- How do we generate more leads?
- How do we acquire more customers?
- How do we message to our customers?
- How do we improve our brand?
A tool to focus your limited resources in the highest impact area(s) is to map the customer’s buying process to identify gaps.
Are You Behind the Curve of Buyer Evolution?
Recent surveys, such as the one conducted by CEB’s Sales Executive Council in 2011, show that more than 50-60% of the buying process is being conducted without the help of a sales representative. It’s a fact that buyers have radically changed their buying behavior. This must be tied to execution changes in both marketing and sales. The rise of demand generation, inbound marketing, and content marketing have been marketing responses to connect with a new informed buyer. You can learn more about what research has revealed on rapidly changing buying behaviors and how your peers are allocating resources here.
Have We Considered These Recent Developments?
- Is the buying process changing at a more rapid pace than the needed adaptations in marketing?
- Who makes purchase decisions, how purchase decisions are made, and why they are made are evolving anew each year - do you know how?
- New processes, policies, technologies, and talent are changing the face of buying - creating new hurdles to overcome.
- Organizations now see buying as a core strategic competency - do you know why?
- Most marketing teams lack inbound content mapped across the buyers journey
If the map of your customer’s buying processes is not updated annually, you can find yourself behind the curve on this evolution.
Does Your Map Have You Headed in the Right Direction?
Without a buyer defined view of a buying process map, getting your next year’s marketing plan heading in the right direction is a guessing game. The margin of error for guessing wrong is steep. This is especially true as more metrics are being applied to how buyers respond to marketing and selling activities. The results pie chart at the end of next year just may be too much of the wrong color.
If you have a map of your customer’s buying process that is out of date, it is time to get a new map. What if you already have an updated map of your customer’s buying process? You will need to evaluate whether it is guiding you in the right direction. As mentioned, since buying behavior is changing at a rapid pace in organizations, you may need a new version of your existing map annually.
A new map must serve the function of providing information that tells you how to put the right marketing plan together in the right direction. Your new map must also be defined by the buyer. This means it is time to stash away those AIDA and generic views of buying processes. Here are 3 critical steps you can take to get your map up to date:
- Gain a deeper understanding of your buyer through qualitative buyer research. In my opinion, there is no way of getting around this requirement. Skilled research is needed to discover the new face of buying. Like explorers from yesteryear, you need to send a scout ahead to map the buyer journey.
- Develop buyer personas that mean something. By that I mean buyer personas that are not disguised profiles. They should provide real insight into who is making purchase decisions and why they are made.
- Map new buying processes with rich views of buying activities and interactions. In other words, the new map of your customer’s buying processes needs to account for the new sophistication of buying. Your new map needs to reflect new dynamics of how purchase decisions today are made in a complex world.
Does Your Map Connect You with Buyers?
I’ve worked with several organizations over the past couple of years who have taken a diligent approach to making sure their map of the buying processes of their customers remains up to date. They’ve been able to radically change how they connect with buyers. Here are few ways:
- Allowed their sales people to have better conversations with their customers resulting in higher win rates.
- Uncovered early stage buying activities that led to new tools for prospects and existing customers to use to build business cases leading to bigger contracts.
- Identified a more systematic way of generating leads that could be nurtured over the length of the entire end-to-end buyer’s journey resulting in improved customer acquisition
- Developed multi-channel content strategies that mapped to buying processes as defined by their buyers - getting the right message to their buyers at the right time
So what you can take away from this? Here are three items:
- As you start thinking about next year’s marketing plan, consider that buying in organizations today is not standing still. If anything, it will become more sophisticated as new technologies are introduced.
- Check the due date on your organization’s map of the buying processes of your customers. If it is prior to the 2008 financial meltdown, it is really spoiled milk.
- Finally, consider building a business case to gain a deeper understanding of the buying journeys and processes of your customers. Make the case that these insights are essential to knowing where to allocate resources for next year and beyond.
What is the next big step you can take? Recently, Jeff Ernst of Forrester echoed that B2B Marketers have a blind spot when it comes to knowing their buyer’s journey. I could not agree more. One big step you can take to remove the blind spot is by investing in qualitative buyer research to know your buyers at a deeper level. This will be money well spent. You will have an up to date map of your customer's buying process. It will surely help getting that results pie chart to be more of the right color versus the wrong one by the end of next year.