Leverage the B-to-B Buy Cycle
By Russell Kern
Create a range of offers to motivate decision-makers at each stage.
Direct marketing professionals are asked to serve many masters on a daily basis. For example, on any typical day your sales force can be screaming for more qualified leads. The vice president of sales says, "Stop wasting money on marketing investments and just cut the product price, so the sales team can deliver the quarter's revenue." The vice president of marketing is investing wildly in untraceable awareness-building activities all the while asking you to prove every direct marketing ROI. Let us not forget aggressive product managers pushing to get out promotions for their newest product or software upgrade.
When you separate the issues surrounding the essentials of direct, the core obstacle to achieving success in B-to-B marketing becomes quite clear. The obstacle is managing the internal clients' (such as product managers and/or vice presidents of sales) expectations and lack of knowledge about direct. Few internal clients and senior managers actually understand the psychological dynamics of behavior motivation required for the B-to-B direct marketer. Further, they don't understand how to leverage the first three stages of the buy cycle to fill the sales funnel and drive prospects to engagement.
B-to-B buying is a journey. It begins with some internal or external factor that requires an improvement. For example, your firm's president says he wants to improve customer satisfaction rates, or new competition is entering the market and you need to reduce your product price.
Along the path, there are easy ways to measure actions a buyer makes that signals where he or she is in the buying process: from collecting basic category information, to establishing selection criteria, to issuing an RFP.
When you analyze the buy cycle for complex, high-ticket sales, you recognize the purchase process is long and complicated. No individual wants to be held accountable for a bad decision, so high-priced B-to-B products require multiple decision makers to participate in extensive selection and evaluation processes, all to facilitate the final purchase or engagement.