Chances are you have a few different types of prospects. They may ultimately all reach the same conclusion, whether that's choosing you or your top competitor. But differentiating factors such as role, authority, need and subject matter expertise all impact a buyer's journey to making a technology purchase.
The process of buying enterprise technology today can take anywhere from a few weeks to well over a year, depending on the product and who's doing the buying. Generally, though, in B2B tech marketing, there are ample opportunities to step into a potential buyer’s consideration set. But there will also be chances to lose out to the competition.
The best way to keep a potential buyer on the path of becoming a paying customer is to build an experience where the brand is:
- Providing the needed information to make a decision
- Delivering it at the right time
- Communicating it in the right format
This will ensure the journey is both a pleasant experience for the potential customer and has a higher chance of converting her into a buyer.
What Is a Buyer Journey?
This term refers to the process one takes to obtain a service or product. Usually this includes identifying an issue, researching solutions, selecting vendors and, ultimately, choosing a technology provider. While the steps taken during the process are more or less the same, many other aspects of the journey will differ from person to person.
Take the research phase, for example. One buyer — say, a CIO — may have more experience purchasing high-tech products. Chances are his journey begins with vendor credibility and reputation. He knows which service or product he needs, but is unsure which brand offers better quality or value. His research phase is short and more tied to his personal views and the reputation of the brand.
Another buyer may be more of a novice when it comes to purchasing IT. Perhaps this is a CMO, COO or other member of a business unit. Her research phase may be longer and begin with more high-level questions. Instead of asking, “Which vendors are best equipped to provide this?” she may be asking, “What technology will enable me to execute this?”
Both buyers are important in meeting sales quota. But the difference in each buyer’s journey begins as early as the first question. Because it’s important to get into both buyers’ consideration set, you have to identify ways on how to answer both of their questions. A one-fits-all strategy will not work.
How to Create The Right Journey
What you’re trying to accomplish is to use your digital properties (i.e. website, social media, email) to have an educated conversation with a potential customer. This means you need to be able to anticipate the buyers' questions and where they will go to find answers. You need to know the times of day different buyers prefer to read email or browse social media feeds, which news outlets they reference for industry tips and trends, and other behaviors that contribute to decision-making.
It's difficult to achieve any of the above if you don’t start with a documented buyer persona. Buyer personas include psychographics, demographics and firmographics. You may think you have a solid picture of who your buyers are. But you’ll find the documentation will keep you and your colleagues better equipped to provide someone the ultimate journey to becoming a customer.
What works well for one buyer will not work for another. And while you may have worked with particular CMOs or CIOs in your own experience, this does not ensure an accurate portrayal of the majority in these roles. The best buyer personas are crafted from hard data collected from a variety of sources.
Improving the Journey Through CRO
Once your buyer personas are on paper, try documenting the conversation you believe you’d have offline. Now outline how you’ll provide the information through your online properties. Maybe one answer is provided via a blog post, another by eBook and yet another via email. The purpose is to keep the conversation moving forward. Keep them traveling along the buying funnel.
Through CRO, or conversation rate optimization, you’ll constantly be testing the frequency, timing, and content of your messages. This is how you will learn what’s working, what’s not and tweak strategy accordingly. Inevitably, you will improve efforts to a point of seeing:
- Reduced cost of customer acquisition
- A shortened sales cycle
- Better allocation of resources, to name a few
If you’ve created a strong buyer journey, it’ll be easier to keep the prospect's attention. Even better, your potential buyers will be less likely to seek answers from another vendor. Your helpfulness and your strong attention to detail will make the buyer’s decision-making process easier. Your persistence in offering the right materials at the right time will not go unnoticed. And your prospects will be much more like to conclude their buyer's journey with you.