Calling all marketers! Customers have taken control of the sales process and your sales staff is losing ground.
It's not exactly "World War Z," but as buyers increasingly go online to research the products and services they want, it's leaving precious little time for sales professionals to influence the buying process.
Many prospects are 50% to 70% through their buying cycle before they're even ready to talk to a company sales rep, according to research from the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) and Google. That means the consumer has already formed their opinion, sometimes before the sales rep even knew they were looking.
Marketers must evolve to find new ways to connect with prospects throughout their buying cycle. By attracting new visitors where they're searching for content online, inbound marketing can build relationships with these prospects and nurture them through their buying process to provide sales people with qualified leads.
Identify Your Buyer's Cycle
Think of your customer's buying cycle as a sales funnel. The top of the funnel appeals to a broad audience and attracts a lot of awareness. Some prospects will fall away, but some will continue through the middle of the funnel, engaging again with your company through the relevant content you provide. Ultimately, a few come out the bottom of the funnel as customers.
The content your customers need varies, depending on where they are in the buying cycle. Content intended to generate awareness is usually different from content intended to convert leads into customers. You’ve got to ensure you have the right content for each stage of the sales funnel.
For many companies, the purchase cycle goes something like this:
The prospect becomes aware they have a need and/or aware that your company is in the business of solving their particular needs.
The prospect better understands their needs and begins to educate themselves about the various solutions available to them, perhaps including your agencies and the services it offers.
The prospect starts reviewing their options to see which may best meet their needs and eliminating those that seem to only marginally satisfy them.
Look for Solution
Having narrowed the field, the buyer makes a decision, hopefully to buy from you!
Map Your Content
Using what you know about your buyer personas, identify the types of content and the channels that deliver them to determine which content is best-suited for each stage of the buy cycle. While it’s true that prospects may not always follow the norm, studies show that some types of content play into a buyer’s decision at specific stages of the cycle than at other times.
You might find that content maps to the buying cycle as follows:
Educational, product neutral information such as blog posts and social media updates get indexed by search engines and show up in search results.
Ebooks, webinars and industry reports assist the prospect as they conduct their product research and position your business as a thought leader trusted industry expert.
Case studies, demos and customer testimonials provide peer validation and acknowledge that others with similar needs have turned to your company.
Analyst reports and detailed product information is “bottom of funnel” content that serious prospects would find useful.
Once you understand who your prospective customers are, what motivates them, what actions they take and when they take them in the buying cycle, along with the types of content you have or intend to publish you’re on track to attract a stream of qualified prospects.
Image courtesy of Renjith Krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net