- A B2B buyer’s journey has three distinct stages:
If you sell IT , bpo or digital marketing services, you must map marketing and lead generation activities to these stages. Right message, that answers your buyers’ questions during each of these stages, will lead to engagement, conversation and conversion.
It’s important you understand their needs through different stages of a B2B buyer’s journey. If you know what your outsourcing buyer is looking for, you can influence her decision by providing right information in the right context.
A B2B prospect goes through multiple steps before buying a product or service. If the product is complex or expensive, the buying process will have more steps and it will take more time. If the product is simple or cheap, the buying process will be shorter and faster.
IT outsourcing decisions also depend on the size of the business:
- Large companies have complex buying processes with multiple checks and controls. They generally take longer to make decisions.
- In a small business, the owner or makes all purchasing decisions. Smaller companies have less complex processes and take faster decisions.
The buyer’s journey will be different for the two type of B2B buyers. In this post, I am going to focus on the small to mid-sized companies.
The steps a B2B prospect goes through in the buying process is called B2B Buyer’s Journey. The different steps are called Stages of the journey.
If you understand the stages in a prospect’s decision making process, you can better meet your prospect’s needs to influence the buying decision.
The goal of your lead generation strategy is to align all activities with your prospect’s context throughout the buyer’s journey.
Awareness is the starting point in a buyer’s journey.
Your prospect’s journey starts when she becomes aware of the need to find solution to a problem. Once the need is identified, the buyer looking for solutions to the problem. Google is usually the first stop in this research – 72% of buyers start their research with Google.
At this stage, your prospect does not have a specific solution or solution provider in mind. She just wants to know more about her problem, how others are solving it and what are the pros and cons of each solution.
At the Awareness stage, prospect is looking for educational content that helps her understand her problems and identify possible solutions.
SEO plays an important role in reaching buyers during awareness stage of a B2B buyer’s journey.
The best way to do that is to find questions or search terms your prospects use to research the problem. Use tools like Google keyword Planner or Long Tail Pro to find the keyword.
You should also look at your buyer persona to understand which other channels are a good fit at this stage. You can read more about it in the 4Cs digital marketing frameworks.
Once you know the type of questions your prospects are asking at the awareness stage and the channels to target, you can create educational content to reach and engage your audience.
You should create How to blog posts, eBooks, infogrpahics and videos that focus on prospect’s problems. The content you create should focus on her problems, not your products. The goal is to become a trusted advisor by helping her find the right solution for her problem.
Once you have the content, you need to get it in front of the prospect. There are two way to do that:
1) Use inbound marketing like SEO
2) Run outbound campaigns like cold emails/call and ads
Let’s see how this works in real life.
CASE STUDY: Outsourcing buyer’s Journey – Awareness stage
Tracy, the head of product development at a SaaS startup, is struggling to hire developers. She is at risk of missing the product release timelines if she is unable to hire developers fast.
Her recruiter has posted the job on LinkedIn and other job sites. They are spending money on ads to attract candidates. But despite their best efforts, they aren’t hopeful of hiring the developers in the next three months.
So Tracy starts looking out for alternatives and discovers that other software companies use these options:
- hire independent contractors
- work with a staffing agency to hire contractors
- outsource parts of development to an IT services company
- hire developers in an offshore location
How did she find these alternatives? By searching Google, asking her peers/friends in the industry and reading up articles on popular sites.
The articles and blog posts she read during the research will influence her choice of solution. They also create a positive impression of the people and companies who wrote these articles. This will be a critical advantage in the later stages when Tracy starts looking for a vendor.
So what could you do as an IT services company to get in front of her at this stage?
Start by creating blog posts, infographics and videos that speak to the problem of hiring developers in the US. Introduce your company and solution by sharing short case study of how you helped a client overcome this problem.
Optimize the article for search engines. Share it on social media. Most companies will stop there. But if you really want to get ahead of your competitors, don’t wait for Tracy to find you through search or a social media post. Start an outbound campaign to reach her exactly when she needs this information.
Cold email or calls are good options to reach outsourcing prospects. LinkedIn ads is another great option.
During the consideration stage of the buyer’s journey, the prospect compares different solutions to find one which best fits the needs. At this stage, the prospect will use information collected during Awareness stage to:
- Prioritize her needs
- Identify best practices
- Decide which features or benefits are a must and which ones are good to have
This helps the prospect in evaluating different solutions and create a shortlist of options. At this stage, the prospect will also create a budget and include price as one of the decision criteria.
With a shortlist of choices, the buyer will return to research each option in more detail. According to Pardot’s State of Demand Generation report, 70% of buyers return to Google at least 2-3 times during the course of their research during Consideration stage.
As the buyer dives deeper into each solution, she will need more detailed information about each solution and potential suppliers. She may contact suppliers with more questions or solution demo.
If you connected with the prospect during the Awareness stage, you are probably in the shortlist. You may also know her email/phone. If the prospect downloaded anything from your site, interacted with your emails or read a blog post, you can personalize your interaction with her.
SEO plays an important role at Consideration stage of the buyer’s journey. Just like Awareness stage, you should target keywords your buyer is going to use at this stage. You can start engaging with the buyer on social channels also, using what you already know about her.
Let’s see what Tracy is doling in the consideration stage of her buyer’s journey.
CASE STUDY : Outsourcing buyer’s Journey – Consideration stage
We know that Tracy has a shortlist of options that includes hiring an offshore team. In the Consideration stage, she starts collecting more information about the solutions and possible vendors. She is looking for information about solution features, benefits, cost and RoI.
Once again, Google becomes her first point of call, along with the sites she discovered during the Awareness stage. This is an opportunity for you to engage her in conversation and nudge her towards your solution.
As she visits the company sites and collects more information, the solution providers also get more information about her needs and context. They start showing her more relevant information that would help her make a decision. They can show her ads on social media and other sites using Re-marketing, send personalized emails and messages on social media.
The most important information at this stage is comparative advantages and costs of different solutions. This information will help up prioritize the options.
While SEO plays an important role at this stage, outbound campaigns are even more important. Tracy is now committed to finding the best solution. So, she is more open to hearing from companies that provide these solutions.
Smart outsourcing companies run outbound campaigns throughout the buyer’s journey. This approach significantly improves their chances of getting in front of the prospect at the right time.
With her research complete, she is ready to move to the next stage of her buyer’s journey.
This is the final stage in your B2B buyer’s journey. At this stage, the prospect’s goal is to pick a solution that best meets the needs and budget.
Let’s see how Tracy makes her buying decision.
CASE STUDY : Outsourcing buyer’s Journey – Decision Stage
By now, Tracy has all the information she needs to discuss her shortlisted options with her boss, the CEO of the company.
Remember, B2B buying decisions almost always involve more than one person.
She starts discussing the options with CEO, who asks her more questions about customer references, implementation cost, complexity and timelines, stability of the vendor etc.
Tracy goes back to the shortlisted vendors for more information. Again, if you are engaged actively with her, and provide her with more information, you gain advantage over your competitor.
Your B2B prospect goes through a series of steps that end with the prospect buying your product. You can group these steps into three distinct stages – Awareness, Consideration and Decision. The three stages together form the B2B Buyer’s Journey.