Here at Gossamar we’ve been talking about the fundamental shift in power that has taken place from the b2b seller to the b2b buyer. We recognize that today’s b2b buyer is no longer dependant on the b2b seller for the information required to make sound purchasing decisions. That information is now freely available on the internet through websites, blogs, forums, and other social media sites.
The statistic we cite most often is that over 90% of b2b buyers now start the buying cycle by searching for solutions and suppliers online. In case the implication isn’t perfectly clear, that means most b2b sellers are left out of the critical early stages of the decision making process.
Earlier this year, DemandGen Report conducted some interesting research on this shift in power, giving us more insight on the new B2B Buyer. The research focused on the buying characteristics of 100 business-to-business buyers who purchased a business solution within the last 12 months. I ran into Andrew Gaffney, the Publisher and Editor of DemandGen Report, at last month’s Pardot user conference in Atlanta. I really enjoyed his presentation and insights on the new online sales funnel. Here are some highlights from his survey:
Cold Calling is Dead!
Cold calling was never fun. But over the last few years it has become excruciatingly difficult to get hold of decision-makers, gain credibility, and succeed with this “interruption” technique.
According to the DemandGen Report study, “less than 10% of these recent buyers were contacted cold by the solution provider. More than 80% said they either called the solution provider directly or were contacted after they requested further information on the vendor’s website”. Conclusion: Inbound Marketing and Sales is now a “must-have” for b2b companies.
Here’s an interesting chart. The question was: “What marketing/ media channels influenced your selection of solution provider in the purchase? (Check all that apply)”
Notice that over 70% of buyers used internet search and visited vendor websites. This is the profile of a very empowered buyer, in full control of the early stages of the buying process.
What type of content was rated to be the most helpful by these b2b buyers in the search process? According to the survey, these are the top 3:
- 65% of buyers rely on Case Studies
- 60% of buyers rely on Best Practice Content
- 55% of buyers rely on ROI tools and documentation
It’s all about Timing
The survey showed that “nearly 80% of respondents indicated “timeliness of response” was an influential factor in selecting their vendor”.
Although this is not a surprise (since best-practice sales and marketing has always encouraged timely follow-up to prospect inquiries), it does re-emphasize one of the key strengths of marketing automation systems: the ability to serve relevant content round-the-clock, with automated lead management and inquiry response.
Today, not having prompt inquiry response (within 3 business days maximum) shows that your organization is just not on the ball. And the only way to provide rapid response, is either to throw a ton of expensive manual resources at the task, or to simply automate the task.
Sales and Marketing must row together
Sales and Marketing have been on different planets forever. Getting these groups to unite, often requires monumental effort from the executive team. But here is the incentive: according to the survey “nearly 70% of respondents indicated the “consistent and relevant communication provided by both the sales and marketing organizations” was a key influence in choosing that company as their solution provider”.
Makes sense, doesn’t it? Lack of consistency in messaging leads to uncertainty and doubt in the mind of the prospect. And that means RISK.
Here, too, Sales and Marketing Automation comes to the rescue. By aligning objectives and processes from the ground up, automation systems ensure that both teams are rowing together. And with the right processes in place, sales and marketing cooperate to define ideal prospects and key buying points, instead of arguing about them. The result is a better understanding by both teams of who their targets are and what information they need to persuade them to buy.
The Executive Buyer is Online
One of the most common misconceptions in the marketing automation industry is that C-level management is less “tuned” to the inbound phenomenon. The DemandGen Report survey “validated that VPs, CEOs, GMs and Partners are actually ahead of the curve in the next generation buying behavior transformation”:
- 90% of executives start their path to purchase with informal online research/information gathering around a business challenge, versus 78% for the full sample.
- 69% of executives indicating they utilized social media tools, versus 64% of the full sample. Senior managers also demonstrated a greater likelihood to post questions and engage with thought leaders via social networks during their research process.
By the way, for all those trying to reach the executive buyer, the survey showed that execs preferred “successful case studies” in content. Story telling works every time.
But something isn’t adding up
If buyers are showing such a clear preference for inbound marketing and sales, then why aren’t more companies proactively jumping on the Inbound Marketing and Marketing Automation wagon? For example, other research shows that only 3-5% of b2b companies are currently engaged in Marketing Automation, an estimate that is actually too high in my opinion. Why the disconnect?
I’ll have some thoughts on this in my upcoming post entitled: Marketing Automation: Have we crossed the Chasm?
Finally, kudos to DemandGenReport and publisher Andrew Gaffney for conducting the survey, and making the results freely available. Andrew has put together a great site and a wealth of resources for all those engaged in the Marketing Automation industry. Check it out!
Until next time – Axel