Virtually all of today’s B2B marketing advice involves the benchmarks, best practices and how-tos for demand generation, nurturing, social media and content. These four topics are all vital parts of the process of making a B2B sale.
But there comes a point when B2B marketers have to directly sell the features and benefits of their product or service. This is when a qualified buyer is nearing the end of the buy cycle and is evaluating his or her purchase options.
Knowing I was going to cover this topic today, I did searches to see what others are saying about it. Strangely enough, I could find little coverage on the topic. Most of the results ended up talking about the same general practices one would use in the earlier stages of the prospect relationship.
Because of this, I pulled from my own experiences and those of my colleagues to provide these four best practices for B2B late-stage marketing:
1. Focus: Collateral materials, Web sites and outbound marketing messages should still focus on the product benefits, but directly support every one with a feature or group of features.
2. Tone: Research (I learned this at a seminar years ago) shows that the greater the promise, the greater the level of satisfaction on the part of buyers. The rule: don’t lie, but feel free to maximize the promise of what a product or service can deliver.
3. Content: We all know that the B2B environment has changed. Once buyers feel the pain of a business challenge, they initiate their own research, look deeper into solutions and look longer before being willing to talk to sales — hence the lengthening of buy cycles. Therefore, it’s critical that B2B Web sites and outbound marketing materials contain product content that is far more in-depth than brochures or product briefs. Content should include self-selected Web site tools and information such as ROI calculators, detailed demos, third-party product comparisons, total cost of ownership (TOC) numbers, implementation time-frames, etc. It’s also in the late buy cycle that prospective buyers care most about your current customers. Videos of customers telling their own stories make for strong late buy-cycle content.
4. Incentives: Make a deep buy-cycle offer tied to a deadline. This is necessary to create urgency and overcome buyer inertia. Offers can include such things as discounts; added services, support or training; an upgrade at the same price; extra free months on a subscription purchase; extra seats; etc. Many companies prefer not to discount their products, as that approach can diminish the perceived value of the product. Offering added services, extended contracts and other non-product discounts are strong incentives.
Demand generation, lead nurturing and late buy-cycle marketing/sales efforts are all equally important in this customer-controlled marketing world. B2B marketers must create messaging and content to do them all.