The other day I read an interesting article titled “5 Steps To Shorten The B2B Buying Cycle” by Kerry Spellman, Client Relationship Manager at iProspect. Even though her article is about the B2B buy cycle in general, it is a perfect follow up to my earlier post “Deconstructing the Four Stages of the Industrial Buy Cycle.”
The most frequent complaint that I have heard in the past year from my industrial clients is that their sales cycle has become longer, more complex and increasingly difficult to get on the buyer’s radar screen until it is too late. Any help that I can provide to my clients to alleviate the problem is greatly appreciated and rewarding for my business.
That’s precisely why Kerry’s article caught my attention. She has focused on identifying the problem and providing a 5-step solution to shorten the buy cycle. I have summarized here my takeaways on her five steps.
What is the key to shortening the buy cycle?
Establish credibility, build a trusting relationship and maintain “top of mind” awareness throughout the buy cycle.
How can you accomplish all that?
In one word content – marketing content that is relevant and tailored to the prospect’s stage on the buy cycle. Create and deliver useful information such as white papers, industry research and trends and how-to guides for selecting the right solution provider.
You are well aware of the fact that the Internet has completely and permanently changed the way industrial buyers purchase technical products and services. Before you can deliver your content and engage with your target audience, they need to find you!
And the way to get found by your target audience is to define your offerings in terms of solutions to their problems then build your content strategy around those problems instead of benefits and features of your products.
Kerry explains this concept very well with a realistic example.
Let’s say your business offers a software product designed to help business owners efficiently allocate revenue to related expenses to ultimately reduce costs. As such, you are solving the problem of inefficient cost management because at the end of the day, your software helps business owners save money. Given that, you would want to have visibility on the keyword phrases that a business owner is going to search on for a solution to the problem. In this case, you might want to make sure your website is found when a business owner queries “business cost savings.”
5 Steps to shortening the buy cycle – Getting on the prospect’s radar screen
The article lists five simple steps to get found and engage with your audience in the early stages of the buy cycle. I have included my take on each step. The steps are:
1. Think: Reflect on the origins of your offering.
My take: Go back to the drawing boards and brainstorm with your R&D, engineering, sales and marketing people to make a list of problems that existed and are solved by your offerings. You may be too close to the forest to see the trees, sometimes you may have to ask your current customers for their input.
2. Simplify: Give thought to the language that might be used by someone without extensive knowledge of the solutions you offer.
My take: Sharpen your listening skills. Pay attention to the terminology and words your target audience uses when they discuss their problems on social media, forums and blogs. You may be surprised by how different some of those terms are from those used within your company.
3. Prioritize: Once you’ve compiled a list of keywords that includes both the problems you solve and the basic language that might be used to search for your services, it’s time to prioritize your list.
My take: Use a keyword research tool like the free Google Keywords Research Tool to come up with a list of keywords and phrases based around the problems and solutions you discovered in step #1. If you feel stuck for ideas, you can type in the URL of your closest competitor’s website into the research tool, select website content and let Google do the work for you. Instead of guessing, develop a list of keywords and phrases that your target audience is actually using to search for solutions to their problems.
4. Develop: Your prioritized list of keywords will serve as the theme categories to start targeting as you develop new website content.
My take: Now it is time to winnow your list from step 3. Don’t just rely on analysis, refine your list based on relevance to your business, products and services. Remember your site content needs a good balance between the needs of human readers and those of search engine robots (bots). Create an Excel spreadsheet to map the refined keywords list to the main categories and subcategories of your site. Develop content for each section using these keywords and phrases to help you get found on search engines and drive traffic to your site. Once there, make sure your content fulfills their search queries and encourages them to engage with you further.
5. Promote: Once you have built out your new website content and optimized for the targeted keyword phrases, you need to promote it.
My Take: This is the make or break step – “build it and they’ll come” doesn’t work anymore. You have to actively promote your optimized site using social media, press (news) releases, blogs and offline tactics to tell your target audience about your site. Actively participate in forums where your target audience hangs out. After you register, edit your profile to add a link back to your site or a landing page to download a free white paper or register for a webinar. Remember to wrap your URL with anchor text that includes one or two keywords.
Incorporating these five simple steps into your online marketing efforts can go a long way in shortening your buy cycle.
What has worked for you? Feel free to add to this list by leaving your comments.