Those of us who cut our teeth on traditional marketing and lead generation have long considered the buy cycle a permanent fixture. In it, the sales team interacts with leads by offering up content carefully mapped to each stage of the buying process. This is the way sales sequentially moves leads through the funnel, with the goal of these leads becoming customers.
That traditional buy cycle is changing, however, as sales teams find themselves no longer in charge of which leads get what, and when. The availability of online marketing content has empowered many buyers to take a DIY approach to researching and evaluating products. As a result, the buying process is no longer linear, with prospects going back and forth between the various stages. Marketing Profs recently likened this “new normal” to a pinball machine.
What this all means is that buyers who once had to interact closely with sales to get what they need are often now bypassing them, especially in the earlier stages, turning the buy cycle on its ear. SiriusDecisions reports that B2B buyers now complete 67 percent of their journey online before ever engaging with a live salesperson.
To illuminate the vast availability of online marketing content, a study performed by Google ZMOT (Zero Moment of Truth) found that buyers now engage with more than 11 pieces of content prior to making a purchasing decision. Business 2 Community (B2C) insightfully asks in a recent blog post:
“Do you know what those 11 pieces of content are for your ideal buyer? If so, are you providing it to them right now through their preferred marketing channel?”
As selling continues to become less direct, it’s increasingly vital to understand who your buyer is, what their content preferences are, and how they prefer to receive it. Do they frequent social media platforms—if so, which ones? Which news portals are their go-to sites for industry information? Do they rely more on Google searches, paid advertising or the opinions of industry peers? How do they weight the value of different types of content?
The logical way to figure out what target prospects want, including how they wish to interact with your content, is to perform a buyer persona analysis. We at Carabiner routinely conduct these in-depth analyses for our clients to help them get to know their customers, including most specifically, their preferences in content and delivery. This is not a one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter approach that yesterday’s buy cycle model afforded.
Establishing a buyer persona is crucial for guiding marketing and sales tactics. With so many types of content and online marketing channels available, in fact, it’s absolutely essential for making effective use of campaign dollars.
It’s true that the Internet is forever changing the traditional buy cycle. Sales reps are much less involved in the early stages of the buying process, in particular. But by properly predicting what your prospect wants, including how they desire to interact with online content, it’s still very possible to reach them.