Marketers today face a major ongoing challenge in understanding online audiences. This challenge is not going away anytime soon: In a recent survey conducted by ITSMA, business-to-business (B2B) marketers worldwide expect that understanding buyers will be their #1 responsibility in two years (85%) – by 2016.
Why such a big shift in concerns? The short answer is – the B2B buyer journey had changed!
Had the buyer journey change?
Google images provides interesting insights on this questions:
But market researchers do point to a single direction: according to CEB “57% of the purchase decision is complete before a customer contacts a supplier” – meaning online buyers do more online research and contact vendors only once they feel they are candidates for doing business together. Per Aberdeen Group buyers identify challenges and do their own research before engaging vendors, which is why Aberdeen Group coined the phrase “hidden sales cycle”. Forrester claims as well that buyers may be anywhere from 66%-90% through the buyer journey before they reach out to the vendor they are considering.
So the short answer is Yes, the buyer journey had changed for the worse. It is now more complex and seems to be based on more touch points.
Why did the buyer journey change?
Several trends come together to make this a more complex world for vendors and a more productive world for the buyers:
Social networks: The different social networks educated buyers to look for other people’s feedback and social shared reviews of products
Magazines and product review websites: Modern marketing and online advertising provided a big push to review websites and communities as well as new types of publications, all geared to help you find more information about the product or service you’re interested in
Content marketing: With vendors eager to have the buyer find them through a Search Engine or engage with them after finding them they now offer more and more free information to their audience
Mitigating the change – understanding your online audience
Since buyers behavior had changed it means their interaction with your website, blog and online assets is more fragmented and diversified. Some buyers will find your blog posts when searching online for information, others can come to your website after reading about your offerings in a magazine or on a social network. As some will arrive more educated than others their interaction with your business online will change and a one-size fits all online approach will not work well with them.
This is why you need to consider the following in order to better understand your different audience behaviors:
Analyzing marketing content interactions on path to customer acquisition: At the end of the day most businesses leverage content through the buyer journey. You know your audience will want to read your case studies or eBooks and watch your videos as a way to learn more about your offerings while they do their research. The questions you need to answer are along the lines of
Which content converts well and from which pages? By “converts” we don’t mean just converting from a prospect to a lead (which is great by itself) but that it’s involved in the process of converting the prospect into a customer. For example if you have a great product review or analyst report about your offering that really builds the trust of your audience in your offering and your experience is that it’s critical to turning your audience into customers you need to showcase it at the right stage of the buyer journey
Are there content formats that seem to work better for you such as eBooks or videos? Again “working better” here means that they have proven value to move your prospects towards becoming customers, not just becoming leads
What are the content items that “assist” in moving buyers forward in their journey? For example you may have a cool overview video that doesn’t really convert prospects into leads or even customers but it seems most of your audience will go through it before signing up to a Webinar or downloading an eBook, which is the first step on the path to purchase
Leveraging personalization delivers deeper insights: With personalization businesses better engage and convert their online audience. This typically involves showcasing the most relevant content to the specific individuals visiting your website or blog dynamically. The big opportunity here is to be able to analyze content interactions that are dynamic in nature and are using your content in ways you haven’t tried to before. For example you may have a product review that you show on your product page but with personalization it gets exposed to your audience on the About page and is getting great success, which may lead you to the understanding that when visitors read About you they are already convinced you have an interesting offering and are now trying to understand who you are and decide if they want to do business with you.
Obviously this is just a high level overview of how you can increase your insights into the buyer journey. There are many more parameters involved such as how your prospects find you and if different buyer journey starting points result in different paths but understanding your content marketing interactions is key to winning more of the audience that had found you already.
To learn more about targeted content and how it helped BrightInfo increase online conversion read “3 calls to action ideas that increased our conversion up to 200%”
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