The Big Myth About Buyer’s Journey in the Digital Age

July 28, 2015

CommunicationLast week I attended a webinar presented by SiriusDecisions and Alinean titled “ SiriusDecisions Interview: Death of the B2B Sales Rep?”. It basically reinforced some concepts I already knew and presented some new interesting stats from the research that SiriusDecisions has done recently.

If you know anything about SiriusDecisions these guys are the top analysts when it comes to B2B sales and marketing. Here’s what you need to know about the content they presented:

  1. Don’t believe the 67% stat quoted everywhere
  2. Sales people matter more than your digital assets
  3. Your sales enablement and content marketing plans need adjustment
  4. Train sales reps on value, not on product features

OK, let’s dive into each one.

Don’t believe the 67% stat quoted everywhere

You’ve seen and heard this multiple times. I sure am guilty of mysquoting it once or twice and I have recently heard a VP say it like it was the new gospel. “67% of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally” is the actual quote from SiriusDecisions from back in 2013 that people misuse thinking you should focus your marketing on creating digital assets, leveraging marketing automation, inbound marketing and that by the time the prospect engages with your sales team they have done most of the research, diminishing the role of the sales rep to a mere order taker.

SiriusDecisions published a must-read blog post dispelling the myth and setting the record straight noting that:

a) The 67% statistic doesn’t say that buyers don’t engage with sales people in the early stages of the buying journey, it simply says buyers are spending more time online (note it also doesn’t say that the 67% is related to the early stages, in fact it is spread throughout the sales cycle);

b) Just because buyers are doing research online it doesn’t mean you have to wait for them before you engage;

c) You need to understand what’s really happening online and tailor your inbound strategy accordingly.

Sales people matter more than your digital assets

According to SiriusDecisions 2015 Buyer Study, buyers classify “sales presentations” more meaningful or impactful than the traditional marketing assets like whitepapers, infographics, eBooks and Webinars during their buying process. In fact, sales presentations were ranked top next to analyst reports and followed closedly by case studies and articles/publications.

How do you get to see ‘sales presentations’? By engaging a sales rep. The top three contents ranked by the companies answering the survey have the same thing in common: they all answer “what value am I going to get from the solution?” question.

Your sales enablement and content marketing plans need adjustment

The key takeaway from the research is that you may have to review your sales enablement and content marketing plans. How much time are you spending creating truly captivating sales presentations? Is your content focused on promoting the product features or in showing value?

Also important is the notion of risk. Every purchase decision involves risk analysis and if you are able to minimize the perceived risk in the eyes of the buyer, you get ahead of the competition. Risk is shown in many forms, like technology risk, financial risk, user acceptance, and more. Depending on what you are selling you need to adjust the messaging to focus on the types of risks more important to the buyer.

Train sales reps on value, not on product features

According to the research presented, most sales reps have trouble selling the value of their solutions. Just listen to a few sales calls and you will listen to a variety of messages from different sales reps. Some will pitch the technology, others will go strong on pricing, some will focus on dissing competitors… it never changes. The problem is not just with the sales team, is with how you are training them.

I know this first hand. Tell someone in sales how to pitch the product and it almost guarantees they will do a different way. But you have to insist and enlist the help of the senior sales reps and execs to make sure they support the key messaging and value proposition you are creating in marketing and why the sales decks were created this way.

When a new product or new product release is being announced to the team, pay special attention to how you can translate the technical features in customer value and announce it that way. Retraining the sales team, making them shift their approach is one of the hardest things, but it gotta be done.

The Shift In Sales

The fact that buyers are doing research on their own doesn’t diminish the value of the sales rep, it actually makes the sales person way more important and doing an extremely difficult job. But by arming the sales team with the right messaging, the right tools and catering the tools to different stages in the sales cycle you will be increasing the value the sales person in your organization delivers to the prospect at each step of the way.

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Content Quantity Versus Quality

December 28, 2012

How much content is too much content? Take a look at the picture. This is from a local bookstore here where I live in Mountain View. How many Hobbit books can there be? I was reminded of this again as I read Michael Brenner’s post about the “content echo chamber” hitting spot on something that is happening in the ‘content marketing world’. Good content vs boring content.

