Nearly 60% of a purchase decision now occurs before sales teams become involved in the process. - Marketing Automation Benchmark Report 2015
As the Internet has become more accessible and functional, marketing methods have shifted with Sales Teams being involved later in the purchasing process.
78% of Internet users now conduct product research online prior to making a purchase decision meaning modern software buyers are reaching decisions before they are contacted by Software Sales teams. For Software organisations to make the most of this opportunity their marketing strategies must adapt.
Adapting to an Inbound Marketing strategy and using Sales Content mapped to a specific persona type, Marketing Directors and their departments must provide the solutions and products that buyers will need to solve their common software challenges. Presented at the right time and in the right format, this content attracts higher quality leads and builds trust in the software brand, therefore shortening software sales cycles.
All activity in an Inbound Marketing campaign, including content development, builds on precise Buyer Personas. As defined by HubSpot, Buyer Personas are ‘semi-fictional representations of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers’.
A persona profile helps marketers understand a key prospect’s goals, challenges, pain points and typical purchase objections, as well as other demographic information such as the online environments they use for research.
Developing a complete persona profile is key to creating relevant content for two reasons:
Companies that utilise Inbound content platforms and offer buyer persona driven content see a 45% increase in the volume of Sales Accepted Leads (SALs). - Kapost
Only when you understand which purchasing stage the software buyer is at, can you know what content to create, the angle required and the promotion channels to use. Then you will be able to nurture them towards a buying decision.
To build trust and increase the likelihood of retaining prospects and leads, each piece of content and activity should be designed to align with one of the following stages:
If your software buyer is aware of their pain, but doesn’t know how to solve it, they are in the awareness stage of the Buyer’s Journey.
e.g.: “My social media channels are hard to manage, I don’t have the time to keep track. What can I do?”
At this point, they will be looking for vendor neutral (non-sales or promotional) information to identify and name their problems / symptoms.
Reports, blog posts, eBooks, whitepapers and guides are the best formats to use here to attract prospects to your site. When promoted through the right digital environments for the identified persona, Awareness Stage content draws relevant traffic (prospects who would benefit from your solution) to your site and encourages them to become that initial lead.
81% of modern B2B buyers now use communities and blogs to inform a purchase decision. 74% use Linkedin, and 42% use Twitter. - HubSpot
If buyers have clearly defined and named their pain point and are researching how to solve it, they are in the consideration stage of the Buyer’s Journey.
e.g. “I know I need social media management software. What are my options? Which best fits my budget and integration needs?”
Using information gathered at the Awareness Stage, buyers are now committed to researching all possible solutions.
For software vendors to entice these buyers to convert to leads (and shorten the sales cycle time), relevant content should be provided via webinars, videos, eBooks, case studies and guides, and should be ‘gated’/ behind lead capture forms on your website.
To reduce the software sales cycle further, these leads should be nurtured by providing further relevant content to help them and encourage trust.
If buyers know the solution they need (your software), and are looking for data or endorsements to make a final choice, they are in the Decision Stage of the Buyer’s Journey.
e.g: “I know of two software solutions with the flexible management I need, but one is more expensive with added features. Which is best?”
Informed by Consideration Stage information, at this point software buyers will be researching supporting information to make a final decision.
For software vendors to entice these prospects to purchase and shorten the sales cycle, product specific content such as free software trials, demos, webinars, case studies, and vendor comparisons are best. At this stage and sometimes in the Consideration Stage, sales teams should also pick up the phone and begin conversations.
Note that if at any stage the prospect is not ready to convert, lead nurture activity (such as email workflows to send additional buyer-mapped content) should be used to address any ‘barriers to purchase’ and move leads to the next stage.
67% of B2B buyers rely more on content to research and make B2B purchasing decisions than they did a year ago. - DemandGen Report
90% of consumers find custom content useful and 78% believe that organisations providing custom content are interested in building good relationships with them. - SmartBug Media
Many software organisations are already benefiting by aligning persona-based content to the Buyer’s Journey. According to HubSpot software case studies:
Essentially, by understanding the Buyer’s Journey and mapping all activity around personas, you’ll know how to target your campaign at each stage with the right content.
The result? Long-term customer trust and retention with greater lifetime value (LTV) and a much shorter enterprise software sales cycle length.