By Ana Lapter
We recently surveyed over 1900 customers to uncover insight regarding B2B purchasing behavior. The survey results were surprising: On average (and with little variation among industries) customers will contact a Sales rep when they independently completed about 60% of the purchasing decision process.
What does this figure mean for Marketing?
- 60% doesn’t suggest an organizational overlap with Sales, “territory” grabbing or misalignment in Sales and Marketing incentives. This is no man’s land: a gap in the purchasing funnel that neither commercial function currently addresses.
- The 60% mark is in that part of the mid-funnel that is critical in terms of driving the buyers’ consideration of a supplier for a potential purchase. Therefore, Marketing needs to de-emphasize tasks like thought leadership and white papers, and focus more on advanced activities, such as diagnosing purchasing needs and identifying internal barriers to purchases.
- 60% also means trying to build a dialogue with customers without having the advantage of a Sales rep’s one-on-one commercial interaction.
- Finally, 60% means moving beyond the “qualified lead” mindset. In essence, once we have moved past the early stages of the funnel, we need a strategy for persuasion and attention-grabbing mechanisms.
These implications are fundamentals in terms of shaping Marketing’s new role in influencing purchasing decisions. Marketing will need to act as a Sales rep without actually becoming one. So, how can a Marketing organization act like a Sales rep without actually being one?
Invest in conversational channels to drive a better dialogue with customers: We looked at the channels that customers consult in connection with a purchase and found out that the biggest opportunity for investment resides in a group of channels we labeled “conversational”. This group includes: customer testimonials, physical or virtual events, and supplier communities.
Customize messaging to address specific purchasing needs. This is probably the hardest challenge to meet because customer needs are not homogeneous. Our survey helped us identify 4 stable categories of purchasing needs: 1) innovation buyers; 2) ROI-conscious buyers; 3) relationship building buyers; and, 4) risk-averse buyers. In the absence of advanced “techno-graphics” (a blend of psychographics and technology tracking tools), we suggest using a “doctor’s questionnaire” approach: let customers self-select the information they are interested in from a menu of options covering the four categories of needs described above. The key to implementing a “menu of messaging options” relies on the ability to ensure information “findability” via techniques, such as: message categorization, links to third-party sources and other information presentation strategies that enhance content visibility.
Build a strong connection with customers using a combination of commercial teaching and experiential marketing strategies for better impact and momentum building. One example is Hill-Rom’s approach to transforming a trade show from a product-centric event into a momentum-building experience. During the trade show, prospective customers experienced live, inside the booth, demonstrations of how the product works in terms of solving their problem. Here, the recipe for success was to focus on a critical customer problem and suggest an unexpected solution linked to the supplier’s unique strengths.
As buyers are gaining more independence in assessing their purchasing needs, Marketing needs to step in quickly to fill the mid-funnel void.