How to accelerate my B2B Sales in complex Buying Journeys

How do you help your B2B customer to buy from you? In many cases, this is the key to your success.

Selling to large organizations can be a complex and long process, however, at the same time from the customer’s perspective buying services/products from a supplier can be a challenging and frustrating process as well. It is a web of back and forth actions with many different stakeholders.  After some search, I found this picture from Garther that describes  quite nicely (it is complex, I know)

It has become harder to make sales, but it has also become harder to buy. So, what can be done?

From my perspective to sell in the current B2B world, your main goal is to  help your customers to buy from you. You need to offer processes that help your prospects to break away from their old way of doing and adapt to your offering. It is easier said than done, but companies that focus on building these bridges acquire new customers at higher velocity.

“Gartner research found that customers who perceived the information  they received from suppliers to be helpful in advancing across their  buying jobs were 2.8 times more likely to experience a high degree of  purchase ease, and three times more likely to buy a bigger deal with  less regret.” 

What do you need to do to become more successful? 

  1. First, this means that you need to know your Target Customers deeply. Who is your buyer or buyers in the organization? What tasks do they have to do to evaluate your solution against your competition or  non-competition?
  2. Second, continuously develop material that will lower the barriers of buying and help them understand your value.
  3. Third, offer simplicity in the complexity of buying. The earlier in the buying process you can differentiate from your competition with the more painless transition process, the more likely you are to win the deal. 


Picture and quote from        

Evolution of AIDA – building on the foundation of marketing

evolution of AIDADiscussion about changes in marketing is bubbling allover the web. LinkedIn -groups, Twitter, SlideShare… are full of opinions about best tricks in today’s marketing environment.  As we all know, the playground has evolved. However, I don’t think much has really changed in human behavior towards marketing and the foundations are the same. People are still influenced by marketing and other people. They like to get acceptance and showoff their newest stuff – and identify with brands. However, the amplification of WORD OF MOUTH in social media has created a SOME WOM and the voice of an individual is now stronger than ever before. So the basic rules of marketing still apply, but now there is an added dimension – and this makes the game different for marketers.

I went back to basics and started looking at the old AIDA marketing concept. Now, we are speaking of a model, that was developed between late 1800 to early 1900 by marketing professionals of that age. (see history on Wikipedia) AIDA concept by  E. St. Elmo Lewis describes stages of human behavior towards marketing. Fifth sage (S) satisfaction was added to the concept in early 1900.

A – Attention

I – Interest

D – Desire

A – Action

S – Satisfaction

Today’s AIDAS looks a bit different. SHARING of opinions and content in social media is now a common way to interact with other people. As said, sharing has two dimensions:

  1. SHARING  interesting content to people trough social media.
  2. SHARING opinions of products, services and brands through social media.

New AIDAS has a fluid form, where SHARING (+S) can appear after any stage of the concept. If sharing would happen after every stage of this concept, it would look like AS-IS-DS-AS-SS.

So, how should marketers react to this change?

1. Produce content that people are willing to share with each other. On B2B side  it is usually clever content that people can use in their work or get good ideas to do something better. It is usually not about your company and your products, but more or less knowing your industry and giving general advice. This kind of content is usually shared willingly through professional networks. On the B2C side it is usually “fun” content. As a recent example from Coca Cola: they printed names of people in their bottle labels and people got crazy. These pictures are all around Instagram and Facebook See: List of all found Coke bottle names.

2. As opinions of people are now amplified through social media, it is clear that companies have to think what kind of experiences they give to them. The importance of customer experience management grows significantly every day. SOME WOM can make your company a winner or loser.  However, customer experience management is not only a responsibility of a marketing, it has to be embedded in to the soul of your company.

I worked on a infographic to explain  the evolution of AIDA. I did this for fun and to try out, what I can do with infographics. Bare with me, I am not a graphical designer.

I am happy to get your comments on this post. What do you think? Does AIDA look like this in today’s marketing environment?

Identifying your best B2B potential by prospect mapping – Step 6/6: Nurturing and Content Marketing

Navigating by your content marketing strategyStep 6: Nurturing and Content Marketing

The purpose for starting this process was to find new potential customers for your business. After going through a careful target group design, potential mapping, marketing concept planning,  data segmentation and activating the top 20% leads – you should now focus on a long-lasting lead nurturing and content marketing activity.

From the prospect mapping you have gathered information about companies potential and decision makers willingness to talk with you. Now, take the second group from the Step 4: Data Segmentation (these are the prospects that are not investing in the near future) and serve them with great content. They will most likely be your customers sooner or later.