 

Hobbit books by Daniel Kuperman

The tower of Hobbit books

Keeping Your Content Fresh

When talking with other companies about content marketing, the discussion is often steered to how much content to create. All the ideas start flowing and the great topics that will make prospects notice the new product being launched. Only to dawn on everybody that with a staff this small there is no way we can pull it off. Then I like to raise my hand and ask them to rethink their content approach. Is more content the same as good content? How about instead of trying to write blog posts every day, host webinars every week, and create new whitepapers every month we just stop to think about the following elements:

  • What is the message?
  • Who do we want to reach with our message?
  • Why is this message important for this group of people?
  • What is the most effective way to reach them?

I also like to ask something like “if you only had resources (budget, staff) to do one content piece, what would it be?”. The idea is not to do less content, but to do better content.


The Danger of Automatic Feeds in Social Media

January 31, 2012

Note: This is a guest post by Brad Shorr is Director of Content & Social Media for Straight North. See Brad’s bio at the end of the article.

Participating in social media is time consuming, so it’s only natural that people look for shortcuts. However, some shortcuts become disastrous detours, and this is often what happens when a company relies on automation for significant portions of its social updating.

Automatic feeds come in two flavors. Fully automatic feeds publish to a social media platform without any human intervention. An example of this is setting up your Twitter updates to automatically feed into your Facebook company page.  Semi-automatic feeds require intervention. For example, my HootSuite social media interface allows me to publish the same message simultaneously on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare, and soon, Google+.

Why to Avoid Automatic Feeds

The catch is, while automation is tempting for publishers, it is often annoying to readers. The following three consequences of overfeeding are why you should avoid automation, or at the very least use it judiciously.

1. Stream clogging. Automation encourages publishers to over communicate. If you overload any given platform with updates, your connections will either mentally tune you out, or physically tune you out by removing you from their stream (think Facebook) or disconnecting from you altogether (think Twitter). Most social platforms enable users to finely tune and personalize their incoming content, dooming any type of mass merchandising effort. And even though you can’t stop your mail to prevent junk mail, social media users can and do stop messaging they regard as spam.

2.Redundancy. Publishers sometimes lose sight of how many of their connections frequent multiple platforms. When I see the same update on three platforms, I remember it, but not in a good way. My assumption is the sender either doesn’t understand me or doesn’t mind bombarding me. Either way, the sender is not inspiring me to interact or do business.

3. Inappropriate style. The composition of a tweet, which is limited to 140 characters, does not lend itself to doubling as an effective Facebook post. Conversely, updates from other networks feeding into Twitter may be severely truncated, rendering them cryptic or entirely incomprehensible. Each platform has its own stylistic conventions that encourage conversation and action. Ignoring them only renders your social media activity less effective.

How to Avoid Automatic Feeds

Why do companies use this sort of indiscriminate messaging? Besides the convenience factor, I believe many companies simply don’t have a clear and distinct communication strategy for each social platforms on which they engage.

For example, a B2C firm might use …

  • Twitter to announce daily Twitter-only promotions
  • Facebook as a place for customers to upload photos of themselves using the product
  • LinkedIn for business updates relevant to employees and stakeholders

A B2B firm might use …

  • Twitter to distribute industry news and analysis highly relevant to its customer base
  • Facebook to provide in-depth information on its products and solicit feedback
  • LinkedIn as a recruiting channel

You’ll notice that each example necessitates targeting a particular audience segment and then theming the message to appeal to that segment.

Putting a purpose behind social communication not only eliminates the temptation to use automatic feeds, it allows companies to give audience segments a clear and persuasive reason to connect and much more important, stay connected and engaged. A constant barrage of thematically unconnected updates might accomplish the former, but never the latter.

Any business in social media for the long haul needs a strategy that employs something other than convenience as the linchpin.

