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Using The 6 Phases Of The B2B Buying Cycle To Improve Lead Generation

Here, Charlie Stewart, CEO of digital marketing agency Rogerwilco and co-author of Business-to-Business Marketing: A Step by Step Guide (Penguin) illustrates how entrepreneurs involved in B2B sectors can tailor their content to answer buyers’ questions at each of the six stages of the B2B buying cycle.

Charlie Stewart

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Buying decision cycles – particularly in the business to business (B2B) market – have evolved significantly in recent years as the internet, in particular, has played a major role in speeding up decision making processes.

With buyers using the internet to conduct research into potential suppliers, it’s become much easier for vendors to showcase their products and services.

Phase one – identify needs

In the first phase of the buying decision cycle B2B customers are thinking about improving their enterprise. They’re looking for information that gives them insights to industry trends that could give them competitive advantage.

Writing white papers and opinion pieces will help demonstrate that you know your customer’s market, the challenges they face and how you can help them meet those challenges.

Related: 5 Research-Backed Strategies To Increase Your Sales Revenues

Phase two – setting criteria

Once they’ve established what the latest trends are in their industry, businesses begin to set criteria for the companies they want to buy from.

They’re hungry for knowledge – such as information that demonstrates how a potential supplier’s products and services will make a practical contribution to their success. FAQ content, best practice guides and return on investment calculations will resonate. 

Phase three – specific research

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As buyers enter phase three of the cycle, the insight and knowledge you displayed in phases one and two now need to be complemented by relevant, operational facts such as case studies.

Keeping this content current, clear and comprehensive will ensure you’re able to to answer key questions as they close off the research phase of the buying process. 

Related: It’s Sell Or Die Because Sales Are The Lifeblood Of Every Company

Phase four – evaluation and testing

Typically, customers will cover phases one to three of the cycle by themselves – more often than not using the internet to gather information and shortlist suppliers. Phase four is where the modern B2B sales cycle typically starts – and it’s the point at which they’re likely to reach out to vendors to evaluate their services.

They need evidence that you can deliver on the expectations you created during the first three phases and they’re looking for documented proof of how you manage relationships. Content that explains how you run proof of concepts or supporting testimonials from existing customers will help deliver this evidence.

Phase five – selecting suppliers and negotiating

The penultimate phase of the buying cycle is the point at which buyers select potential suppliers. But before they do so, they want very specific reinforcing information about your business. To some, this will be financial insights and BBBEE scorecards; to others it might be clarity on how your service level agreements work.

Related: The Sales That Really Count

Phase six – buying and implementing

This final phase is where POs are released, so it’s best to make sure no last minute surprises – like technicalities in your legal agreements – derail the deal. Publishing your terms and conditions on your website is a good way to mitigate the risk of a small detail coming between you and an order.

Using content effectively – and understanding what collateral to provide as you nurture your prospect through the sales funnel – will help differentiate you from your competitors, speed up the buying process and, ultimately, drive profitable sales.

For more information about Rogerwilco visit www.rogerwilco.co.za or follow @rogerwilco_SA.

Charlie Stewart is the CEO of the award-winning digital marketing agency, Rogerwilco. It specialises in SEO, B2B marketing and Drupal web development and represents many international brands and organisations as well as local blue-chips. Along with Mark Eardley he co-authored Business-to-Business Marketing: A Step by Step Guide, published by Penguin in early 2016.

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How to Guides

Henrico Hanekom – Discover Your Inner Marketing Genius

Like most Leaders whom firmly believe in positive transformation, Henrico Hanekom has created “new blue waters” in the form of a niche service which he calls “Neuro-marketing”.

Dirk Coetsee

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Henrico Hanekom describes himself as a “street wise marketer”. After attending to hundreds of clients’ individual marketing needs he has defined an unique approach that veers away from the traditional marketing agency methodology.

Like most Leaders whom firmly believe in positive transformation he has created “new blue waters” in the form of a niche service which he calls “Neuro-marketing”. Initially Henrico honed his skills as a founder and CEO of Megaphone Media, a company whom has served companies such as ABSA, Toyota McCarthy, AGSA (Auditor General of South-Africa), NRF (National Research Foundation)” by getting their message across utilising mainly digital visual media.

Related: Brand And Marketing: Finding The Balance For SMEs

Roughly five years ago Henrico became a qualified Neuro-coach to empower him to answer a critical question: What can we learn from Neuroscience to improve marketing strategies in general? Henrico explained to me that normally all marketing campaigns aim to create a strong perception that will drive the consumers’ behaviour in a way that justifies the campaign spend, therefore at the root of an increased understanding of perpetual marketing principles lies behavioural sciences.

It is common knowledge that the average consumer faces severe cognitive overload considering the overwhelming amount of information available to us and the staggering amount of advertisements and marketing delivery mechanisms that people are exposed to in the modern world.

