How to win the hide & seek game with your buyers
According to a leading global research firm, "more than 67% percent of the buyer’s buying journey is now done digitally, and 57% of the actual purchase decision is complete before a buyer even contacts a supplier"...in other words, anonymous to the supplier. A second source of research data supports this finding..."about 70% of the B2B buyer’s journey is made anonymously in self-discovery mode with online content – not via direct marketing and sales interactions. This is just the opposite of a few years ago when 30% of the journey was marketing and 70% sales.”
The B2B buying process is mirroring the B2C process more and more - that is, buyers are empowered with so much information and resources, they don't need the traditional sales channel to educate them. Instead, extensive online research, and conferring with their online and offline social networks are what they do in the top-end of the buying funnel. Exacerbating this challenge, during this anonymous research process, your online assets (website, content, landing pages, blogs, social posts, etc.) must tell a compelling story better than your competition. Otherwise, you may have lost an opportunity to make a customer for life. To the marketer, this feels a bit like be blindfolded while playing "hide and seek" with your buyers - a no win situation.
Smart marketers have found a way to not only connect with those buyers at the top end of the buying funnel, but also guide them through the buying process to ultimately do business with you. Following are 4 steps to win at the "hide and seek" game with your target market.
1. Establish your buyer personas
How on earth can you connect and nurture your targeted buyer through the buying funnel if you don't know his/her pain points, value drivers, criteria for making decisions, etc? Many businesses fail to understand their buyers' decision process and what problems they can solve for their buyers, and this results in a lot of marketing investments that don't pay off.
Companies should invest in researching their buyer personas and establish a finite set of unique characteristics that describe how each type of buyer researches, behaves and buys throughout the buying funnel process. Without this knowledge of your buyer, a business risks turning their sales and marketing efforts into "throwing spaghetti against the wall hoping something will stick".
Action: Invest time to research your buyer personas in order to identify a finite set, maybe 2-5, of unique buyer types for your business.
2. Develop/offer the right content
In the marketing world these days, the term "content marketing" is about as popular as the social media rage a few years ago. Why, because buyers go online to learn, research, compare, etc. and content is the key to their education. The content could be a blog post, whitepaper, video and other forms of delivering information online. But what if your content pales in comparison to that offered by your competitors? Also, what if the content you produce and offer up doesn't really connect to your buyers' pain points or problems or unique demands? Then the time and money you invested in content marketing is sub-optimized.
The content your produce should be targeted to the personas you developed in #1 above, and it should address each of the unique stages in the buying funnel. The typical buying funnel stages are 1) research, 2) learn, 3) compare, and 4) purchase. Content, in whatever format is most appropriate for your buyer, should guide your buyer through this buying funnel. The content that educates the buyer during the "learning" phase is different than what will help the buyer during the "compare" phase.
Action: Identify content themes for each of your buyer personas during each stage in the buying process.
3. Provide automated messaging in a progressive way
A recent survey reported that less than 25% of current email campaigns were automatically triggered. See chart below. What this means is that very few companies are using marketing automation to guide their buyers through the buying funnel. Think of a scenario in which a person comes to your website and downloads a piece of content they find very valuable during their research process. A few days later, that person receives another piece of content that answers more of their questions. A week after that the person receives information about how to evaluate the products or services he/she is researching. And then a week after that the person receives a discount offer for that product. You see where this is going - an automated way that helps the buyer progress through the buying funnel.
Marketing automation platforms like Hubspot, Marketo, Pardot and others can be programmed to assess a buyer's activities and send them messaging unique to them and their stage in the buying funnel. Setting up systems like this may be time consuming, but just think of the sales and marketing "machine" that's in place once set up.
Action: Research marketing automation platforms and invest to establish a solid sales and marketing system for your company.
4. Measure engagement and reach out
Remember back in the day when you were contemplating your first kiss? Go for it too quickly and the other person might think you are too aggressive and be turned off. Act too slowly and the other person might lose patience and move on. Well, the same holds true for sales - go for the deal too soon and you might be "just another pushy salesperson"...fail to ask for the sale at the right time and your buyer might get frustrated and engage with a competitor.
Marketing automation systems like those mentioned in #3 above are able to "score" an individual based on his/her activity. Did the person open the email you sent to them? Did they go back to your website after reading the email? What did they do when they went back to your website? Did they go to a pricing page or some other page in your website that suggests a high level of interest? Knowing how interested your buyer is will help you know when to reach out.
Action: Track your buyers' activities and engage in the sales process only when the buyer appears to be ready.
In today's online world, your buyers are out there and they are checking you out without you knowing it. They are winning at the "hide and seek" game. Get to know your buyers by researching their personas. Help your buyers come to the surface by offering great content that appeals to their unique buyer personas. Set up a system that nurtures the buyer through the buying funnel, and then reach out when the time is right. Do these 4 things and you'll have a very strong sales and marketing machine.