Archives for the ‘PPC’ Category

B2B Buyer Research: Which Methods, When?

Webcasts, White Papers, Product Trials, Editorial Articles… eBooks?

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As an undergraduate engineering student,  one of my most memorable courses was Engineering Law. Every day we’d hear stories (cases) about product liability, like the guy who used his Swingline stapler as a hammer (Swingline has a “tack” mode). Evidently, he didn’t quite comprehend what tack-mode meant, so when he hammered a nail into the wall, a staple flew into his eye, blinding him. He sued (and won, btw), claiming Swingline negligent in its duty to describe proper use.

B2B Marketers can be like this guy.

Why? Because many assume that their favorite marketing tools are appropriate for ALL stages in the buying cycle. With the flight to online marketing, for example, there are many who claim that Google AdWords is the only marketing tool they need. AdWords is their Swingline stapler—terrific stapler; lousy hammer.

B2B Buyers React Differently Depending On Buying Stage

In 2007, SiriusDecisions published their landmark End User Tactic Survey (summary slide deck here, see slide #24) which provided evidence for what many suspected: Every marketing strategy and tactic has a “sweet spot” — Specific stages in the buying cycle where the tactic is more effective than other methods.

SiriusDecisions found that Webinars, for instance, were more appropriate at the early stages than later stages.

New Research. Same Conclusions?

In July 2009, TechTarget conducted its own research, surveying 1,474 IT professionals (most from midsize firms) to learn about their buying process. While their research is specific to Information Technology, the results speak volumes about all B2B buyers. (note: The Media Consumption Report is available as a free download from TechTarget)

I’ve selected a few key charts and provided you with my insight and conclusions.

Awareness stage (problem identification)

a/k/a Outreach, Lead-Gen, Demand Generation

TechTargetMediaConsumptionReport_09-11-content-by-stage
Marketing Tools used in buying stages

In the Awareness stage (problem identification), the top 5 online marketing tools are:

  1. eBooks (a new entry… are you working on an eBook?)
  2. Email newsletters (I bet you thought these were dead… includes newsletters from magazines, not only vendor newsletters)
  3. Editorial articles (do you have a PR strategy?)
  4. White Papers
  5. Podcasts

Consideration stage (evaluation of alternatives)

a/k/a Customer Engagement

Sources for Evaluating
Sources for Evaluating

In the Consideration stage (evaluation of alternatives), the top 5 online marketing tools are:

  1. White Papers
  2. Trial software (Not just software folks! Applies to most B2B purchases of services and products. You’ve got to create a groundswell of users. See my note about “Freemiums” below)
  3. Product literature
  4. Editorial articles
  5. Webcasts

At this stage, ebooks fell to #10. Surprisingly, Case Studies are #9.

Decision stage
(vendor selection and request for proposal)

Most Effective for Decision Making
Most Effective for Decision Making

In the Decision stage (vendor selection and request for proposal), the top 5 online marketing tools are:

  1. Trial Software
  2. Case Studies
  3. White Papers
  4. Online Vendor Demos
  5. eBooks

Editorial articles falls to #11 and email newsletters to #12.

Additional strategic insight from the report
  • On-demand and online videos don’t have to be live.
    In fact, only 10% preferred live presentations.

    Advice: Record it and make the archive available in an autoresponder sequence.

  • Getting a prospective customer to evaluate your solution/service is critical.
    85% evaluate just 1, 2 or 3 vendors. Yep, that’s all.
    70% are very likely or somewhat likely to buy following trial.

    Advice: Get your prospects into a trial as soon as possible. If you have to give it away (the old, “freemium” strategy), so be it. Does your marketing strategy put this goal front-and-center?
  • Evaluation may occur without involving a vendor.
    86% research a problem for just 2 months, or less and
    76% contact vendors within a month after their research is complete.

    Advice: Be ready to quickly pounce on an opportunity.

As you can see, both SiriusDecisions and TechTarget provide ample evidence for using multiple types of marketing strategies to get your sales team into your prospect’s buying process. It’s not a one-size-fits-all world any more (was it ever?). You need a complete game plan that includes a variety of approaches that are mapped to your sales cycle.

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