The ‘Buyer’s Journey’ will be a familiar term to the experienced marketers amongst you, and we have no wish to teach you to suck eggs. However, we still reckon it’s worth reminding ourselves why it’s important every now and then.
Understanding the buyer’s journey enables a marketer to be proactive. Engagement is the name of the game now. Buyers carry out research long before they contact you. The internet has made perfect competition a reality, in economics terms. And it’s not just the B2C boys whose game has changed. B2B sales and marketing has also experienced a seismic shift, and establishing the new basics in the buyer’s journey is the only way forward. Modelling the appropriate buyer’s journey for your customer base will ensure your content marketing strategy hits its target.
How to maximise your digital marketing impact at every stage
So let’s assume the basic premise hasn’t changed that much:
- Buyer becomes aware of a need and begins to investigate and research – often the internet
- Buyer discovers various solutions and begins to evaluate
- Buyer creates a shortlist and compares
- Buyer decides
- Buyer now needs to be retained
At every step of the way, the marketer can have influence. And in this day and age, that means digital marketing on steroids.
Buyer becomes aware of a need
B2B sales pros will be very aware that few buyers are ready to make a purchase at this stage. The seasoned commercial shopper has a business need and a budget to work with, but their neck’s on the line and they have a CEO to keep happy. To catch the eye of the procurement manager at this point a marketer needs to have informative content out there that both solves their problem and is suggested by the search engines. This content isn’t a sales pitch, it’s a credibility builder; one that builds the credibility of both your company and your product or service. It is content that business advisers, and the like, share on social media to enhance their standing in your industry.
Buyer begins to evaluate and compare
At this stage, your potential buyer has established the type of solution they’re looking for. They are now in the process of compiling a list of possible suppliers. They are assessing what the ‘right’ solution looks like, as opposed to the ‘wrong’ one. What they should look for, and what they should avoid.
The content marketing suited to this phase provides comparisons. It provides case studies. It gives pros, it gives cons. It builds trust in your brand to the point of getting them to contact you.
For B2B, this may be a decision to actually purchase, or it may simply be a decision to ask your company to tender. Either way, it’s the point the customer decides to contact you. The digital content you produce for this stage involves expert opinion, customer testimonials, successful projects/launches, all coated with a sense of longevity.
You’ve worked hard to capture that customer. And as every marketer knows, it’s easier (and more cost effective) to retain customers than find new ones. So don’t let this golden nugget slip through your fingers. Build that client relationship and keep them engaged. Ask if you can add them to your database to keep them informed of news and updates. Ensure fresh, exciting content is being uploaded onto social media where they ‘hang out’. Respond to ALL engagement whether positive or negative. And, if appropriate, turn their successful project into a case study that will promote them as well as your brand and service. Make it a win/win piece of communication.
There are nuances
If your B2B offering is a product that simply requires a trigger to purchase, then tailor your content to maximise this. What you’re wanting each time is to create a moment of inspiration that will trigger a purchase. For example, would subscription to regular emailing help?
If, however, your offering can springboard off an established supplier/purchaser relationship, then use this to your advantage. A good business customer experience goes a long way. Often an individual has had to invest their time in finding you in the first place. They’ve had to convince committees, senior managers, and possibly board members to get you on their supplier list. Their reputation was at stake then, and you’ve helped them enhance it. Don’t lose that; use it. Deep down, they want you to be right for the next job just as much as you do. Keep in touch with them.
If your market is bigger-ticket purchases and projects, though, you may have to extend your reach further. Decision-making committees are made up of individuals with their own agendas. Your content marketing may need to be split and tailored to appeal to separate business functions, eg. finance, operations, and human resources. It’s a slower burn, but you need to keep it all smouldering.
A final thought…
As with all purchasing decisions, whilst understanding processes is useful, grasping the psychology of your buyer is critical. We’re still competing in a world where it is human hearts and minds, not machines, that are making the buying decisions (even when they’re doing so purely from a business, and not consumer, perspective). Small adjustments to digital content can reap huge rewards. And a loyal, retained, responsive B2B customer is a great thing to aim for…