And what is great content? I was wisely taught in DIT Drama Class in Dublin, Ireland (1998)- “you are not writing about the subject, but around it. If you want to talk about an apple – describe its form and color, but don’t mention it.” In other words, don’t put your companies products and services in the middle. Talk about your customers and their challenges. As Michael Brenner put it strogly in his post The Content Marketing Echo Chamber “Stop talking about your self”.

Fill your promise and start a dialog with the decision makers, that have indicated their interest. Put your content marketing plan in action and nurture your prospects with appropriate content according their stage in the buying process. Serve them with a sales call when they are ready. Then, continue to feed your lead base and start a new prospect mapping process on a new region or industry.

I hope this post was helpful for you. I am happy to get feedback from all B2B Sales and Marketing professionals. Tell me your way – how do you find the potential from the market and generate sales?

Identifying your best B2B potential by prospect mapping – Step 5/6: Activate

Step 5: Activate

Now put your qualified data to work. The first group of qualified prospects (from step 4) are warm leads for your business – your aim is to turn these leads to sales meetings.   Before starting the appointment setting calls, you should give a reminder to the decision maker – and direct mail is a great tool for activating this customer dialogue.

I am a big fan of snail mail, because it will most likely to be noticed by the receiver. People get a lot of email marketing (spam) to their inbox’s and even the relevant messages will be ignored and deleted.  Creatively designed physical marketing however will be noticed, opened and most importantly remembered by the receiver.

For sure, concept design and color make a difference. Have a look on Brian Morris’ post on Business2Community of how different colors are used in marketing campaigns. (picture on this post is also linked to his original work)

Follow-up the direct mail by a appointment setting call to the decision maker. Remember you are now working with a group that has previously told you their interest in your products or services and are willing to hear more about you. You will most likely to get a high pull percentage for these sales meetings. I have seen over 70% pull rates in these kind of processes. Also the booked sales meetings will be of a high quality due to the earlier qualification in the mapping process.

For more on this subject:  Check Steve Olenski’s post on Forbes CMO network (3rd of November 2012) Direct Mail: Alive And Kicking

I hope this post was helpful for you. I am happy to get feedback from all B2B Sales and Marketing professionals. Tell me your way – how do you find the potential from the market and generate sales?

Identifying your best B2B potential by prospect mapping – Step 4/6: Data Segmentation

Finding your leadsStep 4: Data segmentation

After the interviews are over, you will have some data to analyze. From my experience the mapped target group will consist of about 20% of warm leads (we can call this group one), that are likely to invest in the near future and willing to hear more about your products and services. They have good knowledge of the market and are looking for the best solution to their business.

The second group will consist of about 20-30% of leads that are somewhat interested of your products or services, but have no plans to invest in the near future. Usually people in this group have a challenge that needs to be resolved, but the pain is not yet big enough to start making investment decisions. However, keep in mind that this second group is highly important for you, because here lays your future potential.

For the remaining data 50-60% you need to do following: 1.Take out the non-potential contacts and save them in a separate file. By doing this you ensure, that in the future mappings you will not take them in a new target group. 2. There will be some companies and contacts that did not answer to your survey, but are a likely potential for you in the future. Make also a separate file out of these contacts and save them for the next potential mapping.

I hope this post was helpful for you. I am happy to get feedback from all B2B Sales and Marketing professionals. Tell me your way – how do you find the potential from the market and generate sales?


Identifying your best B2B potential by prospect mapping – Step 3/6: Plan a Content Marketing process

Step 3: Plan a Content Marketing process

As the survey / interview is on its way, you should start planning a content process for the mapped target group. You will be deciding, what kind of content you send to decision makers according to their stage in the buying process. For example, if a decision maker will be investing in 6 months time – you are likely to use direct marketing, customer references / reference videos, events and of course telebooking for face-to-face meetings with the prospect.

Make a table of different stages in the buying process and plan a content + timetable for each action. Then choose the marketing channel according to the target group. As an example: I worked for 5 years for a professional kitchen equipment dealer, being responsible for overall marketing and sub-dealer sales. Our target group was restaurant owners and kitchen chefs. It was no use trying to reach these people with email marketing or web content. Direct mail, face-to-face meetings and events was the best way to influence this group. And of course, don’t forget that your message has to be clear and unique to stand out from the competition. Think – What are the key benefits of your product or service, that will convince the decision maker?

If you don’t have resources to do this by our self, there are many great B2B marketing agency’s who can help you to build up a concept and process for content marketing approach. If you are looking for one – have a look at a list of winners from B2B Marketing Awards 2012.

Content Marketing Grid v2 crated by Eloqua and Jess3, is a profound yet simple illustration of content marketing and gives you a general idea what this is all about.

Identifying your best B2B potential by prospect mapping – Step 2/6: Ask and listen

Ask and listenStep 2: Ask and Listen

At this point you have a carefully selected target group on your hands. (Step 1: Target Group) Now to find out, which companies and decision makers in this target group are potential to you –  it is time to start a dialogue. You can begin the potential mapping  by online surveys, but usually you have to boost the process with telephone interviews. Telephone interviews ensure you a better response rate and help you to qualify the decision maker.

Typically you need about 6-8 questions to find out the potential of a company. These questions are industry/product / service specified and designed to the target group. Ask questions, which you can use to segment the prospect by the stage in a buying process. You will then have a opportunity to plan and implement different content marketing activities to these segments.

Write a script, with a clear (and short) explanation and purpose of the interview. Add some background information of your company and take along relevant customer references. In the beginning of every survey / interview you must first a qualify the decision maker. (As you now people tend to change jobs frequently and the contact in your target group may not be right.) The benefit is that our contact list will be updated and the end result will be more accurate.

I hope this post was helpful for you. I am happy to get feedback from all B2B Sales and Marketing professionals. Tell me your way – how do you find the potential from the market and generate sales?

Identifying your best B2B potential by prospect mapping – Step 1/6: Target Group

20121123-182933.jpgStep 1: Target Group

Take time to carefully plan the target group. This first step is the most important part of the process, so don’t cut corners doing it. For some of you readers, this is basic stuff – but still we must go through this important stage.

You start by defining the following:

  1. Company size: The preferred amount of employees and/or turnover
  2. Geographical area: What region or area do you want the customer potential to be mapped and your sales to focus on?
  3. Industry(s): What are the industries, where your products or services will most likely to be used? Is there a new industry sector, where you want to focus your new business sales efforts?
  4.  Titles of decision makers. Good way to think here is, what titles or roles do the buyers in your current customer base have? If, you have a new product or service and you don’t now the decision maker profile, you can leave the investigation to the Stage 2: Ask and listen.

Use your local B2B contact database provider to help you set up this target group. Remember that no target group is 100 % correct. 1/3 of the contact information will change during one year – just be sure that you get a fresh one. Finally you have to check that non of your existing customers are on this new target group.

I am happy to get feedback from all B2B Sales and Marketing professionals. I hope this post is helpful for you. Tell me your way – how do you find the potential from the market and generate sales?


Identifying your best B2B potential by prospect mapping

The first egg of the weekYou might have a challenge identifying potential B2B sales leads from the marketplace. You might wonder – how on earth can I find the businesses that are interested of our products or services? And even if you do – what is right time to interact with them?

A lot of people work in a small or midsize company’s where the marketing automation systems are not used. Inbound and outbound lead generation is poor or non existing. In some cases a company uses web analytic tools to track IP’s to see, which companies have visited their website. However, from this information it is very hard to know – Who has actually been viewing the site? It can be anyone from the company. Web leads are a necessary source for your business, but you have also other ways to map and qualify potential leads from the marketplace.

In general, prospect mapping should be a core strategy for your new business development. It gives you the base for starting a lead nurturing and content marketing process, which will definitely help you to shorten sales cycles.

In the following 6 short posts (once a week) I will guide you how to organize a potential mapping for B2B lead generation and marketing. This strategy has been used in many successful B2B marketing campaigns, but it also can be modified to a on going lead generation and content marketing process.

Step 1: Target Group

Step 2: Ask and listen

Step 3: Plan a Content Marketing process

Step 4: Data segmentation

Step 5: Activate

Step 6: Nurturing and Content Marketing

I am happy to get feedback from all B2B Sales and Marketing professionals. I hope this helpful for you. Tell me your way – how do you find the potential from the market and generate sales?

Thank you for inspiration and the birth of this blog: Michael Berner @B2BMKTGInsider, Susanna Gebauer @dreckbaerfrau, Heidi Cohen @heidicohen, Andrew Davis @TPLDrew, Josh Lowry @Josh_Lowry, Tom Pick @TomPick, Paul Mosenson @NuSparkMktg and many many others.