How content, ABM, and your digital presence are pivotal to attract, capture, and retain customers

Gartner finds that in any company, between 6-10 people with different self-interests will be involved in any B2B buying process – and wait for it, there may be / probably will be stakeholders outside of the company who are also influencing the purchase.

Gartner takes a deeper dive – over one quarter (27%) of that buying group’s purchasing time will be spent researching independently online – comfortably outstripping the time spent speaking with suppliers at 17%.

So here’s the crunch line: Gartner concludes that online presence has the biggest influence over purchasing decisions.

So, as my colleague Jamie Kightley highlighted way back in 2016, understanding the B2B sales funnel is just the beginning of the journey. From there on, it’s about optimizing and facilitating the way prospects and leads interact with a B2B organization online during the buying journey – think content marketing, account-based marketing (ABM) strategies, and aligning digital PR and marketing goals once and for all.  

So just how can PR and marketing teams optimize each and every area of their digital presence to perfect the B2B sales funnel and facilitate the sales journey?

  1. First step: Awareness – attack on all fronts using a personalized industry approach

The very top of the funnel, where prospects become aware of your business, your attack is on all fronts – social media, content marketing, SEO.

Research has shown that 80% of business decision makers prefer to get company information from a series of articles versus an advertisement before making a decision, with 9 in 10 B2B buyers saying online content has a moderate to major effect on purchasing decisions.

This is where having a range of content will be so important – a case study on how your business has helped similar issues or industries, supported by social posts demonstrating your knowledge in a particular field. Tailor this content and messaging to align with key industries that your prospects are in. Because consistent messaging across multiple content sources is more readily believed – you win credibility and trust.

But don’t forget to back this up with good technical SEO – get your back-end right as well as your front digital presence. You could have great assets or if your website it too slow to load or gated copy form is too long, you risk losing the lead for ever. Don’t shoot yourself in the digital foot!

  1. The consideration stage: Nurturing leads, showcasing your brand equity, and making your company relatable

Once prospects are aware of your business offerings, the pressure is on to show why yours is the best in the market. How? Prospects want to know that you understand their pain points, but they also want to know that you can help alleviate these pain points.

It’s all about demonstrating expertise and establishing your company as a thought leader – remember the power of executive profiling, showing strength in depth.

In this way you can address a company’s specific concerns and showcase your unique value proposition. It’s called showing off your brand equity – and at the same time making your company’s brand equity relatable.

And what’s not working is just as important as what is. Tracking lead-gen interactions through targeted backlinks, measuring social click through, and analyzing web traffic and behavior on your own site can identify where the buyer journey may me stumbling. For example, your placed content may be generating a ton of click through – but if your website can’t convert then there’s something missing somewhere! Adjust accordingly to unjam the sticking points for your B2B buyers.

  1. Get more targeted: Account-based marketing – taking it one step further to directly target key personas

But the journey doesn’t end here! This is where a well thought out ABM strategy can prove its worth – an ABM strategy will rely on analysis to identify target accounts and the correct contacts to reach out to. All data should also be shared between marketing, sales, and PR to ensure activities are aligned.

Then it’s a case of creating targeted content aimed at just a handful of buying personas, delivered strategically across the channels they use. LinkedIn feeds, specific interest groups, the industry publications they read, targeted web ads and keywords – they can all converge to target a single prospect as many times as possible.

Influencer marketing and executive profiling may be a fairly new practice in the B2B space, together they are effective methods for driving credible thought leadership, loyalty, and brand awareness and a key part of any ABM strategy.

Crunch time: To close the sale start getting personal, learn from the B2C playbook 

Nurtured B2B leads generate 47% larger purchases than non-nurtured leads at a 33% lower cost. It’s all about making it an easy decision for the buyer – learn from B2C sales strategies and tactics – consider incentives, trial periods.

Case studies play a huge role in building trust and credibility. You may not have permission to use the case study in the media, but your customer may be happy to be a sales reference for you particularly if incentivized in some way! Real-life success stories of how a company overcame a specific industry problem or achieved exceptional results could just be the tipping point for a buyer to close a decision.

Nurturing efforts now come to fruition – the goal at this stage is not just to close a sale, but to create a positive customer experience that fosters loyalty and encourages repeat business. It’s all about building relationships with prospects through regular communication and providing value – and turning them from prospects to customers!

Georgia Harris is PR Lead Themes at IBA International.

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