Understanding Today’s B2B Buyer Journey: Why Marketing Should Start Thinking like Sales

In today’s buyer journey, parts of the traditional sales cycle are shifting, requiring marketing to drive real growth through content and campaigns.

You don’t have to look far to see just how much the B2B buyer journey has changed. Think about the last time you purchased something for yourself or your company – the online searches you conducted, the reviews you read, the cross-referencing of competitors. Even if you didn’t do this research, chances are that someone in your organization was charged with online research and fact checking before finalizing any agreement.

For the majority of buyers, comprehensive review is an unavoidable step in the considered purchase decision-making process. If a B2B buyer is curious about a new technology, they can review every relevant supplier before they even send out a single sales inquiry- analyzing each company’s website, reading third-party reviews, and quietly learning about each brand through the content they produce. In the end, the person who calls to inquire about your product or service might know just as much about your company as your salesperson.

This can be a benefit or a detriment to your company, depending on how prepared you are for this shift in the buyer journey. The increase of well-informed buyers can improve the velocity of your sales funnel, and the trend of self-education can certainly drive highly qualified leads. But if your marketers don’t see how their role fits into the sales funnel and lends itself to closing the deal, you could be in trouble. As people spend an increasing amount of time reading through your content and learning about your business online before jumping into a sales call, it’s time for marketing to start thinking like sales. Here are three mental shifts I encourage all marketers to make as they prepare for next year (and beyond).

1) Marketers shouldn’t depend on one-size-fits-all messaging.

The top B2B sales reps will all tell you the same thing: Personalized pitches work better than generic sales scripts. If you can connect your conversation with what your target customer really cares about, you’re more likely to close the deal.

Historically, a marketer’s job was simply to let as many people know about your brand and offering as possible. This meant blasting engaging but generic messaging to the masses, hoping the message would encourage people to reach out to sales. Salespeople were responsible for any personalized communications.

Today, personalized messaging is very accessible to marketers. From targeted display ads to dynamic content, segmenting your target markets and sending personalized ads is an increasing part of a B2B demand generation today.

It only makes sense for marketers to start thinking like sales when they create content for individual buyer groups. What is the primary selling point for this particular persona? Which follow-up questions must you be prepared to answer with your content? How would sales respond to a pain point or objection? The answers to these questions can be used to develop copy that sticks, as well as helping marketers clarify which topics deserve some additional content to support lower-funnel activity.

2) Marketers need to understand how their activities connect to revenue results within the B2B buyer journey.

Marketers traditionally measure their success in KPIs connected to traffic and lead generation. How many impressions did our campaign generate? How many impressions resulted in a click-through to our landing page? How many people converted into a lead? Once the lead is generated, Marketing often loses track of how that lead actually performed through the rest of the funnel.

This creates a disconnect with sales. For salespeople, low-quality leads are just as useless as no leads at all! They only care about qualified contacts – those who actually convert into revenue. The perspective might seem cutthroat to a creative marketer, but it’s sensible.  Marketing activities should ultimately be measured by their ability to direct top line growth.

The excuse that it’s impossible to really know how marketing activities contribute to revenue is no longer accurate. While it takes some work to set up, an attribution reporting framework and a marketing automation system that is well integrated with your CRM can make it possible to trace a B2B buyer journey from first marketing touch to final sales call. This shift allows marketing and sales to speak the same language, with both working towards closed sales and revenue.

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3) Marketers need to stay engaged and aware of product and service shifts.

In order for a sales representative to do their job, they must be immediately informed of any changes to offerings, prices, and processes. This is built into a salesperson’s day more than they may realize – “fyi” emails, weekly meetings and regular sync-ups provide updates of which other departments may be unaware.

Marketing, on the other hand, is rarely informed of such changes. Executives often assume that marketing’s only job is to communicate “big picture” information, so they loop in Marketing staff about a change primarily if a campaign is involved. This means marketers learn about changes indirectly, or else not at all.

The problem is that marketing isn’t just working on big, shiny awareness building campaigns anymore. Much of their time is committed to building out evergreen resources – web pages, social media posts, and blog posts to guide a buyer from first touch to final conversion. As this content starts to multiply and marketing begins to experiment with ever-changing tactics to improve SEO, those intricacies start to matter.

When a salesperson hears the words “I read on your website…” it should be a good thing, proof that the buyer has already done valuable research and takes the purchase seriously. Instead, this phrase makes most salespeople cringe – they cross their fingers and hope the buyer didn’t read outdated information or convert on some misleading copy.

When marketing isn’t in the loop and doesn’t know exactly what their company is offering – from the big picture value proposition down to the warranty fine print – they can miss the mark and send misinformed prospects to sales. Making sure the Marketing department is aware of any changes in products and services, however insignificant they may seem, will help to protect the integrity of your website and equip your team with the knowledge they need to craft better campaigns at every funnel stage. Not only does it keep things accurate, but access to the latest information can help open up new content ideas and promotional angles for marketers, inspiring them to build content that truly integrate with sales pitches.

Driving revenue in a world where the sales and marketing funnels are merging

It might be easy to divide the B2B buyer journey into separate sales and marketing funnels, but the reality is that B2B buyers don’t play by those rules. They read articles produced by marketing to find answers to traditional “sales” questions. They insist on getting upfront answers via email prior to jumping on a call. On top of this, companies are using committees instead of individual buyers to make investment decision, meaning that multiple targeted personas and messages could be involved in a single purchase.

Like it or not, Marketing messaging plays an increasing role in how B2B buyers research products and services, understand brands, and ultimately make purchases. Taking the time to think a bit more like sales can help marketers understand what people lower in the funnel need to hear in order to convert them into a paying customer.

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