In several excellent posts on B2B Buyer Behavior and Buyer Persona, Tony Zambito points out how little most marketers know about their actual and potential customers. Buyer behavior has evolved dramatically in recent years, yet sales and marketing organizations are still inclined to use the same old tactics and hope for the best. Understanding actual behaviors and preferences, as opposed to assuming them, can make a huge difference in the effectiveness of content marketing and its impact on lead nurturing and sales conversion rates. Here are some avenues we marketers need to explore in order to better leverage this data.
Changing Buyer Behavior
Tony Zambito lists 5 important ways in which B2B buyers are changing the way they seek, find, consider and choose your products and services:
- Buyers Have Knowledge Expectations – They want to be able to easily research your stuff and know as much detail as possible without human (i.e. sales) intervention. When they are ready for a sales call, they want answers to their questions, not more sales pitch.
- Buyers Seeking Advisement, Not Ready-Made-Solutions – Buyers are typically 50-60% into the buy cycle before they contact a sales rep. What they want to know is how your stuff fits their situation, not how they can adapt to yours. Sales reps need to know how to provide useful information by knowing more about their solutions than any prospect.
- Buyers Including More People in Their Ecosystems and Networks – You have to assume that people do their homework, not just by downloading information but, more importantly, by comparing notes with current customers and potential buyers. It’s easy to do this these days through social networks and communities.
- Buying Cycles are Getting Longer – With all of this emphasis on available research and comparison shopping, it takes longer for prospects to evaluate you and make a decision, because they have more ways to do so. You need to align your sales and marketing team to understand this and adjust your lead nurturing strategies accordingly.
- Buyers are Relating Differently – You have to take into account different age groups and other demographics that may affect the way potential buyers behave. For example, generational differences impact the way buyers explore and engage with your online brand.
In a second article, Tony coins the expression “Buyerology” to introduce the science of understanding buyer behavior and persona. Yes, that’s right, “science.” Follow the data to gain insight into your B2B buyers and how they will react to your lead generation and lead nurturing strategies. One of the Buyerology methods is “Buyer Scenario Modeling,” or “…the process of analyzing research-based modeling of possible events, buying scenarios, buyer behaviors, buying decisions, and alternative future outcomes.” By studying the behavior of your buyers through pre- and post-sale interviews and surveys, through interactions with your website and social media sites, and by analyzing buyer content consumption patterns, you can begin to see patterns and create models for predicting buyer behavior. This in turn allows you to adapt sales and marketing strategies to better fit buyer profiles and meet their needs at critical points in the buy cycle.
How to Get on Board
The study of buyer persona has been around for a little over 10 years, and for most B2B companies, it’s still a matter of making assumptions. The problem, as always, is collecting the appropriate data – then of course having the technology and methodology in place to make sense of the data. You can start by putting in place a sales and marketing process that asks important questions and seeks buyer feedback, both prior to and after the sale. You can’t make any inferences about buyer behavior unless you ask questions. Next, make sure you are tracking visitors and leads and reaching out to them via content marketing as they traverse through your sales funnel. Last but not least, make sure your sales and marketing teams are aligned with messaging and data via closed-loop marketing. Make sure they are prepared to act more as helpful, informed consultants and less as “closers.”
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Your buyers are changing. Are you?
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