Increasingly marketing agencies are scratching their heads considering the complex question of: How do I make my clients stand out? A past reliable staple to secure results was to ensure high quality ad design underpinned by a very good offer to the public. That however might have worked occasionally during times when the market was not as saturated as it currently is.

henrico-hanekom-neuro-marketingHenrico passionately elaborated on his well-tested strategy to ensure that his clients are not only standing out but elevate their status to a market leader. He starts with a clean slate and encourages his clients to stop considering the competition. He refrains from giving advice and instead coaches within an environment where his clients can “discover their own genius”.

Through experience Henrico has discovered that it is common for companies to struggle with firstly defining their message clearly and secondly to clearly communicate their message to their audience. In general, a clearly communicated message that resonates with prospective client’s emotions and their personal values multiplies positive results, he shared.

Related: Why Your Business’ Social Media Marketing Strategy Is Probably Wrong

Henrico further shared his experience to say that marketing and sales must be in alignment and that marketing is the DNA of the business, or put in another way, “Marketing is the communication of what is already within”. He has further found a general phenomenon amongst his clients in that their aspirations do not usually match their faith in their abilities to achieve. As a Neuro- coach Henrico then utilises Neuroscience and Neuro Linguistic Programming techniques to align his clients’ aspirations and belief in their abilities to powerful effect.

As a “Neuro- marketer” he assists his clients to rise to a high level of awareness so eloquently encapsulated by Albert Einsteins’ words of: “We cannot find a solution to a problem with the same level of awareness that created the problem. “

Henrico firmly believes in the Leadership principle of Authenticity and coaches his clients to authentically advertise the truth. Through all his expert efforts he aims to position each company that he works with as a “magnet” that strongly attracts clients as opposed to “pushing” and aggressively acquire each client.

The author ended this inspiring interview by asking Henrico what he is passionate about in life. Henricos’ sincere intent was tangible as his lips formed a smile from which his answer emenated: “Life was meant to be lived abundantly.” He also added that because life was meant to be lived without limits he is driven towards helping people to “get unstuck”. This man invests heavily into his own personal growth knowing that this long-term investment constantly empowers him to give the highest of himself to his clients.

Practical proof of Henricos’ commitment to personal growth was abundantly clear during and after the interview. The interview was done directly after Henricos’ workout and we drank (I will admit it was delicious) organic smoothies during it, and after the interview, we had a long and interesting discussion on personal development and servant leadership.

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4 Ways To Reach A New Target Audience Without Abandoning Your Old One

Four strategies to reach a new demographic without changing what current customers already love about your company.

Dale McIntyre

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For 56 years, Häagen-Dazs had a consistent message: high-quality, old-fashioned ice cream for sale. But that’s changed: Thanks largely to millennials, the company recently refreshed its brand with a revised logo, more vibrant packaging, new flavors and a global advertising campaign.

This younger generation of consumers is continuing to cause a massive shift in the market across all industries and sectors. That’s why this ice cream company wanted to cast off its stuffy, traditional image and connect with millennials over craftsmanship and storytelling.

There’s a lesson to be learned here: To stay competitive, any entrepreneur or business leader has to consider the many challenges of a constantly evolving business landscape, including his or her company’s demographics and consumer trends.

If you wait to consider how your audiences have changed and will continue to change, you’ll risk far more than will your competitors already investing in brand analysis and audience outreach.

Related: How You Should Market Your Business Online

Expanding your tent

Business leaders may be aware of the changing marketplace, but that doesn’t mean they’re eager to change. For many companies, a major brand overhaul often meets with internal resistance; and to be fair, such an overhaul is not always the right answer. For some companies, it’s better to maintain a consistent brand message amidst rapid change. It’s the discovery that’s important, the self-assessment, the long view.

Because we live in an experience-based economy, whether you’re designing your customer experience intentionally or not doesn’t matter: You’re still delivering one. Messaging plays a major role in reinforcing or diluting that experience.

Here are four steps you can take to help your business appeal to new demographics.

1. Develop robust personas

pharos-print-management-systems

Every landing page, blog post or article you put out there should align with a distinct persona to effectively connect with a desired target audience. A CEO, a parent and a college student all require different messaging to inspire a response.

A seemingly obvious but often overlooked way to gain a better understanding of your current or potential customers’ needs is to ask them directly. Surveys can be effective, but personal, one-on-one interviews are better, even if you can only conduct a handful. Offer a small incentive to gather eager participants, and ask questions designed to reveal what motivates them and why they chose your product or service.

At Pharos, we need to shift our messaging to highlight the parts of our business that are relevant to each specific persona we target. We use three aspects of our value proposition to position ourselves in a way that aligns with what our audience cares about most. Print management solutions lower expenses (business owners love that), improve security (CIOs and IT directors love that) and boost sustainability (which should resonate with everyone). All three messages mutually reinforce one other and are consistent across experiences.

For example, we worked with one university’s leadership who wanted to reduce and manage back-office printing costs. To help get employees on board with secure print workflows, its leaders promoted the sustainability aspect of print management’s value proposition and subsequently were able to save $3,000 a month while significantly reducing the university’s carbon footprint.

Related: How Do I Create A Content Strategy?

