Tag Archives: buy cycle

A big mistake your B2B sales team is likely making…

Focusing on the Decision Maker vs. the Decision Making Process

A single decision maker for b2b purchases is increasingly a myth. Focusing on trying to convince a decision maker vs. focusing on understanding the decision making process is a mistake even experienced sales professionals make. In today’s b2b world, most businesses have some process of prioritizing projects and internal resources in addition to budgets. Rare is the case that someone wants to 100% own the responsibility of signing an agreement, spending budget money and owning a project when it’s likely other projects were seeking those same funds and resources.

A caveat here, if the firm you are selling to is very small or your product is transactional (e.g. non-subscription) and relatively inexpensive (e.g. less than $5,000) the below may only loosely apply  – but even President / Owner / CEO’s seek other’s opinions before signing on the line that is dotted.

Asking whether or not someone has the authority to make a decision is a pretty standard 101 question that will rarely give you enough information or insights to either accurately forecast the sale or even move the sale towards closing. This self-identified “decision maker” likely can make a decision, but that decision is usually whether or not they want to pursue the deal internally vs. actually making the final decision on the go/ no-go.

No matter what you are selling, every business has a list of projects in a queue waiting priority and you are competing with the attention bandwidth applied to those items; whether they are related to your offering or not. A better course of action is to seek clarity how decisions are made within the organization; including the financial decision as well as the project priority process.

How do you do that?

Ask better questions related to the process itself once you’ve earned the right to do so. Below are some very simple examples that you can adjust to your specific situation:

  • Mr. Prospect, based on my experience working with other clients, there are often other individuals at the business that like to be aware of what my company will be providing to your business; if only to avoid any confusion once you’ve made a decision. When your business has made similar purchase decisions – how did that process work? Do you typically involve others in the evaluation process as well? How do you recommend we work them into this process to make this as smooth as possible?
  • Mr. Prospect, I have to imagine there are other projects looking for budget or resources that might be unrelated to this; where do you think this project would fit into those priorities at the executive level and how do we best work together to help you navigate that?

TIP: Don’t fall easy victim to the false positive of your proposal going to executive committee / management meeting or board meeting for review. Always clarify that your proposal is on the agenda and a priority. All too often I’ve heard a deal forecasted because it was going to committee for final signoff only to learn that the board never got around to discussing the proposal and it’s pushed off to the next meeting.  Make sure your sales executives ask the question “are we formally on the agenda for the meeting as a priority?” It might feel uncomfortable to a sales rep to ask that (which I don’t get) but without confirmation, you are flying blind.

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Top organic listing on Google gets just 8.9% of clicks…

Pretty thought-provoking article and “infographic” here on google SEO vs. PPC trends; some highlights from my POV:

  • Top organic listing on Google gets 8.9% of clicks on page; 8.9% is still huge; but tells you how much the paid ads are getting overall – nearly 42% of all clicks go to first 3 paid listings.
  • Interesting how “pixel dominance” of paid ads is impacting click rates.
  • 89% of paid ad search traffic is “new” traffic that is outside organic reach.

Link: http://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2012/07/17/google-advertising

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Filed under B2B Marketing, online marketing, Uncategorized

Eyeblaster Research: You Need To Reach Beyond the Keyword…

Eyeblaster published a “research note” back in February that I just had an opportunity to read and I thought it was a great reinforcement to my frequent mention of the importance of “Full Buy Cycle” marketing.

In particular I thought this “commentary” on search (pull) vs. display (push) advertising was crisp and to the point:

“…search does not bring new prospects into the funnel, but rather moves existing ones through. This raises the question of scalability – the reach of search is limited to prospects that are already in the funnel. Furthermore, the number of those lucrative prospective customers with intent to purchase is limited. The question that arises is how to get more people into the funnel.

One way to increase the overall number of conversions is to extend the number of keywords. While it makes sense to explore other related keywords, at some point, keywords may lose relevance. Once the keywords purchased are extended too far, it would be the equivalent of buying an ad for taxis in the restaurant section of the yellow pages, since someone may need a lift…..The difference between search and display is that in search, only prospects who have shown an active interest in the product by typing a keyword are shown the ad, while in display, the ad is pushed to all of the target demographic….”

Link to Report (Registration Required): http://www.eyeblaster.com/data/uploads/ResourceLibrary/Eyeblaster_Research_Note_Search_and_Display.pdf

 

 

 

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Filed under B2B Marketing, online marketing

“Last Click Syndrome” Simplified

A brief story illustrating the dangers of relying on the “last click” to measure the effectiveness of online marketing expenditures using a simple “offline”  analogy to bring the point home.

