Business-to-business (B2B) marketers know the path to sales can be long and winding. Unlike B2C purchases, B2B transactions are rarely made after a single engagement. Instead, the sales cycle is substantially longer -- usually taking months or more. In addition, the decision-making process often requires agreement across multiple users, influencers and stakeholders.
A new report by Showpad confirms the complexity of the B2B sales journey. Here are my top takeaways for B2B marketers looking to expedite the process of getting prospects from point A to point B:
- Buyers spending more time researching: With the sheer amount of information and resources available online, business buyers are able to conduct more research than ever before contacting potential suppliers. In fact, the report states that buyers spend 20 hours researching before ever reaching out to a sales rep. This means B2B marketers need to offer abundant resources – articles, analyst reports, case studies, etc. – that their buyers can use to evaluate and compare solutions to their challenges.
- Evaluation process taking longer: Most buyers in the Showpad report verify that their evaluation and sales process is taking longer: a third (32.5%) say this has increased somewhat, while over 22% say this has increased significantly. Top reasons for the timeline extension include disagreements over price (34%), difficulty understanding information (33.62%), difficulty sharing information internally (30%) and disagreements over product capabilities (23%) or ROI (23%). As a result, B2B marketers need to remove barriers to evaluation, enable information sharing and simplify materials to make their value propositions clear and compelling.
- Peer reviews crucial: Buyers today – especially emerging millennials – are skeptical of advertising claims. Instead, it’s no secret that they rely on the advice and recommendations of their peers as a key part of their solution research. From the Showpad report, while 64% of those surveyed visit vendor websites, almost as many (59%) investigate peer review sites (e.g. G2Crowd) and almost half (49%) will have conversations with their colleagues with similar challenges. In fact, C-level executives prefer peer reviews over all other types of research. That’s why B2B marketers need to generate plenty of positive reviews from users – and then invest in directing prospects to these reviews. In addition, they also need to mitigate any negative reviews, working quickly to make things right for unhappy customers.
- More follow-up needed for nurturing: With longer sales cycles, B2B email marketers should have a program in place for regular prospect follow-up with a goal of ensuring the sales cycle is progressing. A first step is offering additional resources to nurture the relationship. In addition, marketers should have triggered emails programmed for immediate contact based on buyers’ behaviors and preferences. According to a report by Ascend2, email is the most effective tactic for prospect nurturing, preferred by almost half (47%) of marketers, ahead of content / video marketing (45%), social media (40%) and SEO (33%).
- Be clear, relevant and complete: With the sheer volume of information available, B2B buyers can easily be drawn astray, get buried, confused or otherwise lose sight of your message and value proposition. The Showpad report verifies that the biggest obstacles for B2B buyers include “not enough information applicable to my purchase” (40%), “not enough information available” (32%), “difficulty showing ROI” (29%), and that “information was confusing” (28%) or untrustworthy (21%). It’s clear that marketers need to be laser-focused on the prospect’s challenges and offer clear solutions backed up by third-party analysis and reviews.
The path to B2B sales might twist and turn, but B2B marketers can empower buyers to better navigate and accelerate the journey by providing clear, relevant information, delivering additional proof points along the way and offering an abundance of examples, case studies and positive reviews.
Last but not least, when it comes to acquiring new B2B customers, don’t forget the simple things. For example, you’ll see your success rate rise when you commit to building a high-quality prospect list to fuel your sales and marketing campaigns. This requires developing your audience as a business asset – including identifying the right targets and then enriching, scaling and optimizing your database over time. To find out more about best practices for email acquisition data as well as how to use deep cleaning to boost the value of your email database, please contact me and my team at OMI.
Outward Media’s accurate, targeted email data can enable you to achieve better email marketing ROI by targeting your best prospects – including top-level executives -- and, ultimately, converting more prospects into customers. Take a look at our case studies to find out more.