Create business leads by understanding the 5 stages of the buying cycle
Older tactics like drip marketing sending out the same message to multiple of contacts trying to figure who clicks on a message is making way for a more targeted approach centring around offering tailored content for the specific buying stage. This more around taking a strategic approach to understanding the buying process and offering content specifically for the particular stage.
Understanding the buying process is important for B2B marketers to actually generate more leads and then nurture them until qualified.
I found this useful diagram giving an example of a B2B buying cycle from LeadFormix. Once marketers understand their prospects buying cycle, they are able to offer relevant content talking to their potential customers at the various stages thus adding value to their journey.
Its also important to note that prospects may enter and leave the process at different stages and marketers need to ensure they have content readily available for the stages. The sales funnel isn’t linear anymore.
This is the beginning of the process where needs are uncovered or possible customers start researching to find answers to their issues. Prospects at this stage are looking for guidance and more information to help them.
As a B2B marketer understanding that this stage isn’t about selling product but rather helping is really important to generate those early leads that aren’t ready to buy. Far too many websites don’t cater for these types of leads and research states that this could be as many as 60% of possible leads that can be generated.
Ensuring your website can be found on search engines is key for this stage. Content that helps early stage prospects include blog articles on thought leadership, opinion pieces and solution advice. Social media is a wonderful platform to distribute this content as it offers another channel to be found. Traditional tactics like PR and events are also helpful to unearth these needs.
The main purpose of this early stage content is to bring possible clients to one’s website to capture their details and start the lead nurturing process.
This is an important stage as a possible customer has unpacked their needs and now starts looking around for a possible solution. As a marketer this stage moves an unknown prospect to someone that is known and moves through the process of being a prospect to a marketing qualified lead and ultimately a sales qualified lead where the sales team takes over.
Marketing automation plays an important role to understand the prospect and offer relevant content guiding them through this process. Relevant content would include premium content that is more detailed than the blog post for example a prospect read bringing them to the site. Premium content allows marketers to capture the prospects details.
Examples of premium content include buyers’ guides, eBooks, white papers, video reports or any type of content that helps a person with their research. The aim to keep bringing these prospects back to your website assisting them.
As the lead becomes qualified the sales team start engaging and prospects start narrowing down their list of possible companies to help. Marketers shouldn’t stop now but need to support the sales team with focussed information that starts selling the company. This includes case studies, testimonials, demos, webinars or anything that brings the sales team closer to their possible customer showing the value of one’s company.
The evaluation may be via a formal tender or may be a series of meetings and proposals. The important aspect at this stage is the amount of human contact with the possible customer. Engagement needs to be high with the prospect being introduced to key people within the company answering specific questions like product specifications, integration capability and even possibly introducing the prospect to current customers to get their view on the solution.
The leads convert to the sale however its key to turn this new customer into an advocate or even a potential to cross-sell/up-sell later. In far too many cases, the effort tapers off and the customer is almost left alone. Always remind the new customer of why they chose your particular company and ensure that the process to get them using your product/service is seamless. This includes effective training and helping them get started.
Marketers still have a role to play here by offering help content for these customers to get better use of the product/service they have purchased. Happy customers getting the best out of your offering stays with you, tells others and may buy more.
The best way to use traditional and digital channels to find leads and nurture them is to be relevant and understand where they are in their own buying process. The quicker marketers understand this and start creating relevant content for the various buying stages, the more leads will generated from marketing and more qualified leads will be handed over to the sales team. As we have stated many times on our blog, our view is that marketing should take a greater responsibility in demand generation.
Image Credit: Ink Blue Sky
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