To understand how the credit for the sale is “unfairly” being attributed to Google; consider this “offline” analogy:

Let’s say it’s the morning of Super Bowl Sunday and you decide you want to throw a couple burgers on the grill for the game – so in your head you already plan on hitting the grocery store for burgers. This is what we would call “pre-existing interest”…but first you’re scanning the paper – catching up on all the pre-game hype…while doing so; you notice an ad for a store you don’t typically frequent. This ‘gourmet’ store is advertising a sale on buffalo burgers for $5.99 a pound – bingo!

You had just read an article a few days before in your favorite health magazine courtesy of a friend’s facebook post about the benefits of buffalo meat and just like that – you shifted from buffalo curiosity a few days earlier to buffalo interest because that ad triggered your memory of something that had previously caught your attention – so off you head to the gourmet supermarket to buy your burgers.

You park your car and on your way into the store you happen to notice a big sign in the window advertising Buffalo Burgers for $5.99 a pound – good to confirm you’re in the right place…a contextually placed relevant ad as you enter the store..so you walk back to the meat department wondering where the buffalo burgers might be…and lo and behold there’s a  bright neon-colored sign advertising the $5.99 buffalo burgers with an arrow to a special section of the meat cooler.

This bright neon-colored sign is the last ad you see before selecting the burgers and heading to the checkout.

Under the last-ad-seen model, the article you read earlier touting the benefits of buffalo burgers over traditional beef burgers, the newspaper ad you read in the morning advertising the buffalo burger sale and the sign hanging in the window viewable from the park lot were all worth nothing and did not contribute in any fashion to your ultimate purchase. Instead, the reason you bought the buffalo burger was because of the neon sign pointing to the meat in the meat section.

Ludicrous if not idiotic right?

But using this analogy; you can see the danger of relying on counting only the last ad seen as not all advertising is intended to be immediate direct response and transaction driven.

Now tell this story, or a similar one, using online vehicles as the same can be said for online advertising in the b2b space…guess what the “last ad seen” tends to always be…a search engine link driven from Google…leading unfortunately to them unfairly getting too much credit for the sale happening vs. contributing to a later stage of the buying process…

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Filed under B2B Marketing, lead generation, online marketing

Google Testing Full-Contact Lead Capture

Google AdWords is testing a type of full contact lead capture for Adwords; the below link has more details but looks like “PPC Hero” was the first to roll out details on this beta, named contact form extensions.

Contact form extensions provides a contact form directly in the search ad, which a searcher can fill out and the advertiser can then use in the future to contact that lead. It is very similar to a lead acquisition form, but this one is found directly in an expanded Google AdWords ad.

Link to article from Searchengineland; which contains links to th PPC Hero content as well.

http://searchengineland.com/google-adwords-testing-lead-capture-forms-contact-form-extensions-32971

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B2B Buying Process Simplified

Many of my posts allude to the “buy cycle” and I have a series of posts on this blog that cover the various phases of the buy-cycle in pretty deep detail; but I was recently asked to summarize my thoughts as part of an executive presentation.

I thought my simplified version was worthy of a post – so here you go:

“As someone involved in the Industrial Marketplace – when researching or reading or searching online – are you doing this with a mouse in one hand and a credit card or purchase order in the other hand just itching to buy?

Chances are – probably not; and neither is anyone else online.

 There is currently over 150 years of research on HOW and WHY consumers of all kinds make decisions about WHICH and WHAT products to buy and well over 10 years of this research dedicated to just online “buying” behavior.

The results of this vast amount of research consistently reveal that there is a process or “buying cycle” to how people behave…

1. People become aware of, or INTERESTED-IN a particular product or service
2. As a next step, they CHECK IT OUT by doing some kind of RESEARCH
3. They then COMPARE & DECIDE which to buy; if any

 This simple buying process reveals two big things:

  •  Not every visitor is ready to buy all the time
  •  “Impulse Buying” does not generally exist in the Industrial B2B space

Of course this isn’t meant to imply that these people have no value; in fact the opposite.

Potential B2B buyers spend a lot of time online and see a lot of ads. Their purchases are therefore generally the outcome of multiple influences over time. We know that the impressions and results from the first few exposures and searches by a potential customer create the baseline used to compare all options under consideration as final selection nears.

As a result, a marketer needs to build awareness, consideration and purchase intent before the purchase is made.

If you aren’t marketing to all aspects of the realities of the buy cycle; your marketing plans and media campaigns will fail to reach their full potential.

