By Alan E. Young
According to a recent survey by Forbes, B2B customers progress more than 70% of the way through the decision-making process before engaging a sales representative.
This stands as an alarming realization for some companies, as they may find themselves resorting to aggressive last-minute sales tactics and discounts in an attempt to seal the deal within that final 30%. And, yet — for those who truly understand the value that content brings (holistic, value-focused and cadence-savvy content, specifically) brings, these findings come as no surprise. Further to that, they are seen in a favorable light, because that 70% represents an exciting opportunity to connect with each consumer in a more engaged manner.
Without a doubt, the most successful businesses are those which understand (and cater to) their prospective customer’s journey, using the provision of high-quality content to lead them smoothly through the path to purchase.
Think about it: If you hit a prospective customer with a hard sales tactic at the outset, why should they feel inspired to invest in your product or service offering? Using that approach, you’ve done nothing to get to know your customer or provide them value. You’re basically embodying a first date gone wrong, barking demands at a relationship that has yet to be established as soon as you’ve taken a seat at the table. Moreover, if you’re a marketer or a business who feels threatened by that 70% / 30% statistic, you’re essentially coasting through the first two-thirds of that date, and panicking come the last half hour while you wait for the bill and hope to determine where you stand.
Don’t be that company. Rather, use content as a critical tool to cultivate a gradual nurtured B2B sales process that is relationship-centric. Take it slow, get to know your potential customer(s), and give them a reason to trust your brand and remain engaged. That’s where you will find the coveted sweet spot of content marketing, and that’s where you’ll see the influx of opportunity within that initial 70% of the decision-making process.
Using this model, the first 20% of your engagement with a prospective customer should be entirely focused on addressing the needs of their research with the delivery of high-value, engaging material. Your aim should be to answer the questions your target audience may have or solve a problem while positioning your brand or business as a trusted industry resource and leader. You should use this opportunity to gain insight into your customer demographic, making a note of the way in which they engage with your content — what they like, what they don’t like, what keeps them on the path to purchase and what (where applicable) seemingly pushes them off that path.
Combining content that is relevant, timely and personalized with technology that can trigger next-step communications will help to solidify and automate the buyer’s journey on their terms, with the purchase goal intact as the destination. This becomes especially helpful in the case of renewal opportunities, or times at which customers seemingly second guess continuing their engagement with your offering. Not only that, but this takes pressure off the marketer, as intuitive technology enables your staff to focus more on quality of engagement rather than timing estimations and tactical guesswork.
Product or services aside, the content you create on behalf of your brand should be viewed as an essential part of your core offering. Why? Because, without this precedent of customer-centric content investment, B2B marketers are (metaphorically) pouring water into a leaky bucket. Sure, you can funnel your marketing budget into ad efforts and SEO all you want to increase traffic, but your conversion rates won’t reap any rewards if your content doesn’t resonate with that traffic. This content includes your landing page, forms, blog, social media presence, email marketing, etc., as these are often the content-rich pillars of your brand’s first impression. Don’t keep pouring into a leaky bucket — invest in a new one, and then crank that faucet on at full force to fill it up.
Utilizing that initial 70% of the buyer’s decision-making process, your brand has ample opportunity to make a lasting impression on each prospective customer. So much so, that by the time that final 30% of the process comes around, that customer doesn’t require any drastic sales tactics to be closed. Rather, they’re ready to invest in your offering, just as you’ve invested in them and the natural cultivation of their trust in your brand.
To learn more about becoming a thought leader to grow your brand and sales, click here to download our free e-book, “Thought Leader, Market Leader”.