 

About the author:

 Brad Shorr is Director of Content & Social Media for Straight North, an Internet marketing, Chicago-based agency. They specialize in niche, middle market B2B industries such as flame resistant apparel and thermoplastic injection molding. Follow @bradshorr on Twitter for non-automated discussion of all things marketing.


Marketing Events You Can’t Miss

July 21, 2011

It seems Marketo has a nicer way of presenting Marketing Conferences. I did a post back in February listing upcoming marketing events but I have to agree a nice graphic is so much better!

Check out below.

Must Attend Marketing Events by Marketo


A Buyer Persona Template for the B2B Marketer

May 20, 2011

With the new hype of content creation now making the rounds of webinars, books, and whitepapers another term has regained the spotlight: the buyer persona.

I was reminded once again of the importance of creating buyer personas during Bulldog Solutions event on Marketing Benchmark in which Rob Solomon walked us through their five step process for organizing your marketing programs:

  1. Business Case
  2. Infrastructure
  3. Process Planning
  4. Program Execution
  5. Measurement

While going through each step should be another post entirely, there were a few really good key insights that defined their approach:

  • Establish a goal and structure all your efforts towards it
  • Map your content
  • Measure and share your results

I’m oversimplifying it but without these three key actions your efforts will prove fruitless. When talking about content mapping, the buyer persona discussion emerged and it became clear that what can come across a simple marketing exercise is actually the pillar of your content creation strategy. Afterall, as Stefannie Tilton best said, “You can’t make a connection with your audience unless you know who you’re trying to reach“.

Personas Drive Content Quality

David Meerman Scott argues that one of the benefits of creating buyer personas is that it will force you to create meaningful, easy to digest content that will actually make a difference in the buying process. In his words:

“Truly understanding the market problems that your products and services solve for your buyer personas, you transform your marketing from mere product-specific, ego-centric gobbledygook that only you understand and care about into valuable information people are eager to consume and that they use to make the choice to do business with your organization”

I couldn’t agree more.

Who’s Involved in Creating Personas

During the Bulldog Solutions event, we discuss this issue of how to create one and who should be involved. The agreement was that Sales should be the driver of the creation of the persona, with Marketing only helping the process. This won’t work in all companies, and aguably there might be some pushback to creating personas as a waste of time or it being “just a marketing thing”. Another common problem you might encounter when trying to create Buyer Persona profiles, is that it may be confused with User Persona – something totally different. We, marketers, are concerned with the buyer (we want to influence the purchase) while other departments like Development and Product Management will want to focus on the person actually using the product (a User Persona).

So, from a Buyer Persona standpoint, is only natural that Sales, who is most in touch with the person actually making the buying decision will be front and center in the creation of the profile and it will be a great exercise to align sales and marketing.

Buyer Personas for the B2B Marketer

While buyer personas have a long history (starting to be widely publicized in the early 90’s), what I’ve seen from all the templates that I could find is they are mostly focused on the B2C market adding strong emphasis to demographics, which in the B2B world are not as relevant as say, the person’s title or role in the purchasing process.

Another interesting development that is shaking the B2B space is the increase influence of social media in buying decisions. Buyer Persona Insights makes a good argument when it says that buyers in B2B marketplaces are becoming more social in their interactions.

“B2B buyers today are becoming more social and not just in technology usage but in terms of what the influence of the technology has done to make buyers behave more socially.” – Buyer Persona Insights

Buyer Persona Templates and guides can be easily found on the web, for example:

But don’t just stick with the standard templates, customize them based on your industry, and needs. When you are done, you can then proceed to map out your content to the multiple buyer personas you created. A good way to understand what type of content should be created for each buyer profile has benn outlined by Jeff Ogen on a post “Using Buyer Personas for B2B Marketing“. If you can use the persona you created to answer those questions, your content creation strategy will now have a good framework.

Want another good reason to start working on your buyer personas? According to a Frost&Sullivan Research Report, only 46% of marketers have developed buyer personas, so there are good chances your competition isn’t among them and you can start taking advantage of buyer persona development to improve your content creation. But more importantly, take alook at how Brand Regard improved 3x click-through for their website. They did it, you can too.



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