If we go back 60 years, salesmen were responsible for the majority of a company’s sales (save those generated from advertising). Literally men travelled door to door selling products, speaking directly with consumers.
Not anymore. The reality is that today, nearly 60 per cent of B2B purchasing decisions are already made before customers contact your company, as recently revealed by the Corporate Executive Board (CEB).
The tide has turned, and the way customers move through the buying cycle has evolved to a ‘self-service’ model to research and decide for themselves whether they want to purchase before speaking with anyone.
Most customers begin at the awareness stage and through information gathering, proceed to consideration and eventual purchasing stages. Before the proliferation of information at our fingertips, much of our information was attained passively, being communicated in person, by salespeople.
These days a salesperson’s role is still to sell, but they are often faced with a much more educated, prepared and decisive consumer.
Consider the following. If you are a B2B company, you are likely aware the majority of your sales could be made (or, more to the point – lost) before your sales team is even engaged with a customer. So if not with you, how are customers making their purchasing decisions? The same way we all do – we do our own research through online searches, discussion boards, YouTube videos, blog posts and other online resources.
Your brand now needs to be visible across multiple mediums. If your website doesn’t appear in search results alongside your competitors for example, that’s a lost opportunity. If you’re not yet leveraging social media, perhaps you should be. Social Media Today recently compiled statistics on how social media influences purchasing behaviour. Some of the most interesting stats included:
- 91% of people have gone into a store because of an online experience
- 72% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
- 78% of consumers say that the posts made by companies on social media influence their purchases
Marketers must align their marketing content with the self-service decision-making model, while preparing the appropriate message and content for prospects at each stage of the buying cycle.
A terrific example of how a brand is helping consumers move through the buying cycle by providing self-service marketing information is the “How much TekSavvy do you need” campaign. By identifying a common source of confusion among Canadians –which Internet plan is truly best for their needs – the campaign included an online tool to help answer the question for consumers. Promoting this utility through media relations, social media and direct marketing, TekSavvy was able move potential customers further down the conversion path, resulting in a 22% increase in visits to their Internet Plans site, and a 3% increase in sales. (Disclaimer: StrategicAmpersand is the agency for TekSavvy and created this campaign.)
Marketers need to realize that customer buying habits have evolved, and an organization’s marketing strategy needs to evolve with them. It’s time to align your marketing and sales, before your brand gets left behind.