In the age of information and the internet, B2B buyers now do a lot more independent research before engaging with a sales team. This changes the way businesses can interact with their prospects, and blurs the lines between sales and marketing. Here’s a closer look at how and why marcomms is becoming more important than sales.
Research consistently shows that B2B buyers don’t engage with a sales person until they’re more than half way through the decision making process. According to CSO Insights, 70% of B2B buyers fully define their needs before contacting a sales representative.
This significantly limits the influence sales teams have over customer decisions. In fact, research by Gartner found that when buyers are comparing multiple suppliers, they only spend around 5% of their buying journey engaging with any one sales representative. Gartner also found that the traditional set-up where marketing teams generate initial demand, then hand over to sales teams, does not work in reality anymore.
“In today’s world of B2B buying, there is no handoff from marketing to sales, or digital to in-person. It’s a parallel process, not a serial one.” (Gartner)
This inevitably means that marketing and communications is becoming more important in the selling process. So what can be achieved by marcomms to ensure a successful buying journey for prospective customers?
Providing a customer journey
If prospects are now self-serving more, marcomms needs to create a customer journey that doesn’t necessarily rely on human interaction. This encompasses all the phases a prospective customer goes through from the point of identifying a need, to the point of acquiring a product. Identifying these phases is key to a modern marcomms strategy.
Speaking to different audiences
Since companies with 100-500 employees involve an average of seven people in buying decisions (Worldwide Business Research), marcomms needs to address the needs of different types of buyer personas.
These individuals need to know the value the product or system will offer based on their job and decision-making role. For example, budget holders want to know how it will help facilitate their strategic goals. On the other hand, users want to know how it will be user friendly, help them fulfil their remit and improve their performance, and what support is available if they need it.
Defining the value proposition of the product
Marcomms must also be able to describe the full combination of benefits and economic value its products or services will bring to a company. In the absence of interaction with a human early on in the buying process, prospective customers must understand how a solution will solve their problems through marcomms assets.
Explaining the benefits
Highlighting the use cases, success stories and testimonials of existing customers is a key way that marcomms can be used to explain the benefits to prospective customers. Moving beyond lists of functionalities and services, prospective customers need an opportunity to imagine the tangible benefits of working with a particular seller.
Anticipating pain points
Without the traditional back and forth of a sales representative handling objections through a conversation, marcomms must anticipate the objections, purchase barriers and pain points that prospective customers might be experiencing. This is about addressing the more strategic elements of a customer’s buying decision through content, case studies and other marketing materials.
Investing in industry
Sellers also need to invest in the industry they are working in to ensure their expertise and credentials reach the widest audience possible. Investing in the industry takes many forms. Defining a vision for the business and a mission for customers is all part of it, as is defining a product roadmap.
Clarity on all of this can be used by marcomms to allow important messages to spread. Participating and engaging in key industry events, associations and media means a seller's core proposition, brand values and messaging all gain reach and traction too. Ultimately, these interactions spread the word and encourage referrals between buyers, demonstrating the continued value of word of mouth marketing.
Since B2B prospects may not engage with a seller until the last 30% of their buying decision, there is more pressure on marcomms to engage with buyers throughout the journey. The seller’s website, case studies and brand activities have to do the majority of the selling. As such, marcomms needs to work as hard as it can to secure that engagement and the chance of a future partnership.
If you’re interested in how your marcomms can work harder in this modern context of B2B buying and selling, get in touch with us today at Haynes MarComs to see how we can help.