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Filed under B2B Marketing

Top Five Reasons Lead Generating Initiatives Fail

Lead Generation is hot…you don’t need this blog post to tell you that – but if you still need evidence: 

  • A recent article from the Wall Street Journal in October stated “…marketers continue to put their ad dollars towards performance-based advertising, which includes search and lead generation inititives”
  • The Center for Exhibition Industry Research has identified the #1 objective of trade show exhibitors today to be lead generation
  • An August trend report from GlobalSpec on Industrial Marketing identified customer acquisition and lead generation as the top two priorities of industrial marketers

There are countless additional examples and 3rd party articles to support this as well but something tells me you likely already knew lead generation is a hot topic…

However did you know likewise that lead follow-up is the #1 concern of marketers?

Whoa…something is out of whack.

How can my #1 objective also be my #1 concern?

Why isn’t “Fixing Lead Follow-Up” the #1 priority over generating more leads that are going to continue to have follow-up issues?

Is it because lead follow-up is perceived as not being a marketing issue and therefore sales has the problem and therefore needs to find the solution?

Unfortunately for many organizations, that seems to be the common excuse to which I call bullsh*t – let’s just use common sense and see if that blame game make sense :

Who’s catching hell when leads don’t convert to sales?

When was the last time you heard sales budgets were being cut due to lack of ROI?

Compare that with what we are all dealing with  in regards to our marketing budgets – At best they are flat but more likely they are being reduced due to lack of ROI and we’re being tasked with accountability measures like never before.

Seems marketing is catching hell for lead follow-up issues vs. sales, but let’s revisit Lead Follow-Up responsibility. 

Aren’t we all on the same team with the same objective regardless if I’m in sales or if I’m in marketing?

Aren’t we both trying to help the company sell more stuff and do so efficiently and profitably?

I continue to be perplexed as to how companies end up in these sales vs. marketing silos with finger pointing as to where blame resides.

Ultimately it appears to be a sales/marketing culture issue; to which blame truly resides with executive management. At some point; a CEO needs to demand that their sales forces become more effective and that marketing departments help them get there and equally hold them accountable.

A guy can dream…right?

In the interim; reality continues to exist and millions upon millions of ad dollars are getting thrown against lead-generation initiatives and many of these initiatives will fail. By fail I simply mean not live up to the full potential they could have through a better integrated sales and marketing culture and process.

So why do they fail to live up to their promise? 

Here’s my perspective on the top 5 reasons lead generating initiatives fail:

1. No Follow-Up At All
All of us at some point have heard, read or experienced the statistics that continually tell us that less than 20% of sales leads ever get followed-up on. It’s a sad statement of business reality but most companies do not have a detailed, documented process that covers even the basics of how a lead will get nurtured or routed to sales. So when a marketing program takes place, the leads are never given the necessary attention. Test this yourself; do you have a documented process for “what happens” when an email comes into your website or a phone call comes into your office or a visitor pops by your booth?

Does it get logged and coded or does it just get forwarded as an “FYI” and left to an individual in sales or a marketing admin to ensure follow-up occurs?

Scary isn’t it?

Brian Carroll, a lead generation (and more) expert has a great quote on this – “To me it’s better to not be involved with a customer at all than to start a relationship and then drop the ball”

2. Slow Follow-Up
Like Bread or Beer – leads go stale. When people inquire, they’re interested right then and chances are they’re aren’t just looking at your solutions to satisfy their interests, especially in the B2B space. In addition to their interest in your offerings, you have to expect that your competition is also in the mix and maybe responding while you sit on the sidelines.

 As communication platforms like twitter, facebook and linkedin have pervasively grown; people are also going elsewhere beyond vendors for opinions on your products and competitive options while you twiddle your fingers ignoring the lead at its source. 

Who would you rather have following up on an inquiry that came directly to you? Someone from your marketing or sales group or an anonymous source on twitter?

Don’t just take my word for it; Knowledgestorm has years of research on purchase behavior in the IT and related space and they’ve repeatedly told their advertisers “Leads Get Cold Quickly”.

Almost as bad as ignoring them altogether – if leads aren’t nurtured quickly – it’s a waste, because you aren’t leveraging the original investment made to generate the inquiries.

3. Limited Follow-Up
I’m guessing some of you are thinking #1 and #2 don’t apply to you – because you have a system in place where 100% of your leads are followed up via an email or phone call within a reasonable time frame.

So why are your programs failing to reach their potential?

Maybe because that initial follow-up is all that is occurring and a process for continued follow-up and nurturing isn’t mapped out.

Let’s start with the basics – the majority of leads, even good leads, aren’t ready to buy right away. The buying process itself, depending on the complexity of the “product” or “service” being sourced, may not be a single person process and may be stretched over several months. Additionally, in the B2B space “Impulse Buying” does not exist  and potential B2B buyers spend a lot of time doing research and comparing options.

