The past few years tested the mettle of many B2B marketers. Economic woes brought buying to a grinding halt. While we no longer seem to be in a “No Buy Zone,” customers have not fully returned to their pre-recession selves. They have held onto the savvy buying behavior they acquired out of necessity when times were tough. Due diligence requirements are still extremely high but, thanks to the democratization of the information channels suppliers used to control, figuring out what customers are up to is increasingly tough.
With that in mind, the MLC B2B team decided to probe into the customer decision process earlier this year provide some guidance to marketers trying to regain influence. Among the key findings we uncovered in our quantitative survey of 1,900 B2B customers is the fact that, on average, customers are 57% of the way through the purchase process before they allow Sales to play a real part in their purchase decision.
This delay in Sales contact opens up a gap in the purchase funnel that Sales used to own. So what are Marketers to do? They have to own the mid-funnel. And that suggests the need for a meaningful shift in focus and behavior. Customers in the mid-funnel are not the same as those in the earlier purchase stages. Their information needs are more complex, which requires a more customized, targeted response.
Marketing, in effect, needs to act like Sales – but without the advantage of one-to-one customer contact that Sales enjoys. How do the things that Sales used to do in the mid-funnel (diagnose customer needs, uncover and address objections, scope solutions, and set priorities and deadlines) translate in Marketing? Based on our research of what the best companies are doing, marketers must now do two things in the mid-funnel: 1) Tailor messages to customer purchase motivators and 2) Build deal momentum.
Of course we don’t expect that a two-line summary is enough for you to move forward. That is why we structured our Annual Executive Retreats around what marketers actually need to do to in this new world of delayed Sales contact. We answer the questions about what does motivate B2B customers to buy (in fact, its simpler than you think) and how marketing can use non-Sales channels to emulate the personal energy of Sales to move deals forward.
MLC members can check out our online resource center that includes all the materials from this year’s study including case studies from companies like Danisco, FedEx, Hill-Rom, and Telus. And there is still time to catch this material live. Register for one of our remaining meetings in Atlanta, Sydney, London, or Johannesburg or join us for the Sales and Marketing Summit in Las Vegas. Can’t get away? Check out our webinar series or call your Account Manager for a custom walk through.