It goes without saying that unlike B2C purchases, B2B purchases have a lot of steps. The B2B buying process is a complex journey as the sales cycles tend to be longer as ticket prices are higher. Customers would evaluate their choices, try out related products, talk with other decision-makers in the company, get approval from upper management before even considering a purchase. Depending on your industry, the sales cycle can even last for more than a month. If you try to sell to buyers before they are ‘sales-ready’, you won’t be successful. There’s a reason why SAAS trials last for around 15-30 days. Now, the question arises, how can you take buyers from point A (lead injection) to point B (sales-readiness)?
If you have read our previous guide on creating a lead qualification and processing engine, you already know that sales cannot talk to the top of the funnel leads and spending human resources on these leads will be highly taxing. Also, modern buyers have grown increasingly resistant to sales and don’t like to be sold to. Thanks to the internet, B2B buyers now do their own research and form an opinion before even talking to sales.
Defining the buyer journey
Different experts chart their understanding of the buyer journey a bit differently. But, if you look at some of them, thematically the conclusion comes to four stages: awareness, engagement, consideration and vendor comparison and purchase.
This is the stage when a lead becomes aware of your product, right at the very top of the funnel. We will consider lead identification to be a part of this stage since the buyer journey starts from here. At this point, even though the lead has shown some interest, they are no way near considering the purchase. During this stage, they will be familiarizing themselves to the product and your job will be to share more information and move them to the next stage. For SAAS companies for example, this can be signing up for a trial or completing all account activation steps.
During the next stage, leads will start engaging with your product and content. This stage can include reading case studies, using product features, adding team members and trying out different things within the product. During this stage, your goal would be to generate value for your customers through resources and materials that aligns your product/service with their JTBD (job to be done). This is why we emphasize on targeted content. Leads with different job roles, belonging to different departments and having different types of businesses will have completely different requirements. This is the time when you take the most significant action through value generation to make them consider the purchase.
Consideration and vender comparison
During this phase, the lead will be showing intent and will seriously consider purchasing the product. Leads will also be comparing your services to those of other vendors. While this is not set in stone, most inbound B2B buyers do this. During this stage, it is a good idea to get sales involved and provide them all the information they need to understand buyer motivation and close the deal.
The final step is purchase. The completion of purchase is not the end of the story. You will need to provide after-sales support and feed them with relevant information and generate value to retain the customer. You can also upsell to your customers. If you have a subscription-based business model, keeping an eye for avoiding churn is especially important.
Nurturing through marketing automation
Now that we have defined the different stages of the buying process, let’s talk about how you can nurture leads through marketing automation and promote movement to the subsequent stages. For this, we will rely on data as our backbone and use behavioral analytics to understand the state of the mind of potential buyers and prime them towards favorable outcomes.
To automate this process, we will use Salespanel, Zapier and an email marketing software. You can also use Salespanel API for more advanced functionalities. For email automation, you can use any software of your choice (eg: ConvertKit).
Now let’s get back to the stages of the buyer journey and start automating.
Automation during the awareness phase
During the awareness stage, the lead is captured by Salespanel from your website automatically. The first thing to do here would be to determine if the lead is a fit for your business. For this, we will create an automation to analyze a lead’s profile, demographic and firmographic data and filter out leads who match your buyer persona.
Data points to use:
- Job Role
- Company Size
- Company Industry
- Lead source
Use the lead scoring feature on Salespanel and create rules for these data options. For example, you can set up a module that assigns 10 points to when leads have executive job roles, 5 points when they are from targeted countries and 15 points when they have a company size of 200-500.
Think of a score that will determine the lead to be product fit and create a Feed to segment out those leads. Create a drip sequence on your email automation software to welcome, educate them and prime them towards certain actions. You can also send different drips to different leads based on their job roles.
Using Zapier, create an automation system to send leads an automated drip sequence to help them get familiarized with the product. If you need any assistance on using Zapier and setting up the automation, check out these guides or contact us:
Once set up, product fit leads will automatically be nurtured and moved further down the buying process.
Automation during Engagement phase
After the awareness phase, the automation process relies on tracking behavioral data. During this phase, leads would interact with your brand, product and content and need to be nurtured accordingly. If your business offers different types of products/services, you can nurture leads with content related to the feature.
Data points to use:
- Page visits
- Visit source
- Email engagement
On Salespanel, set up Feeds based on these data points and link them to different content marketing and email sequences using Zapier. For example, if a lead shows interest in a particular feature, send them content related to the feature. Or, if a lead has visited after searching for a keyword, you can nurture them with content related to the keyword. With enough volume, you can also show leads targeted content through retargeting ads on Google, Linkedin or Facebook. With Salespanel API, you can show targeted content on your website and create personalized experiences right within the product in real-time.
Set up lead scoring rules to assign points for these behavioral attributes which will allow your automation engine will move them to the next stage.
Automation during Consideration and Vender comparison phase
During the engagement phase, leads would take actions that separate leads who are just looking around and those who are seriously considering your product. Like we mentioned before, many of these leads will also be comparing your product to competitors.
Activities that show intent:
- Visiting pricing page
- Reading case studies
- Adding payment method during trial
- Watching webinars
- Watching tutorial videos
- Reading help content
- Product-based actions (adding team members, subscribing to notifications, etc.)
- Reading emails and visiting website from emails
The goal now is to identify these marketing qualified leads (MQL) and push these to sales as it is now a good time to get sales involved. Again, using Salespanel you will have to create an automated trigger to send MQLs to sales in real-time. We have covered this in detail in our previous guide.
Congratulations! You are now able to automate lead nurturing and influence the buying process at any scale. The thing to do next is to create a post-sales nurturing system for retaining customers.
Find an identifier that will help Salespanel determine who your paid customers are and create Feeds to trigger certain workflows using Zapier or Salespanel API.
Engage them with periodic content and trigger post-sales relationship-building strategies with NPS surveys and email engagement. You can also detect customers who are likely to churn and send them content and offers to re-engage them. We will discuss this in detail in another guide.