In the world of B2C buying we, as consumers, have become accustomed to a relatively intuitive and even sophisticated online buying process. Just a few clicks on a vendor site often leads to several follow up emails from that vendor suggesting other, similar items we might like or offering price promotions or other – usually relevant – offers on items we failed to purchase previously.
With business-to-business buying, however, the picture is slightly less rosy. Despite a global pandemic pushing most, if not all, B2B selling online, recent Gartner research found that nearly three-quarters of B2B tech buyers described the buying process as “very complex or difficult.” All while vendor-side sales teams are crying out for more, and better, leads.
So how can that disconnect be plugged? How can you, the B2B seller, help make the buying process easier and ultimately drive greater engagement with potential buyers? As the saying goes, people buy from people which, in an online world, translates into the need for a personalized buying experience. Buyers want to know that you understand their challenges.
Here are 6 tips for defining your digital activation strategy which will help you get there
1) WHO? It goes without saying that you need to have a deep understanding of your target audience, but do you have an equally strong handle on their online behaviours and, crucially, where they go to consume their content? If your target audience never engages with LinkedIn, for example, there’s little point in running a LinkedIn campaign just to tick a box. There’s a tendency for marketers to get over excited and try to cover all online bases, but the key to success is to really think about your channel strategy and be honest about where your target audience goes online.
2) WHAT? What’s the story you’re trying to tell? What’s the message you’d like your audience to take away? What’s the experience you’re aiming to create for buyers online? You can communicate through the content that you share, of course, but also consider the journey that your audience will take with your brand and how the touchpoints along the way should develop and build in response to each engagement. All too often vendors believe they simply need more and more content, but the flipside of this can be a scattergun approach, and therefore meaningless, leaving your audience, frankly, cold. Rather than volume of content, try to think instead about ways in which to get your audience interested in a particular issue or topic. Consider how you need to step them through that process, passing important touchpoints along the way. By doing this, the buyer will feel you understand them better and begin to build trust.
3) WHY? Consider why you are embarking on this program. What are your objectives? Is this about awareness, or is it a lead generation exercise? Maybe you want to resuscitate leads you had a year ago? Understanding the purpose of your program will help define your channel strategy and ensure you reach the right people with the right message at the right time.
4) Objective setting: Sales & marketing alignment is key, and you, as a marketer, need to be crystal clear with sales about what it is you’re trying to achieve long before campaign activation. It’s about expectation setting. Sadly, we’ve seen a lot of programs come unstuck because this has been glossed over at the beginning and sales teams end up disappointed with the outcome.
5) Consistency of message: Consider the multi-channel element of your campaign and how your content interplays across each platform. The effect of a LinkedIn campaign in isolation, for example, will be compromised if a concurrent campaign is running on your Twitter channel, but with conflicting messaging. In addition, has your messaging been nuanced appropriately according to whether you’re marketing to an existing customer – who may therefore be interested in cross-sell/upsell opportunities – versus a potential buyer. You need to communicate the value of your proposition in the most relevant way to drive all audiences to action, and this requires targeted education, nurturing and pitching. The journey for the buyer is end-to-end and often multi-channel in nature, so all facets of that journey need to be considered.
6) Audience segmentation: Imagine the time investment required to build a carefully curated ‘journey’ for your target audience, either on your website, or via social media. And then imagine immediately wasting this opportunity when, at the end of the process, a lead fills in a form and is subsequently dropped into a generic nurture track and fed the same general content as everyone else. Not only will you lose engagement, but you will lose trust with the potential buyer too and be unable to demonstrate an understanding of their challenges by sharing inappropriate and ill-timed content with them. Audience segmentation is important, not just in terms of content viewed on your website, but also when considering what happens to a lead after any form fill.
If you want further advice on defining your digital activation strategy, you can read Agent3 partner, Greg Salmon’s, blogpost here, which originally appeared on Forbes.com. It contains some useful advice about flipping your demand generation efforts from ‘broad brush’ to ‘account-centric.’
Meanwhile, follow these tips and you’ll be well on the way to bringing the online B2B buying process more in line with our B2C peers, not to mention improving your leads and conversion rates!