On average, customers will will contact a sales rep after they have independently completed about 60% of the purchasing decision process.

So says a recent survey by the highly respected Corporate Executive Board of over 1.900 businesses, aimed at uncovering B2B purchasing trends.

Please pause for a second before reading the rest of this article and think what that means for your own business.

This single data point has fundamental and important implications for a businesses revenue and lead generation responsibilities, processes and tactics.

There are many other data points that are regularly quoted about the percentage of B2B buyers who commence their buying journey online. For example:

  • Forrester surveys consistently find that figure is in excess of 80%.
  • A Demand Gen survey recently reported 78% of B2B buyers start their purchasing journey with a web search.

But this data from the CEB is much more impactful as it shows buyers using independent, typically online, resources to “self serve”, not only to commence their buying process but the data shows they continue deep into the purchasing journey.

Implications for Revenue Generation

If you are in any way responsible for revenue generation either asmind the gap a business owner or leader, or head of sales or marketing, this shift in your buyer’s behaviour requires you to react. Instead of marketing and sales worrying about alignment in incentives, there is a much more pressing problem, there is a gap, a mid funnel void, that neither sales OR marketing currently fill.

  • Marketing now has to act like a salesperson. They have to able to have conversations with customers that are customised to their requirements. It’s no longer acceptable to blast out mass messages to “the market” that are all about you.
  • They have to understand the specific buyer’s challenges and problems they face in order to adapt their messaging so that it resonates and engages buyers.
  • They have to provide genuinely useful content that helps buyers not just start their buying journey but content that allows them to move through the mid funnel purchasing stages, until they are ready to engage with sales.
  • They have to invest in channels (such as LinkedIn) to start and maintain conversations with their increasingly online buyers and encourage their loyal customers to engage and spread the word online.
  • They must measure what they do, so they can invest in successful tactics and drive up the efficiency of their funnel; less effort; minimise spending; maximise funnel flow and velocity.

The 5 Ingredients of Success

Build an Inbound Plan

Whilst most firms have a sales and marketing plan, the “era of the buyer” requires you to rethink this plan.

Understand your buyer (or in most cases, multiple buyers) you need to influence. These are people NOT market segments! Sales people get this. They deal with real people every day. Marketers need to take the time to genuinely understand the challenges and problems facing their buyers every day and build messaging and content that responds to these challenges.

Accept that your website is your lead generation “home plate” to use a baseball term. Redefine your funnel maths with this in mind. Think of this as your upside down funnel (or back to front pipeline, if you prefer).

  • How many proposals do I need to close the right number of deals to make my revenue numbers.
  • How many meetings do I need to submit the right number of proposals
  • How many qualified leads do I need to meet
  • How many contacts do I need to become qualified leads
  • How many visitors do I need to convert to contacts
  • How many strangers do I need to engage with to drive the required number of visitors to my site.

Build a Lead Generation Framework

Stop thinking about campaigns and start thinking engagement. In a world where the buyer is in control of so much of the buying decision process, you won’t know when a buyer is ready to engage with you or progress to the next stage of the purchase process. Marketers who continue to build campaigns, and make offers, around products and product features will be perceived as “tone deaf” to the multichannel buyer. Customers will engage with marketers who meet their needs for different information and options during the buying journey.

This means building a lead generation framework that sits in place ready to serve the needs of your buyer at a time and place of their choosing. Specifically this means such thiings as:

  • Setting up channels so buyers can find you when they search
  • Providing high value content on landing pages sitting behind data capture forms
  • Building automated lead nurture campaigns that serve information to buyers that is buyer stage specific. For example a demo or trial version of a piece of software might be a suitable mid stage offer whereas a thought leadership piece would be a top of funnel early engagement piece.

Equally this means STOPPING tactics that interrupt buyers and attempt to attract them when they are not engaged in the buying process and talk about you and your undoubtably world class products or services. These tactics are inappropriate, ineffective and expensive.

Develop Content

  • Start by building a content map that spells out what buyers will be offered at each stage of their buying journey. Different personas require different content.
  • Ensure you have a content distribution plan. Make the most of your content by ensuring it is distributed far and wide in the places your buyers spend time online.
  • Commit your thought leaders to contribute to the firms’ content. They don’t have to generate it but they should be encouraged to communicate their ideas and thinking to those that do.
  • Don’t underestimate the effort required to an ongoing commitment to creating content. Its tough. Ensure you have a stable of people you can outsource to. Consider using the legions of professionally trained and currently unemployed journalists out there.

Integrate & Measure

As a business leader you know all major investments should be measurable. Resources are limited so every investment requires a return. Marketing has traditionally been seen as a cost centre with little provable link to revenue. This has now changed.

  • Integrate your full customer lifecycle data. Integrate your marketing data with your data from your sales CRM and your customer data. Affordable tools exist to pull data sets from different systems to create a management dashboard of the essential data you need.
  • Ensure you have ways to measure each of the stages mentioned in “Build an inbound plan” above. Using digital marketing techniques allows this to be readily achieved.
  • Build a regular (probably monthly) process where these measures are analysed and interpreted and improvements made. The cycle of measure – analyse – change – retest is fundamental to improving the velocity and efficiency of your funnel.

Use Tools

Running a revenue generation machine without the help of robust tools is challenging.

Marketing automation is one class of software that’s seeing very strong growth currently and with good reason. Building and managing many of the ingredients listed above would be impossible, or require an unaffordable legion of marketers to administer. Most of the software is sold using a SAAS model and monthly fees are the equivalent in most cases to single day ot two fees of a marketing contractor. At g2m we work with Hubspot software primarily, but there are a number of excellent tools available.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is another indispensable tool for those responsible for revenue. Once again there are dozens of excellent tools from free products such as Zoho to powerful and affordable options such as Pipedrive and Sugar CRM to industry leaders Salesforce.com.

Business leaders and owners should ask their heads of sales marketing to collaborate and ensure the tools are selected to work together, pushing data between the applications. This is very important as its allows reports to be generated with “one version of the truth.”  The clarity this provides allows the senior team to focus on what action needs to be taken to:

  • Grow the top line
  • Ensure cost of sales is under control
  • The velocity of the funnel is running at a level to make or exceed the plan

We have written an eBook on how to build a smart lead generation function. Please feel free to download it. Equally, if you would like to take advantage of our complementary Revenue Generation Audit and Assessment, please contact us.