Buyer Behavior Helps B2B Marketers Guide The Buyer's Journey

Today’s buyers control their journey through the buying cycle much more than today’s vendors control the selling cycle. Although it varies greatly with product complexity and market maturity, today’s buyers might be anywhere from two-thirds to 90% of the way through their journey before they reach out to the vendor. For many product categories, buyers now put off talking with salespeople until they are ready for price quotes. 

This buyer dynamic changes the role of B2B marketing in a fundamental way. Marketing now owns a much bigger piece of the lead-to-revenue cycle. And B2B marketers must take responsibility for engaging with the customer through most of the buying cycle. 

Forrester research shows that today’s B2B buyer will find three pieces of content about a vendor for every one piece that marketing can publish or sales can deliver. They are finding this content in an ever-expanding number and variety of channels.  And they are accessing these channels from an increasingly diverse array of devices. Without debate, the business from business buyer is already much more multichannel than the business-to-business sellers are. Buyers of business products and services are online, in social channels, on YouTube, going to events, and evaluating options on their iPads and smartphones.  The buyer’s journey looks a lot more like this than the linear models (e.g., the funnel) that we usually use as a graphical representation.  

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The Missing Link In Social Media Use: Tracking Prospects

The University of Massachusetts released its annual survey of social media usage at Fortune 500 companies. The report revealed that in the past year, these business giants have increased their adoption of blogging by 5%, their use of Twitter for corporate communications by 11%, and their use of Facebook pages by 8%. Sixty-two percent of the 2012 F500 have corporate YouTube accounts, and 2% (11 companies) are posting on Pinterest. Sixty-six percent of the F500 are now on Facebook. Seventy-three percent of the F500 have active corporate Twitter accounts.  

However, what caught my attention was another recent survey that the University was also promoting on the same web page. This survey examined how universities use social media to attract students to their MBA programs. The study showed the same sort of increases that the F500 survey revealed. However, the headliner take-away from this research was “The Missing Link in Social Media Use Among Top MBA Programs: Tracking Prospects.”  The report concluded that “the missing link appears to be tracking those who first become interested in the program through one of the program’s social media sites. Being able to measure whether these prospects actually apply to the program is something schools may be looking to do, but have not yet mastered. Without this piece of information it is difficult to really assess the effectiveness of the social media plan and to know where future investments should be made.”

As I talk to companies in large and small companies about their lead-to-revenue processes, the most frequent topic over the past six months has been about leveraging social media in demand management programs. I’ve compiled a list of the most common questions and my perspective:

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Are You Absolutely Sure You're Doing Enough With Social?

I (Lori Wizdo) have just put the finishing touches on the content for tomorrow's (Wednesday, March 28 at 10am PT/1pm ET)  interactive webinar, Socialize Your Lead To Revenue Process.   B2B marketers (even tech marketers) are not sure their buyers are really engaged in social media for business purpose.  We'll see Forrester research that proves they are. We'll discuss how social marketing can address the issues I am hearing, over and over again, in client inquiries:

"How can we increase inbound?"....  "How can we increase conversions?" ... "How can we shorten nurturing cycles?"  And, most importantly, "Is social worth it?"

Despite the doubts and uncertainties, tech marketers plan to increase spending on social media for L2RM in 2012: 43% plan to increase social media spend for lead origination; 41% for lead nurturing.  Tomorrow's webinar hopes to give some very pragmatic advice to help you jumpstart or scale-up your social marketing program.

If you can join us, you can register here.

Proving Theodore Levitt Wrong About Sales

I (Lori Wizdo) am on a plane, flying to San Francisco, to participate in Forrester’s Technology Sales Enablement Forum. As I was prepping for my (limited) role in the event, I had a flashback to one of the most famous disses of the sales profession ever written. 

It’s contained in the 1960’s article "Marketing Myopia”, written by Theodore Levitt, which has become one of the best known and most quoted of Harvard Business Review's articles. The article is essentially about having a business strategy that concentrates on meeting customer needs rather than selling products. A key take away, which most marketing or business school grads remember, is the observation that “had railroad executives seen themselves as being in the transportation business rather than the railroad business, they would have continued to grow.”

However, it is also in this article that Levitt was breathtakingly critical of the sales profession: "Selling concerns itself with the tricks and techniques of getting people to exchange their cash for your product. It is not concerned with the values that the exchange is all about." He went on to explain that sales "does not...view the entire business process as consisting of a tightly integrated effort to discover, create, arouse, and satisfy customer needs. The customer is somebody 'out there' who, with proper cunning, can be separated from his or her loose change."

Well, that might have been true then (who I am to disagree with a marketing legend) but it’s definitely not true now – and certainly not in the tech industry. 

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