The more we focus on B2B ecommerce the more we’ve come to understand the enormous potential and the enormous challenges it presents.
That’s why we were quite excited to attend Bizo’s B2B Funnelmentals tour when it stopped near our downtown office in Chicago. It was illuminating to hear different B2B marketers share their expertise, and we learned a tremendous amount on identifying B2B customer leads and how to convert them. Essentially, B2B ecommerce success depends on factors like:
- Generating different types of content
- Distributing that content through many channels
- Targeting the content to different segments based on the buyer’s job role and place in the sales funnel
- Measuring the right KPIs at each stage of the sales funnel
This post, based on content that various presenters shared at the event, focuses on the different parts of the B2B sales funnel and the types of content appropriate for each segment.
The B2B Customer’s Journey and Destination
The great American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that wisdom is finding, “the journey’s end in every step of the road.” Similarly, in the early 90s song Amazing by Aerosmith, lead singer Steven Tyler sings, “Life’s a journey, not a destination.” This idea doesn’t suggest that the end always justify the means, but rather encourages us to take every step of a journey with the end-goal in mind.
When applying this concept to B2B marketing, it’s clear that each stage of a customer’s journey has unique goals which can only be met with unique content. No matter where you find the buyer on the journey and no matter what kind of content they need at that point, and no matter where that content is located, everything must be created with the end-goal in mind. It is your job as a B2B marketer to make sure that no matter which point your buyer is at on the path to purchase, the content that they see is tied to a pre-defined result.
It’s important to understand that you always have some potential customers at all stages of the sales funnel. At this very moment, there are people looking for products and services that your brand offers, but who have never heard of your company. And there are people who are intimately familiar with your offering without ever speaking directly to a sales rep.
It’s also important to understand that each stage of the sales funnel has different measures of success. Just like you don’t judge a baseball pitcher by how many home runs they hit, you don’t judge a top-funnel marketing campaign by how much revenue it generated.
Top of the Funnel
Potential B2B customers at the top of the funnel are grappling with some sort of lack or inefficiency in their business, and are searching for solutions. The goal for B2B marketers is to make these searchers aware of your brand. Using branding initiatives like press releases and social channels, identify your potential customer’s pain points and start getting them to browse around your site.
Success at this stage should be measured in terms of how many new visitors your efforts brought to your site and in terms of brand lift.
Don’t force them to fill out forms yet – save that for when it is time to get to know your visitors better. This is the time to show off who you are. Once they have visited your site, you can place them into retargeting campaigns, and start priming them for middle of the funnel content.
Middle of the Funnel
Although B2B marketing efforts targeted at the top of the funnel result in higher website traffic, not every visitor at the top of the funnel is a qualified lead. The middle of the funnel is where you want to engage your visitors. Get to know more about their needs, and start segmenting visitors based on job positions.
Once they’re in the retargeting pool, tempt them to engage further with things like surveys or whitepaper downloads. Your site is complicated and the right content for your potential customer is not always readily available through menu navigation or even on-site search.
Your goal is to continue educating and helping your audience become more familiar and comfortable with your brand, but it is also about getting to know more about who they are and what they need. Directing your visitors to valuable content helps with the former goal and the accompanying registration forms help with the latter.
Bottom of the Funnel
This is where you start converting leads into sales. These are the potential customers who have read your blog posts, seen your retargeting ads and watched your demos – as well as those of your competitors. They are ready to buy and are finalizing which solution offers them the most value. This is why it is crucial not to stop your nurturing campaign once your potential customer has passed through the top and middle parts the funnel. Just because they haven’t converted after your demo doesn’t mean you should stop serving display or paid ads for them. Continue to target existing accounts you’ve put in your database from mid-funnel efforts, and encourage them to reach out to a sales rep or enter a checkout process.
One of the more salient points brought up at the conference was that marketers often put too much effort into the bottom part of the funnel. A potential customer at the final stage of the funnel already knows a lot about your company and what it offers. It’s not that this isn’t a highly critical part of the path to purchase, but by the time a lead is coming to the end of their journey they should already have a good idea from whom they are going to buy. When marketers spend too much time trying to tip these already qualified leads into sales they’ll inevitably lose focus on the huge pond of potential customers who know nothing about their brand.
It’s a truism in the digital marketing field that the B2B buyer’s journey is longer and more complex than a one time sale of a perpetual license to a single individual. The presentations at the B2B Funnelmentals tour helped clarify what the different stages were in the B2B buyer’s journey, what kind of content was required for each stage, and how to measure success at each stage.