The B2B sales cycle continues to evolve as technology changes with an ever-increasing amount of information easily accessible to potential buyers online. A recent study by Google and CEB found that the average B2B buyer is an estimated 57% of the way through their decision-making process before sales representatives from any suppliers are even engaged.
The new challenge facing enterprise marketing teams is determining how to stay top-of-mind with prospective buyers in a market where buyers are doing the bulk of their research independently, and without guidance from sales personnel.
B2B Buyers & Online Research
Digital content is typically the first point of engagement with a prospective customer, and as such content marketing has become an exponentially higher priority in the overall sales and marketing hierarchy. A 2014 State of B2B Procurement study from the Acquity Group found that an average of 94 out of 100 business buyers will conduct some form of online research, utilising channels such as the following:
- 77% use Google Search.
- 84% browse company websites.
- 34% visit third-party websites (blogs/media, research reports, etc.).
- 41% read user reviews.
B2B Sales Prospects & The ‘Funnel’
Despite the fixation on using attribution and modelling to develop the optimal “buyer path” or “funnel” to ultimately making a purchase, the reality is that most buyers will not follow a linear path. Carlos Hidalgo of Annuitas recently wrote on his company blog that the enterprises “pushing their buyer through the sales funnel” are generally not finding success largely due to evolving B2B buying habits including:
- 41% of B2B buyers state they are waiting longer to initiate contact with vendors than in years past.
- 68% stated the number of sources used to research their purchase has increased.
- 34% of B2B buyers have seen an increase in the number of team members involved in the purchase process.
Sales Engagement Through Content
Rather than forcing a prospect down a funnel, empower them with the materials needed to educate themselves about product applications and services that best fit their needs. Aside from creating great blog, whitepaper, video, and other customer-facing content, enterprises must ensure that their content is discoverable, optimised for viewing on any device, and able to include additional suggested materials.
Many of today’s sales engagement applications are designed to create structure and context around content to ensure that information from across an organisation can be found more easily through better discovery, navigation, promotion, curation and suggestion. Furthermore, tracking B2B buyer activities as they engage with different content on social media, company websites or via content management systems is of critical importance.
One solution from Genwi offers content marketing KPIs (key performance indicators) that provide details of what content each customer is viewing, tracks the time and completion of content items, and gives insight into other content that buyers may be viewing. This content analytics information is critical and can help start and deals.
With an optimised content strategy that enables better sales engagement, enterprises can increase their conversion of leads, attain a better ROI on online content strategy investments and respond to customer needs in a more timely fashion.