“The B2B buying process has fundamentally changed. Prospects are spending more time on the Web doing independent research, obtaining information from their peers and other third parties. Thatâ€™s why companies are meeting prospective buyers earlier than ever, and is a key reason why having sales attempt to engage with every early-stage lead is premature.”
So lets look at a typical B2B Buying Cycle:
- An individual within an organization becomes aware of a business problem negatively impacting his organizationâ€™s performance. It is important to understand that this happens quite frequently and at this point in time does NOT imply a desire to solve the problem. It is just another entry on a long list of business problems the organization has to deal with.
- Investigating solutions for identified business problems costs time and money, hence NOT for every problem a resolution will be searched for. The organizationâ€™s management has to take a conscious decision which problems to investigate and how much budget to set aside for this. This decision will be driven by perceived ROI, but also by general industry trends, peer discussions, investor expectations and so forth.
- Now a multi-disciplinary team is established to define a solution based on the parameters set by the resolution decision (scope, costs, timeline, risk ..) of the prior phase. The team will formulate one or more potential solutions and analyze them in terms of ROI, risk, TCO etc.
- Once the solution has been defined potential vendors are contacted and RFPs are submitted. The different vendor offerings are compared and the final decision by management is prepared. Management then takes the decision based on the vendor evaluation, peer conversations and general industry trends.
In each phase there is demand for information supporting the process. Obviously the more relevant information a vendor can provide and the earlier in the process the better his chances to influence the decision criteria in his favor.
1.Â Problem Awareness
At this stage the person realizing the business problem is not interested in talking to sales. Instead she is looking for relevant information to judge whether the problem is a) worthwhile investing time in and b) there are proven resolutions to the problem.
To attract the buyerâ€™s attention in this early stage we provide curated social media, blog and trade publication content together with relevant white papers and case studies via a topic oriented landing page together with an RSS feed. This way we associate our brand with the business problem increasing the likelihood of being considered in the next phase.
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2. Resolution Investigation
We support the clientâ€™s investigation with success stories, self-assessments and ROI calculations as well as 3rd party content such as studies and infographics. Our aim is to be perceived as the provider of a value proposition addressing the identified business problem.
3. Solution Evaluation
In this phase we want to learn the buyer in person and for this reason we invite him to our own events, point him towards industry events such as fairs, seminars and conventions or to our virtual events like webinars. We also start establishing the superiority of our products and services by providing data sheets, interactive demos, charts etc.
4. Vendor Evaluation
Finally we highlight our USPs, influence evaluation criteria in our favor, lower the perceived risk of our products and services by pointing towards favorable industry reports, benchmarks and customer testimonials.
When done correctly we start our relationship with an unknown, anonymous prospect and grow it into a very intimate one adopting constantly to his individual buying cycle, avoiding push where he wants to pull, by always providing valuable own and 3rd party content relevant to the buyer within his individual context.
This is where Algorithmic Content Curation comes into play: providing individually relevant information especially during the early phases of the buying process can be performed neither via static content offerings nor by human curation. Instead the individual buyerâ€™s interest graph has to determine content supply, the appropriate delivery channel and the most suitable format. Using applications we described before Algorithmic Content Curation provides for low cost, highly effective content marketing for organizations of any size.
1. Topic-focused Landing Page
Here we provide our white papers and case studies complemented by curated social media, blogs and trade publications regarding a common industry problem. This way the site is highly dynamic, presents new content with every visit and generates SEO visibility. The visitor stays anonymous, nevertheless we can dynamically curate content based on his reading behavior, which in turn increases time spent on the site and number of pages per visit.
Zooming in on the anonymous visitorâ€™s interest graph increases our chances to motivate him to subscribe to an RSS feed, newsletter or even register for our user portal.
2. Individual RSS feed
Rather than providing one standard RSS feed to all visitors we offer a personalized feed automatically adapting to the readerâ€™s interest graph by following which own and 3rd party content he consumes. The reader can view the feedâ€™s content on one or more front-ends of his choice.
3.Â Individual Newsletter
Just like with the RSS feed we can provide our own and curated content via an individualized newsletter adapting to the readerâ€™s interest graph, but here we need the visitor to disclose his identity for the first time by providing his email address. As email newsletters live and die with relevance it is important to use the visitorâ€™s interest graph he built during the visit on our landing page or by reading our RSS feed.
4. User Portal
After we demonstrated our problem resolution capabilities via the content we provided and thus gained a trusted advisor status we offer the buyer access to premium content via a user portal. Again we will use the interest graph built in the prior phases to achieve relevance from the first moment. Only now that the buyer has qualified by consuming our content we will invest our staffâ€™s time for webinars, interactive demos and direct sales contacts and spend money on analyst reports, eBooks and other premium content.
5. Mobile App, TV-App
Ultimately we provide the buyer with an app on his personal device like a smartphone, tablet or even TV with valuable features like ROI calculators, configurators and self-assessments and thus establish our brand on the most precious properties of all.
There are a host of advantages Algorithmic Content Curation brings to the table when used the way we described above:
- The buyer is always in control of the process. We control which content we offer to him when and where, but he picks time, location and format and this way tells us about the progress his buying process is making.
- We provide 3rd party content just as our own and this way educate the buyer extensively on the topic we claim to have expertise in.
- Via the content he consumes we can watch the buyer establish his vision and tailor our solution for him already before we meet him in person.
- By looking at the 3rd party content the buyer consumes we learn about our content and offering gaps.
- Analyzing the interest graphs we built will allow us to segment our prospects by interests and develop highly focused niche campaigns.
- Using the interest graphs we can simulate the reach of our own content even before releasing it and instruct internal and external writers on which topics to cover to generate awareness.
(This post was originally posted on www.relevancer.tumblr.com)