How digital has altered the B2B sales funnel
B2B companies who dig a little deeper into their data will be in a better position to respond to the changing dynamics of the sales model, from the traditional sales funnel to the customer journey.
Over half of buyers’ decisions are made before they even pick up the phone to speak to a supplier. As digital continues to cause systematic upheaval in the way companies do business, B2B organisations are adapting the way they communicate with prospects and customers. The mechanics of the sales funnel have shifted from the traditional linear model to a multi-touch point customer journey. Previously, sales representatives were able to deliver tailored messages to prospects via the limited number of channels available for engagement. Leads would enter the sales cycle thanks to outbound marketing tactics initiated by the company, such as cold calls. Now, the ever-rising expectations and digital habits of the customer have given rise to demand for an integrated, omni-channel experience that responds to their needs and is pleasant to use.
Companies are armed with more big data and analytic tools than ever before. They are better able to follow customers’ behavioural patterns and accommodate this evolution in buyer journeys using tools such as automation platforms. Almost 3/4 of the typical B2B buyer journey is done digitally. This phenomenon is having a direct impact on the techniques employed by marketing and sales departments as ROI figures reveal which digital strategies have the most impact. As buyers spend more time researching products and services online, inbound marketing is taking centre stage as one of the most effective approaches to reel in customers.
Further along the journey, Marketing Automation helps give companies the edge when capturing information about prospects and using that information to tailor each stage of the buyer lifecycle. Alignment and cooperation between marketing and sales, as well as other departments, can be the tipping point in whether an organisation’s strategy is ultimately a success or a failure.
Companies who successfully navigate this new landscape are able to take advantage of channels offering 24/7 opportunities to convert prospects. A meaningful, data-led understanding of the buyer decision-making process is key to accommodate these developments in the sale environment.
Using data-led research to drive change across buyer lifecycles
For companies to achieve maximum return on investment in sale strategies when designing their consumer journeys, they must determine where to allocate resources by understanding what prospects need at the various stages of the decision-making process. The strategies that B2B companies employ to gain these insights will vary according to their industry, consumer base, and size.
Start-ups or SMEs characterized by a small client database could launch a campaign that engages directly with their consumers to discover what factors drive decisions. Larger companies could use data-based market research and analytic tools to obtain better insights into their consumers. Research findings should then be developed with input from all company departments, from customer service and logistics, to transform these insights into actionable objectives. Once companies get to grips with their analytics, they are in a better position to revise existing processes and adapt their buyer models accordingly.
For instance, CRM software can enable marketers to deliver ‘the right message, in the right way, at the right time’. Digital tools are so advanced that companies are able to use them to predict consumers’ future behaviour and personalise touch points and master leads’ progress along the buyer cycle.
Marketing Automation platforms also offer key features such as lead capture and scoring. A leads scoring system is vital in streamlining the work carried out by sales and marketing on lead conversion. In an ideal world, lead conversion rates would be high thanks to filtering so that only high-quality, qualified leads are passed to sales. Leads categorisation and automatic scoring facilitates systematic treatment of leads and allows companies to focus on executing lead nurturing strategies without wasting precious resources chasing poor sales prospects. As the sales funnel and buyer model becomes less linear and more complex, a well-mapped buying cycle and pre-defined strategy for treating leads at various stages of the cycle is essential. Companies can make the most of CRM tools by customising the different stages of the funnel to suit their business, industry, and definition of lead qualification.
Objective KPIs can be applied to data insights to improve efficiency of resource allocation
Undertaking analysis of customer journeys is now ranked the number one Conversion Rate Optimization method available to marketers.
Leadership involvement is crucial when it comes down to determining allocation of resources, especially when the new approaches take a different direction to what was traditionally in place. Managers can lead by example to ensure sweeping cultural change across companies, not only so that departments become digitally literate but also so that customer-centricity becomes the beating heart of the entreprise mission.
Once Marketing Automation tools or features are run, companies often find themselves staring at statistics that parts or all of their existing processes hide inefficiencies and resource blackholes. By developing data-led strategies to implement change, organisations can exploit identified opportunities and maximize ROI at each stage of the buyer cycle.
Objective data and relevant KPIs are fundamental components of a digital strategy that allows understanding of which marketing strategies resound best with consumers. Recent research has shown that B2B companies consistently fail at delivering marketing messages that matter most to clients and do not take into consideration which factors are most influential in the buyers’ decision-making process. This is especially important for B2B organisations, where buyer decisions face scrutiny on price, practicality, and experience. Strategically responding to data analytics and having teams work harmoniously to accompany these changes can help ensure that organisations are not wasting valuable resources on customer segments or ineffective marketing tactics.
Don’t ignore what the data is telling you. Companies who embrace digital tools and use them to adapt their sales funnel will succeed in offering buyer journeys that respond to the evolving digital habits of the B2B consumer.
About the Author
Manuela leads the Marketing division at IMS, advising clients on branding and market positioning in both Europe and Asia.
Prior to joining IMS, Manuela worked in financial regulation and compliance. Past experiences include representing France in roundtable discussions in Brussels for the European Venture Capital Fund (EuVECA) Regulation.
She obtained her LL.B (Hons) at UCL before graduating from Sciences-Po, Paris, with a Master’s in Financial Regulation.
Connect with Manuela Burki on LinkedIn