Though we'd like to think that the we buy things is based on a logical examination of the facts after following a strict evaluation process, when it comes down to it, we're human, and we buy based on emotion. It's an easy concept when in a B2C environment, but does this still hold true in the world of the B2B buyer?
B2B buyers don't get the same reward as they would as a consumer, the decision to buy is dominated by a desire to manage risk and risk management is driven by fear - and usually, it's the fear of getting it wrong, or worse still, getting sacked for making the wrong decision.
Many businesses deliberately remove those that derive the benefit from a purchasing decision from the buying process to maintian impartiality and integrity. They're called Procurement!
We read an interesting whitepaper recently by Enquiro called risk mitigation in the B2B buyersphere and it argues there are three levels of risk B2B marketers have to deal with:
- Repeat purchases are those standard purchases with the lowest risk eg. Supplies and raw materials.
- Repeat modified purchases are medium to high risk for those products or services which are subject to change, and therefore need evaluation from time to time eg. computers, software, IT systems and other technological purchases.
- Blank slate are the riskiest buys where there is no prior experience, ie. brand new technologies or major expenditures.
To complicate matters further, there are often multiple purchase influencers in a B2B environment and the decision is often spread over months, even years on occasion.
What does that imply for your marketing plan and particularly your content marketing strategy?
Whilst a seductive concept, it's naive to imagine that your sales and marketing funnel works in a simple linear fashion with people progressing through the funnel at a steady rate. Buyers, start, stop, leak and restart their buying journey in an unpredictable fashion. Your content marketing must:
Your content must be able to be found by your buyers at a time and a place of their choosing, not yours. For example, a simple idea is to create a resource centre or learning centre on your website for your content. The smart bit is creating content that is keyword rich and creating multiple "pathways" to access that content from organic search, Calls to Action on your website, Social Media outreach (like Linkedin group posts) and your own Blog posts. Make your content findable!
As buyers make purchasing decisions they look to find ways to remove their concerns and worries, to manage their risk. Ensure your content removes the feeling of unease from people who are planning to purchase from you. Some ways to do this are:
- In the early stages of their journey illustrate how it's possible to solve the problem the buyer is facing. They may not even understand that it's possible. The buyer is in an education phase. Case studies work well here.
- Use ROI calculators and other tools to illustrate the potential savings or gains an organisation might achieve.
- Get customers to speak on your behalf (through word of mouth recommendations - which hold the most weight) and published testimonials.
- Mitigate the decision risk by offering free trials.
- Be prepared to put your money where your mouth is. For example, by using money-back guarantees.
This helps prospects to self-select rather than be pushed down a predefined structured journey of the seller's chosing. If you're blasting out emails, the very fact that they're being sent in a pre-ordained manner means you're making the assumption that they're following a linear path and they're ready to hear from you. In reality, they may be ahead in the purchase process or suddenly need to go back to the beginning for review because they’re getting cold feet for one reason or another. That's why it's so important to have a recycling tactic (like a weekly blog) in place; you will never be able to control when fear kicks in. The best you can do is map out your content in a way that allows prospects to self-serve.
If you would like to learn more about how to market your content, feel free to download our complimentary ebook: