B2B marketers can learn a lot from their B2C counterparts, says Chris Ingwalson, director of client services at Denver-based digital agency The1stMovement. Buyer behaviors are changing, and marketers need to make the transition that their audiences have already completed.
BMA Buzz: How do changing B2B buying behaviors impact the marketing mix?
Chris Ingwalson: Technology has made customers more sophisticated and better able to connect with information on their own. Buyers are typically 60% of the way through the purchasing journey before reaching out to a brand or sales contact for information.
This is in part due to the fact that purchase decisions now start almost exclusively with online research. More than 70% of enterprise purchase decisions begin with search engine searches. This means that organic and paid search, websites, thought leadership materials and other content marketing efforts are critical to the marketing mix. These are the touch points customers interact with first.
BMA Buzz: B2C made this transformation first. What are the top tactics that B2B can borrow from B2C?
Ingwalson: Word-of-mouth and referral tactics are huge. B2C customers rely heavily on friends and family to make purchasing decisions, and B2B is no different.
Include product reviews and ratings on your website. Incentivize current customers to refer friends and colleagues. Provide free trials or demonstrations of your product. Use industry influencers to develop content, published articles, blog posts and YouTube videos.
Buzz: What are the signs that a company and its buyers are ready to make the marketing transition?
Ingwalson: For buyers the transition already has been made. Technology has fundamentally shifted customer behavior regardless of segment or vertical. Buyers are using multiple sources—the web, search, social networks, experts, and more—to educate themselves on potential purchases.
Signs a company is ready to make the transition include readiness to implement a consistent brand promise and remarkable content across all platforms—as well as a readiness to invest dollars in digital experiences that disrupt or evolve buyer interactions and behaviors.
BMA Buzz: What are the first steps?
Ingwalson: You absolutely have to know your audience. A demographic profile is no longer enough. It’s imperative that you understand their motivations, challenges and the way they interact with marketing tools and emerging technologies. Our agency always recommends starting with qualitative research that can inform audience personas and behavior modeling. It is that level of user insight that can uncover a game-changing marketing plan or tactic.