B2B buyers are people, too, and they often make buying decisions using the same criteria that produces purchases in their everyday lives. Here are five ways your marketing could be helping B2B buyers decide whether your products or services are right for them.
Helping B2B Buyers Answer the Question: Is It Right for Me?
For nearly 50 years, marketers have used the Engel-Blackwell-Kollat (or EBK) model as a guide for consumer buying decisions. Given that B2B buyers are people too, it follows that the same type of decision making process they use when buying items for themselves or their household applies when they contribute to buying decisions at work. We thought it might be interesting to take a closer look at the EBK Model and how B2B buyers and business owners finally decide that a given product or service is right for them.
The Five Stages of the EBK Model Buying Journey
- Identification of problem, want or need
- Search for information
- Identification and evaluation of alternatives
- Decision to buy
- Post-purchase behavior
Helping B2B Buyers Identify the Need
Sometimes the necessity or desirability of a product or service is obvious to B2B buyers; other times, not so much. For instance, let’s say that your company provides web development services. You have identified a prospect that represents your ideal client type, and begin to engage with them. They (correctly) point out that they already have a website but you know that their website is not producing the brand awareness and sales it should.
Telling them that they have a cruddy website isn’t likely to win you many points; however, if you can demonstrate to them that their site is under-performing or even a detriment to their organization, you might quickly take them from need awareness to a decision to buy. To do this, you may need to determine what they know (and don’t know), what they value, and what type of communication styles will keep them engaged. You will ultimately need to persuade them that the services you provide will produce one or more of the meaningful results they desire, even if those results are not the real reason they should actually buy.
You may be able to expose the need to them by pointing out deficiencies in their site, comparing their site against best practices, or showing them how competitors or other companies are achieving the results they want after deciding to do business with you.
The point is this: A need may exist, but your buyer might not be aware of it. How is your marketing helping B2B buyers discover they have a real need for your products and services?
Helping B2B Buyers Search for Information and Evaluate Alternatives
Depending on how much a B2B buyer already knows about your business or trusts your brand, a buyer might move quickly from need identification to buying decision with a minimum of effort into self-educating and evaluating alternatives. However, the procedures in many businesses calls for a formal process that leads buyers to search for information, identify alternatives and compare them before ultimately deciding which alternative is right for them.
A buyer’s search for information and identification of alternatives may also occur simultaneously; and today, often occurs completely online. In “The Disappearing Sales Process” on forbes.com, Scott Gillum writes,
“What are buyers doing if they’re not talking to sales? They are surfing corporate websites to identify and qualify vendors, instead of the sales force qualifying them. They are engaging peers in social media to learn more about their needs, potential solutions and providers. And they are reading, listening to and watching free digital content that is available to them at the click of a mouse. No longer is the sales force the sole source or gatekeeper of information.”
Some estimate that B2B buyers are more than halfway through the buying journey before they even make contact with a brand professional. But that doesn’t mean you can’t impact the B2B buyer’s search for information. The content you have on your website along with media like videos, guides and slideshows, blog content, social media sharing including publishing professional advice on LinkedIn, sending email newsletters, and other online marketing activities can help you influence B2B buyers. In particular, use of testimonials and expert reviews that may be perceived as more objective in nature might be instrumental in getting these buyers to make a decision in favor of your business.
Do you have content online that is optimized so that it gets found in the B2B buyers search; and, if so, is that content informative, engaging and persuasive in putting your brand forward as the best choice for them?
Helping B2B Buyers Complete the Process
Consumers and B2B buyers alike send what are called buying signals. These might be as obvious as asking for a proposal, getting a price quote or even placing an order. Other buying signals might be less obvious, such as asking what options or add-ons are available or even asking for references. If your marketing process stops short of asking for the sale, you could be losing B2B buyers right at the moment they are ready to buy.
Does your marketing make it easy for prospects to take the next step and move easily from browser to buyer? Are your sales professionals well-versed in identifying buying signals and asking trial close and closing questions?
Helping B2B Buyers Grow into Advocates and Long-Term Clients
Almost as bad as failing to ask for the sale is failing to realize that the sale is the beginning of the relationship with B2B buyers, not the end. What happens after the sale could be the most profitable marketing your brand invests in when buyers become long term clients and brand advocates, potentially referring many other clients to your business or influencing buyers online with positive ratings and reviews. Check out this article we wrote with ideas for 15 post-sale marketing activities that can help you build long term relationships with your customers.
What happens after the sale? Make sure that lead-nurturing extends to client care after the sale in order to win repeat business, long term patronage and garner the reviews and referrals that can help you grow faster and make your marketing far more efficient.