By Karen Harding, the Marketing Manager at Objective IT.
The way people research suppliers and buy goods and services has changed dramatically in recent years. For example, in the past consumers went to a local travel agent to book a holiday whereas a business used a business directory to find a new supplier. Now, the idea of looking through the Yellow Pages to find a business supplier seems archaic.
Discovering a new business supplier via the internet is easy and convenient, whether on PCs, tablets or mobiles. So it comes as no surprise that the B2B purchasing process often begins with a Google search.
The first step is to raise awareness. When a prospect is researching, how can you ensure consumers and businesses find you in the first place …
- Your website needs to be fully optimised with interesting, informative content
- Post regular concise, useful blogs
- Make sure your contact details are clear and easy to find
- Include a sign up form to capture prospect information
- Engage a SEO specialist company
- Consider pay per click campaigns, with relevant landing pages
Research published by the Harvard Business Review revealed the B2B buyers tend not to engage with sales people until they are 50-60% of the way through the buying cycle. This means that the marketing function needs to play a much bigger role in the sales process.
Once the prospect begins to explore possible solutions and starts comparing options and suppliers, it’s marketing’s role to nurture the lead until they become sales-ready and are interested in having a commercial discussion.
Rather than passing new leads directly to sales, the marketing team need to nurture the leads until the prospect is further into the buying cycle, and ready to speak with a sales person.
The nurturing phase can be undertaken in a combination of ways, such as personalisation of emails, building relationships through telephone conversations, supplying useful information through blogs and whitepapers, invitations to webinars or seminars.
Additionally all of the behaviour, such as page views, click-through and whitepaper downloads, needs to be stored in a database or data warehouse to enable marketing analytics to answer such questions as… based on this behaviour, what happens next?
The prospect is now sales-ready, they are engaging with potential suppliers that have been short-listed in order to gauge prices, capability and customer service.
The sales person is introduced at this stage, or in some companies the marketing team traverse into sales, which aids continuity and helps cement the relationship.
Technology supports and drives the marketing function. Objective IT builds bespoke databases and data warehouses for marketing intelligence.