Friday, February 27, 2009

Scoring the Stages of a Buying Process

When we talk about lead scoring, the goal that comes to mind most often is determining which leads are ready for handoff to sales. This, however, is only part of the picture. Some of us are able to map out a full buying process that is common to many or most of our buyers. If this is possible, as it was for Terracotta, then we can use lead scoring in a different way to provide a much more meaningful way to connect with potential buyers.

If there are specific stages in the buying process to look for, then you can apply the same methodology of lead scoring to determine which phase of the buying proces each buyer is in.

Each buying process is unique, so there is no universal process that all prospective buyers go through (see the example from the Terracotta case study to the right). However, there are three general phases that are common; awareness, solution discovery, and solution validation. Within these phases, prospective buyers of your solution may go through individual steps that you can map out.

Exploring free trials, learning about increasingly detailed aspects of solution capabilities, design, or implementation, reviewing case studies, viewing help documentation, and doing topic-specific searches can all be signs that a prospective buyer is at a specific stage of the buying process

Mapping the stage of the buying process allows some unique approaches to marketing:
  • Offers or communications can be targeted at specific stages of the buying process in what is essentially buying process specific psychographic segmentation
  • The size and shape of the lead funnel can be understood and shared with a broader team providing insights into marketing effectiveness
  • Conversion gaps in the lead funnel can be identified allowing refocusing on specific points at which buyers are not moving forward in the buying process

If your prospects' buying process is one that can be effectively understood through observation of their digital body language, and application of lead scoring techniques to the overall buying process, the benefits of doing so are tremendous.

Many of the topics on this blog are discussed in more detail in my book Digital Body Language
In my day job, I am with Eloqua, the marketing automation software used by the worlds best marketers
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Marshall said...

Hi Steven/Paul,

We originally set up our nurture program to segment by industry. But we recently decided that the most important question for us to answer is, 'Where are they in the buying cycle?'

With this new direction, we are adjusting our nurture strategy to first filter on implied buying stage, followed by additional industry specific segmentation or dynamic vertical content where it makes sense.

What segmentation strategies are you seeing B2B marketers employ successfully?

- Marshall

Steven Woods said...

I would definitely agree that buyer stages are a new and powerful way of segmenting. Essentially, they are a psychographic (where you are in your buying process) factor, and psychographic segmentation is almost always the most powerful.

peter rudolfi said...

For a small business there is no one to "hand off' the prospect to irregardless of what stage of the 'buying process' he is in. We wear all the hats at my one man music booking agency so that it is one person alone who makes the assessments with each phone call and e mail as to what stage the prospect is in with appropriate comments and supporting materials to move the transaction forward to closure.

However, if you can't physically see your prospect to establish a relationship or some kind of bonding, and they are focused on price in the initial e mail, what tactics do you suggest in presenting rates while getting across the value of other associated benefits of your product or service in that initial communication? It may be your only chance to communicate.

Peter Rudolfi
artists in music
San Francisco

Steven Woods said...

it's a tough question if they are already 100% focused on price. At that point you can certainly work to position key elements of value that you offer, but it is best to start earlier in the buying process. If you can connect with potential buyers earlier, and spend time educating them on how to think about a purchase decision, before they are even actively engaged in buying, you have a better chance of having them think of more than just price.