How the hell are you going to add value to that complex process with one-off emails or a single qualifying phone call?

According to Reed Business Information Systems statistics – the number of personal sales calls necessary to close an order is 5.2 and an average buyer sees nearly 2 sales people per week. Factor in the realities of the buyers also hiding behind automated switchboards, voice-mail, spam and junk e-mail filters and it seems that even legitimate leads are actually discouraging sales people from trying to connect. In my world – we call that “noise”; and you have to elevate and rise above all that noise for your message to be heard….and trust me; one phone call or one follow-up email isn’t going to do it.

True lead nurturing builds relationships with the right people at the right companies through relevant and consistent dialogue and touch points,  regardless of their timing to buy. This nurturing helps turn an initial lead into a sales-ready or transactional lead when the timing is right.

4.  Wrong Follow-Up
One of the challenges of following up on leads is agreeing what a lead is to begin with. Ask a sales rep and they’ll likely tell you a lead is a thoroughly qualified potential customer who is ready to buy today, credit card in hand. Ask a direct marketer and they’ll like tell you a lead is anyone from a targeted potential customer who gave up their contact information, whether it was to download a white paper or they checked a box on a Web site or dropped a card in the bowl at a trade show.

Common definitional issues wreak havoc on lead generation and follow-up programs; and all it takes is one sales person calling a marketing defined lead and getting blown off to summarize that all these marketing defined leads “stink”…or what we call “poisoning the well” and you are right back to Issue #1 – leads start to get ignored.

If you are resource constrained and can’t afford to extend incremental resources to qualify and nurture leads before handing them to sales; at a minimum sales should fully understand how the leads are being generated and the context of the inquiry; not just the content of who’s contacting. A well integrated sales and marketing group, even an understaffed one, can make huge gains in lead conversions simply by better understanding how to best follow-up and nurture an early stage lead.

In other words, if you are currently just dumping leads over the fence to the sales side of the house – STOP!

Take the time once a week, once a month or once a quarter to review how the leads are being generated and have an open / honest discussion on how to best follow-up to ensure maximum success.

5. Losing Sight of the Buy-Cycle (Not Qualifying Leads)
I mentioned it in #3 above and if you’ve read much of my blog posts; you’ve probably picked up that I frequently mention the “buy-cycle” when talking about marketing trends, research or studies. I do this because I happen to be a big believer in tying marketing strategies and tactics back to common sense buyer behavior.

At the risk of sounding “basic”, essentially the buy-cycle simply means that there are natural steps or stages we go through as consumers before we ultimately decide to purchase (or not); and I think this is true whether we are talking about software, cranes or even product certification services. Some other marketers refer to this as a purchase funnel – either way…

1. We become aware of, or INTERESTED-IN a particular product or service – whether by direct need or curiosity

2. We CHECK IT OUT, maybe do some research or talk to peers

3. And then we COMPARE & DECIDE which to buy; if any.

Depending on the complexity of the “product” or “service” being sourced, this may not be a single person process and may be stretched over several months; but in the B2B space one thing is certain and that’s “Impulse Buying” does not exist. Potential B2B buyers spend a lot of time doing research and comparing options; and numerous third party studies support that this research is increasingly being done online. While online, it’s just commons sense that these potential buyers see a lot of ads, messages and brands  – and those messages that are contextually related to the research they are pursuing are going to be noticed and retained; and who they ultimately do business with or purchase from is generally the outcome of these targeted multiple influences over time.

Targeted impressions and results from the first few exposures and searches done by a potential customer online create the baseline that the buyer uses to compare all options under consideration as final selection nears.

In short; if a buyer frequently sees ads, comments or references towards Brand A while they are researching Topic X…Brand A is going to stand out as a market leader or, at a minimum, a baseline to compare other options.

As a result, a marketer needs to build awareness, consideration and purchase intent before a purchase decision by the buyer is ever made.

What does all the above mean to your lead generation initiatives?

Without first qualifying a lead – you have no clue where in the buy-cycle an individual is; it’s like timing the stock market.

How can you add value to a complex buying process if you aren’t sure if they are just in preliminary research stages or narrowing down to a final few options for purchase in the next few days? Without qualifying; you can really flub your lead follow-up and waste your time and your potential clients time if you try pitching an early stage buyer just as bad as you can by trying to re-educate a late stage buyer.

All lead follow-up activities; regardless of who is handling it, should have minimum qualifying questions. 

BONUS (#6):
Whenever possible; use a phone – nothing can compete with a real, live phone dialog to qualify and nurture a genuine lead, regardless of where they are in the buying cycle. The phone is the #1 sales and marketing tool to maximize any lead generation program.

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Filed under B2B Marketing, lead generation, online marketing