October 02, 2018 - by Peter Evans
It’s a fact: buyers today don’t want to be prospected, demoed, or closed.
Whether it’s a procurement officer on the other end of the phone, a prospect reviewing a product online, or a journalist assessing the credibility of a potential spokesperson, “buyers” today expect a more authentic, reliable and practical experience when getting to know an organization, product or service.
That’s why understanding how your expertise fits into the buyer’s journey to attract attention, drive interactions and earn trust is becoming critical to success.
For marketers today the purchase process has increased in complexity. Today, audiences advance through a process known as the buyer’s journey” – the research and decision-making process that customers go through which progresses from awareness to evaluation and ultimately purchase.
The Shift to Expertise Marketing
In the early days of marketing and sales, organizations practiced a features oriented “buy what I have” approach; however, these traditional product-oriented marketing approaches are failing to yield the benefits they once did. Audiences have become far more sophisticated.
Research clearly shows that expert content is setting the bar for relevance, credibility and attractiveness for every stage of the buyer journey.
Here’s 5 major trends you need to know plus some helpful tips to help you deal with this reality.
#1 – Buyers Have Shifted into Self-Serve Mode When Researching Purchases
Approximately 67% of the buyer’s journey is complete prior to contacting a vendor (Source: Sirius Decisions)
The research continues to show that many buyers would sooner help themselves to content rather than speak to a salesperson, especially in the early stage of the buyer journey. Audiences are increasingly venturing online to doing more of their own research to validate the buying decision. And they are digging deeper into content and are looking to see the people you have on board to support their decision-making.
Remember that people buy from people. Think about how you can create a more human user experience by giving your experts and their content more profile on your website to drive engagement and build trust. It’s time to go beyond simple headshots and biographies to develop a richer amount of supporting information that feeds your website and search engines.
#2- The Buyer Journey is More Collaborative & Non-Linear Than Ever
Its clear that the traditional linear sales funnel has disappeared. In B2B markets, buyers now engage with an average of 11.4 pieces of content prior to making a purchase (Source: Forrester Research). They are now more likely to bounce around in a variety of sites.
Evaluate the touchpoints you provide with expert content across your websites and how they interact at various buyer stages, from initial search to content to the connection process. In the end are you making it easy for buyers to engage with the content your experts have to offer?
#3 – Experts are a Top Source of Influence in Purchase Behavior
Research by the Information Technology Sales and Marketing Association (ITSMA) has consistently ranked subject-matter experts as a top source of information influencing purchase behavior in B2B, higher consideration purchases. In this new model, buyers validate the purchase decision by seeking out reliable information from trusted sources. Decisions such as what lawyer to choose; what IT platform to invest in or where to study for graduate school can be very positively influenced by expert content.
Ensure you have engaging expert content available online to support buyers across all stages of the buyer journey. Remember they may be looking for additional validation as well as education.
#4 – The Buying Process is More Inclusive than Ever with Multiple Personas Playing a Part
In addition to consulting industry peers on social media channels, buyers work with colleagues inside their organizations when making purchase decisions. Marketers and salespeople cannot be content with focusing on key decision makers. If you aren’t known company-wide this will present challenges.
Marketers must reach the broader buying group in an organization, which means making larger amounts of expert content with messages targeted to specific personas. Weaving experts into the discussion and engaging more departments within a buyer’s organization will help wield influence on the final buying decision.
#5 – Feeding the Search Engines The Right Content Matters More Than Ever
According to a Google/Millward Brown study, 71% of business purchases begin with a non-branded search. These generic queries, are from people looking for product first, not for a specific brand or organization name. Huge improvements in organic search rank are possible once when your content is optimized to support the customer at all phases of the buyer journey. Expert content, in the form of articles, infographics, or videos, not only strengthens the trust relationship with your buyer, but also reinforces your value and expertise with search engines. you pay a little more attention to the information structure on your website and add assets such as multimedia content to expert profiles. Search engines continue to reward well developed expert content that has personal attribution with higher trust and authority rankings as it views this content as more relevant.
Start with some tests using Google and Bing to assess how your experts are surfacing on key topics. Also do some searches on the names of your experts to see what position they surface at organically. Where possible add videos, photos, audio, books and social content that you can add to their profiles. Also ensure that the information is properly tagged to allow search engines to properly index this content.