Friday, March 6, 2009

Assessing the Buyer's Toolkit - 10 examples

If, as B2B marketers, we're going to help buyers along in their buying process, the first thing we need to understand is how they buy. I wrote about Scoring the Stages of the Buying Process the other day, but the next step is to use that insight in order to help guide the buyer along.

To do this, we need to honestly assess our marketing assets in context of stages of the buying cycle. Each marketing asset helps a prospective buyer learn about your solution, but often in very different ways, from high level thought leadership when a buyer is in a market awareness/education phase, to education on capabilities when a buyer is in the vendor discovery phase, through to final validation of vendor selection.

Each organization's prospects' buying process is unique, and each marketing asset needs to be assessed in context of that buying process, but here are 10 examples I've discussed recently to give you a sense of the approach.

Case Studies: in a business information services company, used to show how various clients used the available information services in their businesses. As it was mainly used to spur ideas and educate the buyer on possibilities, these were used very early in the buying process. Education

Webinar: in a software company, a webinar discussing industry evolution and best practices with thought leaders in the field. Used early in the buying process to educate buyers and engage them in a nurturing process. Education

Book: in a software company, used to establish thought leadership, and to educate executives at potential prospects on market dynamics and the options available to them. Education

Seminar Invite: in a financial services company, used to build credibility, educate potential buyers on solutions, and begin engagement and nurturing process. Education/Discovery

Research Excerpt: in a financial information services company, used early in the buying process to establish credibility, and engage with new potential prospects or existing prospects who have disengaged. Education/Discovery

YouTube Video: in a software company, an entertaining viral video used to access potential prospects and bring them into a free trial process. Discovery

Tradeshow: in a hardware company, attendance at a tradeshow attended by potential buyers. Used to connect with buyers who are seeking solution vendors. Discovery

Free Trial: in a software company, used to allow the buyer to get a feel for product capabilities and experience. Depending on the buyer, the use of a free trial can vary between a quick evaluation to determine inclusion in a vendor list, to a deep evaluation to make a final decision. Discovery/Validation

ROI Calculator: in a software company used to assist in justifying a purchase to others within the organization and to ensure access to budget. Validation

Whitepaper: in a security services company, used late in the buying process to remove objections and answer key selection questions. Validation

The point is not that there is a right answer to where a webinar, a whitepaper, or a seminar invite fits in a buying process, it depends entirely on content. Each marketing organization must understand the buying process their buyers go through, and then objectively map each of their marketing assets to that process. By understanding what information is needed at what stage in the buying process, we can help guide our buyers through it.
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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