By Abby Sorensen, Chief Editor
B2B marketers, picture this.
Your CEO wants to shake things up. Accelerate sales. Reach new heights of growth. All in an incredibly short window of time.
Your marketing team is tasked with using your shoestring budget to dig up more qualified leads for your sales team in this incredibly short window of time.
You then have an incredibly short window of time to evaluate the results of those leads.
But your sales cycle takes an incredibly long amount of time.
If you were a B2C marketer, you could splurge on a Super Bowl ad, hire a celebrity influencer, or blitz social media channels. The bad news is, B2B marketers can’t use traditional “advertising” to shortcut sales cycles. The good news is, B2B marketers can use content marketing to adapt some of what B2C marketers do with predictive analytics to better understand where prospects are in the buyer’s journey.
What B2C Can Teach B2B Marketers
B2C marketers have it made. The ability to track, influence, and covert a single shopper is possible thanks to endless options for retargeting, tracking, and campaign delivery channels. The operative phrase is "single shopper." A single shopper can, and sometimes will, click on a banner ad, go to a website, and purchase an item. In a complex B2B sale, there’s no such thing as a single shopper who can make an impulse buy (in fact, an average of 5.4 B2B stakeholders are involved in the buying process). Influencing a large group of decision makers takes time, and those stakeholders aren’t exactly clicking on banner ads.
That said, 73 percent of B2B buyers say they want a personalized, B2C-like customer experience, according to Accenture. And research from Blue Corona claims, “When researching new products and services, today’s B2B buyer makes an average of 12 searches online and looks for the same digital experience they encounter during the B2C sales cycle.”
B2B marketing teams can emulate what B2C marketers do well with personalization, tracking, and attribution.
B2C marketers excel at using demographic, historical, and situational data to predict buying habits. In early 2019, McDonald’s shelled out $300 million to acquire the personalization software company Dynamic Yield. The technology will, “create a drive-thru menu that can be tailored to things like the weather, current restaurant traffic and trending menu items. Once you’ve started ordering, the display can also recommend additional items based on what you’ve already chosen.” McDonald’s is a great example of a B2C marketer that knows how to push the right products to the right customers at the right time.
Can you say the same about your B2B content? B2B marketers can, at the very least, strive to personalize their content based on things like company size, job function, and buyer’s journey stage. B2B content should be written for someone, not for everyone, in your universe of potential customers. Tailor your content to the behaviors, motivations, likes/dislikes, and commonalities among individual personas within the decision-making group of your target accounts. Before you can start to identify where a prospect is in the buyer’s journey, you need to understand who, exactly, is part of the journey in the first place.
B2C marketers can track where their customers are physically. Retailers can identify when shoppers are near a store and how they move around within a store, and can push them promotions and discounts accordingly. Remember that company McDonald’s forked over hundreds of millions of dollars to acquire? Head to Dynamic Yield’s homepage and you’ll be immediately identified by what country you’re in, the weather conditions outside your window, what operating system you’re using, and how you arrived at their website.
Likewise, B2B marketers should strive to determine where prospects are in their buyer’s journey. This is hard to do since B2B buyers don’t advertise this. Creating the right kind of content to impact buyers in the early, middle, and late stages of their buyer’s journey is a must if you want to track your prospects. You should be tracking things like frequency of content consumption and the number of contacts within a company who are interacting with your content. Look for spikes in activity that can indicate the start of a buyer’s journey.
Amazon reportedly cleared the $2 billion hurdle and sold upwards of 175 million products from the fifth installation of Prime Day in 2019. Revenue boosts were attributed to increases in visits and better conversion rates, according to Business Insider. Those metrics are fairly easy to measure based on campaigns like email blasts and banner ads.
Attribution is far more complex in B2B marketing. HubSpot’s 2018 State of Inbound report reveals that 39 percent of marketers say proving the ROI of their activities is their top marketing challenge. But marketers who can do this effectively are 1.6 times more likely to receive higher budgets. And marketers with sophisticated attribution models in place are 71 percent more likely to report positive ROI, according to Raconteur. Don’t settle for first- or last-touch attribution models – find a way to prove the success of your marketing throughout the entire buyer’s journey so that you can share some of the credit when the sales team brings in a new contract.
There’s No Shortcutting The B2B Buyer's Journey
Operationalizing these B2C marketing tactics for a B2B environment will take patience and persistence. Even the best B2B marketing campaign can’t magically shorten a multi-year buying cycle down to a few months, regardless of how well you personalize, track, and attribute your marketing activities. Doing these things well can, however, expand your view into the buyer’s journey. And the more you know about the buyer’s journey, the better your chances are of turning marketing qualified leads into sales winnable leads. You’ll be able to help your sales team cancel out the noise and prioritize the best, most realistic opportunities.
Understanding where a B2B customer is in the buyer’s journey and consequently knowing when and how to connect with that customer requires much more than superficial data marketers have traditionally relied on. Serving banner ads, analyzing email open rates, or hosting a few webinars won’t reveal this. And it’s much more complicated than the kind of data B2C marketers rely on. B2B marketers will never be able to cut out 4.4 stakeholders in order to win over a single decision maker. Achieving real results with content marketing means you’ll have to adapt to use data in different and more meaningful ways.