Today's buyers are facing more choices than ever before. B2B researchers are also more demanding, informed, value-sensitive and younger. It's no secret that they are online doing research before making or contributing to purchasing decisions, but what has changed is what's happening behind their searches.
A recent study by Google that surveyed approximately 3000 B2B researchers debunked quite a few myths that affect B2B marketing such as:
- Millennials aren't making B2B business decisions.
- B2B marketing should target the highest-level executives.
The third myth addressed in this report revolves around search. As B2B businesses seek to attract new customers, it's especially important to understand how people are searching so that you can be present there. One might think that people start with a branded search (your company name plus some other modifier, a noun or information they're seeking around your brand), but the reality is that 71% of B2B researchers start their research with a generic search.
The report revealed that while the same amount of people use search engines to find information (90% of B2B researchers go online to specifically to research business purchases), today's researchers are taking their time with it. On average, B2B researchers do 12 searches prior to engaging on a specific brand's site.
Average Searches Conducted Prior to Engagement
Google/Millward Brown Digital, B2B Path to Purchase Study, 2014
How are People Finding You Online?
The study found that about 71% percent start with a generic query, which means they are looking for the product or service first, and not necessarily your brand. That means marketers must be prepared to tell their story much earlier and articulate it in a simpler manner in the buying journey.
Your content and online advertising efforts should focus on unbranded searches to reach people who haven't yet decided what brand they're going with. These generic terms will help you be found before the brand awareness stage.
Sales without Sales
Here's a scenario that shows a potential B2B buyer's journey:
You are in charge of IT services for a mid-size company. Your boss comes to you frustrated with a slow computer that needs to be rebooted constantly. Meanwhile, your customer service team complains of problems with the live chat function, which is imperative for them to be able to answer questions from customers in real-time. You know it's time to upgrade your system, but where to start?
Once you've identified your needs, you turn to the internet. Most of us would start with companies we've done business with before or ones with good reputations and reviews. You may even check popular IT blogs and other online forums to hear first-hand from others about their personal experiences with particular products. Once you've narrowed your list of vendors down, you make sure you are comparing apples to apples and go with the lowest bid. Problem solved!
Where was the salesperson in this exchange? Nowhere.
Research shows business buyers do not contact suppliers directly until 57% of the purchase process is complete. That means on most of their buying journey, your customers are out on their own: forming opinions, learning about product specifications, assembling requirement lists and narrowing down their options, all with minimal influence from you.
Influence the Online SaleIt's a marketer's job to influence that 57% of the sale that happens online. So, how do we do that?
1. Guide the searcher where you want them to go.
When people search for terms related to your industry, you want the most relevant, useful page to show up. That's not necessarily your home page, and it's certainly not your Contact Us page. You want them to get to the best information to solve their problems quickly. So, in the example above that IT manager should be able to search and find your products and services page first. Have internal links to direct users to the pages that are most likely to guide their next steps, such as a free demo.
2. Teach, and do it well.
Your content must inform and it must be better than your competitor's content. If your content is low value, or you don't have content that speaks to the different points in a buyer's journey, you won't likely stand out in the crowd.
3. Mix up your content.
Do your prospects respond better to whitepapers or videos? The answer depends on where they are in the buying process. Matching customer need with channel is one of the biggest challenges in digital marketing. Marketing teams are often divided: perhaps you have separate teams or outsource different agencies to create those videos and whitepapers. The continuity of message is likely to be lost among the different channels. It's a challenge we all need to address as we strive for omni-channel success.
By understanding how people search at different points in their buyer journey creates opportunites for B2B marketers to engage a new audience. Identify where you can be part of the conversation early on and throughout search.
A huge part of being able to help your potential customers through this process is understanding their needs and catering your content to them. Get help in creating (or updating) your Buyer Personas with our new guide, and find out if you're really targeting the right personas.