The B2B sales funnel is misshapen. The decision-makers who are interested in your services are likely to encounter an obstacle at every stage of the purchase process and simply fall out of the funnel. This article will introduce you to the B2B customer journey in greater detail and tell you what you should keep in mind when planning a content marketing strategy.
What is the B2B purchase process?
In theory, B2B and B2C marketing methods are very similar. The objective is to reach a well-defined target group with the right message and at the right time. What makes B2B marketing much more challenging are not only the problems encountered when choosing a suitable message, but primarily the complexity of the purchase process.
Sales funnel in B2B
Blue Corona depicts it as follows:
Gartner, on the other hand, outlines six steps each client completes during the purchase process:
- problem identification;
- solution exploration;
- requirements building;
- supplier selection;
- consensus creation.
How do companies buy third party services or products?
First of all, the company does not buy them, but the people who are responsible for this task. This is a vital detail, as these people will decide if your offer is chosen, from among all the others. Blue Corona provides us with some useful data:
- modern B2B buyers are increasingly inclined to carry out in-depth research, as can be seen in the previously mentioned funnel. A total of 12 online searches prior to engaging a specific supplier are needed on average. It is estimated that before contact with the individuals responsible for sales is made, buyers are already halfway through their customer journey and have access to detailed information;
- approximately 6 to 10 people are involved in each B2B purchase decision, starting with research specialists, those assessing the product from the technical and legal point of view, all the way to the so-called C-level personnel, i.e. members of the board and top-level managers. Needless to say, their expectations and priorities are often different;
- 67% of purchases are most affected by the information found online, which highlights the importance of what you find when you type your company’s name in the search engine.
Content marketing in B2B
Taking into account the relevance of online research to the decision-makers, content marketing should be the first thing on your mind when planning B2B activities. It is important because:
- more than 80% of buyers in the B2B market view at least five pieces of content during the purchase process;
- 62% of buyers say they can make a business decision based on online content alone (acc. to Blue Corona).
As no doubt you are aware, running a corporate blog is an inherent element of any content marketing strategy. By publishing articles:
- you increase traffic within your domain and thus the number of people potentially interested in your services;
- you establish yourself as an expert who is skilled in sector-specific matters;
- you show your readers how your product solves real problems (e.g. through case studies).
What should you blog about? The most effective is the client-focused approach which aims to assist the clients at every stage of the purchasing process. This is evidenced by the Content Marketing Institute’s research, which states that 90% of companies with the best converting content put their audience’s informational needs ahead of their company’s sales or promotional message.
Potential clients are likely to take a close look at the entire content of your website. Don’t wreck your chance of success at the very start. As many as 46% of B2B buyers will leave your website if they do not know what the company does immediately upon opening it. This is a hint to write clearly about what you do, what type of tools and services you provide and what they are used for.
Also, keep in mind that there is such a thing as the curse of knowledge. If your product is based on advanced technology, try to describe it in as simple terms as possible. If something is understandable for you, it does not mean that your clients also understand it. The recommended solution is to check the phrases which are most often entered by Internet users in the search engine to find your product or service (you can use special tools, such as Google Keyword Planner, Google Search Console, Senuto, Monitori, etc.).
Apart from the main page or product pages, the “About us” tab is certainly worth putting some work in. Describe your company’s history, mission and vision. This may surprise you, but many clients may consider the length of your experience and your position in the market as incredibly important.
When discussing communication in B2B, it is impossible not to mention email marketing, or more precisely the newsletter. According to the Content Marketing Institute, email is the most popular way for marketers to educate their audience. It is also an excellent (and very accurate) method of distributing your content.
The main advantage of this form of communication is that you can easily verify which links in your newsletters are clicked by which recipients, and then organise the links in terms of interest or the degree of advancement in professional expertise, for example. This will tell you at what stage of the sales funnel a given recipient is and you will be able to better match the content sent to that person.
By way of conclusion
Content marketing plays an extremely important role in the decision-making process in the B2B model. When creating content, don’t forget about the needs of potential clients and act as their source of valuable knowledge.