Does your B2SMB marketing reflect this reality?
Sometimes, when I speak at a conference or client workshop, I’ll draw a random scribble on the whiteboard and ask the attendees what it is. The answer? It’s the small business buying journey, of course! Then, we’ll briefly reminisce about the good old days when buyers followed this well-known process:
We know, thanks to resources like The Challenger Sale, not to mention our own 15 years of experience, that the concept of a linear buying journey no longer applies. Nowhere is that more true than with small business buyers.
There are many reasons why the buying journey for small and midsize businesses (SMBs) is messy and unpredictable. Usually, owners or their designees are not professional buyers. SMBs are a diverse group, and they often don’t have well-established, standardized processes. But there’s more—they’re continually being pulled in any number of different directions. The following example will give you more insight into what I mean.
Everything, all the time
I belong to a couple of CEO peer groups. During a recent meeting, a relatively new member of the group, let’s call her Kristy, asked if we could suggest a branding firm. Kristy’s company had revenues in the mid seven figures, but she didn’t feel that the company was showcasing its true identity. Instead of answering her question directly, our group started asking Kristy about revenue, profits, customers, and other fundamentals. The meeting concluded with Kristy thanking us for our insights and agreeing that she had to do some homework on her business model and strategy before thinking about a branding firm. Journey started and put on hold.
I have seen similar scenarios dozens of times, and have had similar experiences myself. While in this instance, Kristy was looking for a branding firm, the same dialog could just as easily have sidetracked her from the buying process for a new CRM, a bank, or a new IT provider. At any time, a talented team member might leave, she might get a large new client, or have to deal with a personal issue. The pace of change in business (and seemingly, life) is constantly increasing, and almost anything can force a detour from a buying journey at any time.
The point here is you need a marketing and sales process that accounts for non-linear, start-and-stop buying journeys. Among the tactics to employ:
- Provide incentives for website visitors to give you their email so you can stay in touch with those not ready to buy now.
- Develop a continuous nurturing process that includes educational content for every stage of the buying journey.
- Create content that provides new ideas while keeping your brand front-of-mind. The goal is to become a destination for information and ideas that buyers will value well before they begin actively looking for vendors.
- Offer calls to action (CTAs) that make it easy to “buy now.” You never know when the SMB buyer might return to their journey and be ready to pull the trigger.
According to Wikipedia, the term new normal was coined a little over 10 years ago in the aftermath of the recession. Unpredictable SMB buying journeys are now the new normal.
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