Modern B2B buyers are like savvy car shoppers. Remember the last time you bought a new vehicle? Did you go to a dealer and let the salesperson “qualify” your need? Not likely. Today’s car shopper is empowered with information, and so are your B2B customers.
As marketers, we need to adjust to this new reality by giving B2B tech buyers better options for self-discovery and an interactive experience that feels customized to their needs. Here are three tips to build that experience, create authenticity, and improve consideration at every point along the B2B buyer journey.
- Make your website fully transparent.
Your website is often the first place B2B buyers will go to investigate your offerings and see if they can fulfill a need. Instead of hitting them with a steady stream of pop-up email forms and login requests, provide a library of content that explains not only what your product is but who it’s for, why you made it, what the price is (assuming you sell an easily definable product), and what customers should expect to get when they buy it.
What practices should you avoid? Don’t act a cold caller. You probably been to sites that requires an email address, physical address, phone number and blood type to login before you can search for product information and pricing data. They’re prequalifying you and value gets delivered later, if there’s any to be had at all. This practice is guaranteed to scare off many potential customers.
- Engage with communities of interest
Like any savvy business shopper, B2B buyers are often more risk averse than their B2C counterparts. Most are also time-constrained. Communities of professionals with similar job functions and backgrounds can help them focus by connecting them to successes and failures of your product and others like it.
If that sounds risky, it is. Developing and kicking-off a community engagement program only to have the community dislike your product or company can backfire. So make sure you’re ready for large-scale review before engaging with a professional community like HR.com, American Express’ OPEN Forum, Element 14 or Spiceworks.
- Be responsive to ALL prospects
When your product is ready, jump in with both feet. Offer value such as free trials, review copies, and answer every question, no matter how trivial some may seem. Be as responsive to curious prospects as you are to those who are actively shopping—and do the same with print and online publications that are reviewing your product. Your willingness to engage before there’s a commitment to buy or publish a positive review says a lot about how you’ll serve customers after the check is in the bank.
Your VP of sales may protest this approach since not every contact is a short-term win and that’s to be expected. But here’s the reality of today’s B2B marketing and sales environment: brands no longer control the buying and sales process like they used to. Prospects are pre-qualifying themselves based on their business needs and it’s up to the brand to provide the resources prospects need, when they need them. We’ve all seen the stats about how more than 60 percent of the buyer’s journey is complete by the time a customer engages with a sales rep.
As marketers, our job is to influence and improve consideration at every point along that journey—on our website, in communities of interest, through owned and earned media—so when sales does engage they spend their time focused on making sure the prospect is receiving exactly what they need to purchase the right solution.
So what is the road ahead? Your sales and marketing teams should customize the buying experience to reflect the knowledge and insight B2B customers now bring to the table. In short: be transparent, engage with communities of interest, and give up control. Your growth strategy depends on it.