem, then
- Solving through a change of some kind, potentially including a purchase.
For the vast majority of our clients, we are seeking to build profitable long-term relationships by addressing the many problems they face as they arise through feature changes and/or additional products/solutions.
The internally focused SirusDecisions waterfall and other similar models may work well to help attack a one-time, big-ticket sale but it doesn’t match how the majority of B2B companies should be selling to their customers over time through continually identifying and solving problems.
The buyer-focused, actionable journey map
Coming back to our infographic, here’s how our approach addresses the buyer journey at Slack and Company:
Plain and simple, here are the four phases that your customers (or buying teams) go through on the way to a purchase decision—and their specific questions that your content needs to answer.
The Slack and Company Customer Buy Cycle Model
© 2017, Slack and Company
Our strategic planning process begins with building out journeys—by persona, by industry, by segment—to define what your customers need to know at each stage in order to guide themselves from problem to your relevant solution to proof that your solution makes sense.
Then, produce that content and deliver it at the right time and place and you’ll guide empowered buyers into engaging with sales on their terms.
They key here is buyer-focused content aligned to their needs in that moment with tagging of all content assets so that you know exactly where each buyer sits and what you should serve up next.
- Educational content (white papers, infographics, webinars, thought leadership research, etc.) addresses your buyer’s key challenges, problems and opportunities. Educational content is not there to help you sell. It’s there to educate and inform a buyer by leveraging your own expertise in ways that align with your solutions without presenting your solutions.
- Informational content (solution videos, product guides, evaluation frameworks, etc.) carefully ties your solutions to the problem or challenge your buyer faces based on his or her engagement with corresponding educational content. Which, if you tagged your content correctly, makes it easy to serve up via your website, email, programmatic advertising, retargeting, etc.
- Confirmational content (case studies, ROI calculators, technical specs, product samples, etc.) cements your rightful place in your buyer’s consideration set and gives you, with this tracked engagement, an MQL ready for sales to engage with. Again, tagging all the content across the journey makes lead-scoring a snap.
Through creating a simple grid, we can map personas, segments and solutions to your buyers’ journeys. From there, you can determine the key questions your buyers need answered at each of the three stages, audit existing content assets and available first-party data and finally build out a demand generation plan that merges data and content around the buyer at every single phase.
With all of that determined, your lead generation and nurture program can begin to become omnichannel with increasing ease. By tracking individuals’ tagged content engagements (behavioral data) within your marketing automation platform and/or CRM, you can begin to execute campaigns across whatever addressable channels make sense, one-to-one, providing the individual with the most relevant piece of content at any given moment.
Best of all, this model can created and launched quickly, scales incredibly well, requires no predictive analytics and thus meets the needs of 90% of today’s B2B marketers.
Success in B2B demand generation requires the thoughtful melding of data and content
Remember all those absolutely dizzying buyer journey maps out there?
Isn’t this so much easier?
It is also practicable, actionable and proven. If you want to learn more about the education/information/confirmation journey model, we’re always a click away.
Up next in our 6-part series: Resonant creative concepts connecting every buyer touchpoint. Click here to start reading.
Ready for more?
Reaching today’s B2B buyers requires a strong brand and agile demand gen. Check out our infographic to learn more about why that’s so important—and how you can get started.
Or, you can check out the rest of our Shortest Distance blogs right here.