Chief Editor, Follow Your Buyer
You might know me as a writer, coach, content marketer, dog lover, editor, golfer, sales strategist, Diet Coke enthusiast, speaker, Allegheny alum, project manager, feminist, networker, or St. Louis Cardinals fan.
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There’s a proven way to win more business that doesn’t involve raising a new round of funding, hiring more sales reps, or implementing new software. No gimmicks, no secrets, no flavor-of-the-month strategy. Ready for it?
You will win more business if you create and properly distribute relevant content that truly helps buyers throughout the entire buyer’s journey.
Here is that revelatory statement again, this time italicized instead of in bold font, in case you glazed over that sentence: You will win more business if you create and properly distribute relevant content that truly helps buyers throughout the entire buyer’s journey.
The most important part of this statement is the phrase “buyer’s journey.” Understanding it is arguably the most critical element of being a successful B2B marketer today. And despite how crucial it is, far too many suppliers miss the mark and confuse the concept with a “seller’s journey.”
Once you understand the buyer’s journey, you can then start to build a content marketing and sales follow-up strategy that helps your prospects and customers navigate it.
There are many variations of the buying life cycle and its connection to marketing. Be highly skeptical of those that start at the buyer’s first direct connection to the supplier. Too many suppliers want to believe B2B buyer’s journeys are as simple as a three-step Awareness-Consideration-Purchase depiction. That’s how a supplier wants the journey to work, but for buyers, it is much more complicated.
Buyers do a massive amount of up-front work before involving suppliers. In fact, the buying process is coming to a close by the time a buyer requests a demo, agrees to a meeting at a trade show, or schedules a call with your sales team. That means your opportunity to influence the buyer’s decision-making team has long passed. As a result, suppliers are often frustrated by buyers’ predetermined budgets and preconceived opinion of your capabilities.
The problem with traditional marketing activities is that they’re designed to generate more demos, more trade show meets, and/or more sales calls. That strategy won’t help suppliers win more business because it doesn’t increase your amount of influence over the decision-making process.
If you want your sales and marketing efforts to capture a buyer’s attention and influence the decision-making process, you first need to accept a few realities about how B2B buying works:
The concept of a buyer’s journey isn’t new. It’s been researched and written about many times over. One of our favorite interpretations of this is from Selling To The C-Suite by Nicholas Read and Stephen Bistritz. The book explains the buyer’s journey as an eight-step process that takes place in three stages (early, middle, and late).
The early stage of the buyer’s journey typically happens without a supplier’s input. Buyers first seek to (1) understand current issues. Then they (2) establish objectives. Buyers will also (3) set strategy during this early phase.
Supplier content for the early stage of the buyer’s journey can include objective and educational thought leadership articles with no overt vendor branding.
The middle stage of the buyer’s journey is also largely navigated without direct input from a supplier. Buyers (4) explore options. Then they (5) set vendor criteria.
Supplier content for the middle stage of the buyer’s journey can include things like case studies and comparative research and can be lightly branded.
The late stage of the buyer’s journey is where too much of a supplier’s marketing typically focuses. By this point, buyers are (6) examining alternatives. After that, buyers (7) plan implementation. And at the very end, buyers will (8) measure results.
Supplier content for the late stage of the buyer’s journey can include product/service descriptions and application notes and can be heavily branded.
Remember, the buyer’s journey is all about the buyer. It’s not about interrupting or trying to shortcut the process so that you can sell more as a supplier. Your customers and prospects will complete their buyer’s journeys with or without your help. The best way for you to help is to follow along and provide helpful content throughout each stage.
We will not be great by what we accomplish, but by what we help others accomplish.How does this apply to your work as a B2B marketer?
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Learning to follow your buyer is a change in mindset
A transition from selling buyers on what you do to helping them accomplish what they do.