Marketing automation helps you understand buyer behavior

Partially as the result of Internet lead generation methods, the B2B sales cycle has changed a great deal in a relatively short space of time. Rather than reducing the amount of time it takes to convert prospects, increased access to information has caused potential customers to carefully consider purchasing decisions. Having better visibility into buyer behavior can help your sales team refine its processes and cater Internet marketing methods to leads’ individual interests. This is where an online marketing system comes into play.

In Demand Gen’s “The 2014 B2B Buyer Behavior Survey,” more than 150 decision-makers were asked about how their purchasing habits had changed in the past year. Compared to last year’s results, respondents said:

  • 37 percent strongly agreed they used more resources to learn about products
  • 32 percent spent more time researching offerings
  • 36 percent pay more attention to reviews from colleagues
  • 41 percent wait longer to engage sales representatives
  • 34 percent said more team members are involved in the decision

B2B buyer behavior significantly shifting

Demand Gen’s research indicates B2B decision-makers have switched their approaches to purchasing products or services. In addition to involving more people in the process, consulting more sources and taking longer to decide, organizations are more conscious of budgeting. Executives would only agree to allocate funds for new software or equipment after an internal business case had been made. Approximately half of B2B firms are conducting detailer return on investment analyses before arriving at a decision.

While this approach can certainly make buyers feel more confident in their decisions, it can be challenging for your organization to contend with the lengthy sales process. Your sales employees may contact leads at the wrong time and decrease the likelihood of a deal. There are more stages to making a decision, and this can compound the difficulty for your organization to convert prospects. You also need to appeal to a wider audience. It isn’t just executives anymore – end users are sometimes involved in the selection process. How can your sales team account for buyer behavior in their efforts?

Content marketing is more important in the decision-making process

Countless industry experts have been touting the importance of content marketing for the past few years, and with good reason. Decision-makers place a great deal of value on blogs, white papers, case studies and even more visual types of content such as videos and infographics. Buyers are increasingly seeking more information, and all of these marketing materials can guide them through the sales cycle.

The report revealed being readily discoverable was essential to getting leads to enter the top stages of the funnel, especially because prospects are waiting longer to contact sales reps. Content marketing can drive search engine optimization results and ensure buyers are finding you. In many cases, the decision-making process starts with an Internet search. A more general approach to content – such as covering industry trends and pain points – is highly effective during the early parts of the sales cycle. Even blogs can deliver a great deal of value if they provide the right information. However, the different stages of the revenue funnel mean you need to produce content for each to continue to drive movement.

To boost results, marketers need to focus on performance by channel and stage of the buying cycle, Brian Anderson wrote for Demand Gen Report. Companies that will ultimately be successful at converting leads into customers will be those that generate appropriate types of content for different decision-makers in the various stages of the customer journey. Being successful at content marketing initiatives means having a deep understanding of the types of content buyers want during each step. For example, blogs are a great tool for generating awareness and lead capture. You need to determine how buyers move through the revenue funnel and tailor your content accordingly.

Marketing automation provides the analytics tools to convert prospects

With all the increased complexity of the sales cycle, your reps need a tool that can help them create content and consistently measure its effectiveness. Some teams mistakenly believe content is difficult to monitor, but this is not the case, Anderson said. You can track how many people are converting and the triggers for their actions. Another pitfall is getting too hung up on data and measuring everything without really understanding the point. Content can be refined when you analyze the right data, like the information needed to convert prospects or move them from one stage of the sales cycle to another.

Marketing automation platforms have a number of capabilities that can give your sales team better visibility into buyers’ actions to streamline their processes and be more effective. These tools make it easy to see how prospects are interacting with content, which allows your employees to follow up at the right time and increase their relevancy.

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