How To Hack The B2B Buying Cycle
Much of the B2B sales cycle occurs before the prospect even contacts you. Contributor Rachel Balik discusses how we can nurture leads during this critical time.
At this point, it’s pretty common knowledge that two-thirds or more of the B2B buying cycle takes place before the buyer reaches out to the vendor.
We all know that’s a big deal, but we’re not all in agreement about what exactly that means — or, more specifically, we’re not exactly sure how to integrate this new digital buying behavior into our marketing strategies in a way that will be effective at driving revenue.
Although we don’t usually describe it so bluntly, when it comes down it, the digital age has led to a lot more work for marketers and increased confusion from sales as their role in the process gets smaller (at least on paper).
Marketers are overwhelmed by data; they’re tracking website traffic, impressions, click-through rates, lead capture, page views, re-tweets and more. Meanwhile, sales is stuck waiting around for the leads to come through, or they get fed up and start going rogue. But at the end of the day, the biggest concern for both teams is that the B2B buying cycle, which was already lengthy, is going to keep getting longer as buyers linger in the research phase.
But all hope is not lost. In fact, if we look at the right metrics and map them to the right action, it’s possible to speed up the buying cycle and improve revenue-generating operations at a company-wide level.
Don’t Be Afraid Of The Unknown
Traditionally, both marketers and salespeople spent the early stages of the buying cycle working toward getting a contact or lead. Once they knew who they were talking to, the real work of selling and lead nurturing began.
Now, buyers have gotten savvy and will do just about anything to avoid getting one of your promo emails. In other words, they are trying to stay unknown for as long as they possibly can. This can be discouraging, unless you’re willing to rethink exactly what information you need in order to do your work.
While you may not have certain persona or contact data, you do have the ability to learn a lot about the companies your target prospects work for: size, industry, geographic location(s) and of course, company name. Marketers use these data to create campaigns, target prospects, deliver content and track website engagement, which means the lead nurturing has begun long before you have a lead.
But sales can also use that information to start looking for contacts within those companies, which means they don’t have to wait around, either.
Narrow Your Focus
Even once you get contact information, you can be more strategic about your lead nurturing if you consider the right data sets. For example, website traffic tends to be in the domain of the marketing team, while CRM is a primarily a sales tool used to measure the progress of accounts. Given what we know about digital buying behavior and how much today’s buyer likes to research, it’s clear that website engagement is powerful digital body language.
Even once a company is engaged in the sales cycle, if key stakeholders within the organization are viewing product and services pages, it’s a good sign of interest. But does your sales team have that insight? If they did, they might be able to make better decisions about where to spend their energy. On the flip side, marketers can prioritize their campaigns based on account status in CRM.
Go For The Full Court Press
Marketers know that spikes in traffic to the website from a particular company indicate increased interest, but if they don’t act on that insight, it’s as bad as if they didn’t track site analytics in the first place. Adding the company to an email list or a making sure they get a call from a sales rep next week are good first steps, but that’s only the beginning.
To be effective as a digital marketer, you need to take advantage of all the channels available to you and start running surround-sound campaigns. For example, if traffic from a particular prospect spikes, they should immediately be added to a retargeting campaign.
Then, ensure that they’re seamlessly enveloped in a full, connected integrated marketing campaign that includes advertising, social media, email, events, website experience and personalized follow-up. And of course, you don’t have to rely solely on your own data; consult with sales to determine how best to build and tailor each campaign.
There’s no question that digital trends have shaken up our traditional marketing strategies and tactics. At first glance, it seems like we may have found ourselves with lots more work and no clear path forward.
Although there’s plenty of technology that helps us meet those challenges, the real key is being strategic and being an active participant in the new buyers’ journey. When we’re able to get our bearings and eliminate the noise, we see that this is actually the best time to be a marketer. With the right hacks, we can speed up the sales cycle and use these new trends to our own advantage.