2. Ask what your CRM data is trying to tell you

If your data collection process includes a wide range of questions to qualify leads, you should be able to find customer information such as company type and size, contact job titles and the types of content most often consumed.

Your sales team should then be able to help translate those numbers into concrete characteristics and create a more complete understanding of your customers. As you find common trends, you can combine those tendencies into a general view of each customer type, and use it to fill out your personas. This will help diversify your buyer personas and, consequently, your brand’s ability to connect with an expanding range of consumers.

Evaluating your data can also help you recognise surprising audiences that like your brand. When the small business software company Hatchbuck was launched, its founders tried to reach as many segments as possible, from salespeople to business owners, to pitch its platform.

To zero in on its ideal customer, Hatchbuck gathered survey responses, crunched the numbers and conducted customer interviews, seeking to define its buyers’ behaviours and beliefs.

The company was surprised to learn that, even though it had been attracting larger companies looking for an affordable software with lots of features, smaller companies were its biggest supporters. Hatchbuck decided to focus its efforts on these small business owners – its ideal customer. Discoveries like this can be enlightening and critical to success.

3. Showcase how your brand delivers what people want

Vera Bradley bag charger

Proving your product’s relevance to a different demographic doesn’t mean abandoning the things that make it valuable to current buyers. It means adjusting your messaging to highlight the benefits that are more aligned with the new audience.

For example, Vera Bradley bags and luggage have been a popular choice for baby boomer women since the 1980s. When the brand decided to expand its target audience and appeal to younger women, it tapped into social media to gain insights into the demographic and observed a trend of complaints among millennials about the shortcomings of smartphone battery life and the annoyance of awkward battery cases.

So Vera Bradley created a bag with a built-in smartphone charger. This helped to improve its offerings and reach a new audience without introducing change that might alienate its faithful, long-time customers.

Related: Your 2018 Marketing Trend Forecast: Tap In Or Tap Out

4. Leverage the granularity of marketing automation

Many businesses see demographics as an aggregate average, but this perspective can destroy any chance of recognising the need to change. You don’t target youth through the same channels used to reach company decision-makers.

Approaching demographics using too broad of a viewpoint ignores the micro-targeting capability afforded by many marketing-automation systems today. Granular, personalised messaging is becoming the norm, not the exception.

To reach younger demographics with precision, take advantage of automation tools such as HubSpot, Marketo or Hatchbuck, proven technologies that can drastically improve the reach of your digital marketing ads and provide you with valuable analytics on your consumers.

These automation technologies have a long track record of producing a positive return on your investment. They can also help to improve various aspects of your digital marketing strategy. According to research by Regalix, 64 percent of marketers surveyed said they saw benefits within six months by using automation software.

The millennials in today’s workforce will be the decision-makers of tomorrow – and I mean tomorrow, not five years from now.

Organisations that fail to recognise this shift, or delay the process of discovering how best to change along with new demographic opportunities, can end up fueling internal resistance to such change and, ultimately, lose their opportunity to stay relevant.

Don’t be one of them.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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6 Reasons Why Influencer Marketing Really Works

Stand out. Get noticed. Six reasons why influencer marketing really works.

Greg Tinkler

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In today’s day and age you need to ensure your marketing spend is going to the right places and most importantly, that you’re getting the best bang for your buck.

Influencer marketing is a strategy that offers one of the highest returns on investment. Basically, influencer marketing is the process of identifying strategic individuals within your target market, and partnering with them to create advertising that is genuine and more palatable to the audience.

Google Trends show that the interest in influencer marketing is at an all-time high, and further studies demonstrate that personalised, word-of-mouth marketing is more than twice as effective as the alternatives.

Good customer reviews make the best marketing

The idea is pretty simple — instead of a brand telling you why their new product is so amazing, the good review comes from a popular and trusted individual. When an influencer or thought leader promotes your product or service to their audience, they’re essentially telling their audience “You trust me, and I trust this company.”

This form of advertising is becoming increasingly popular since audiences have already opted to receive this particular person’s opinions. It also puts a human touch to your marketing effort. Partnering with influencers makes your service more trustworthy and allows you to effortlessly reach a wider audience.

Related: The Ins And Outs Of Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing has been identified as the most effective method of customer acquisition in 2016 and 2017, ahead of the likes of display advertising, email marketing, paid social media and traditional media.

92% of consumers turn to people they know for referrals above any other source.

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Here are six reasons why influencer marketing works:

1It really does work

There are few things that drive a sale more effectively than word-of-mouth recommendations.

Studies show  that trusted word-of-mouth recommendations generate more than twice the sales of paid advertising, and those that were acquired through word-of-mouth had a 37% higher retention rate.

2It’s social media friendly

The world and marketing have shifted to social media. 70% of brands are increasing their social media marketing spend in 2017.

Today, it’s easier to connect with other consumers via social media and make better purchasing decisions by learning about their experiences with a product or service.

Influencers are a force to be reckoned with; brands can strategically partner with the right personalities to spark organic conversations and seduce their followers.

Related: 5 Ways To Improve Your Millennial Marketing Strategy

3Cut through the clutter

According to research, the average social media user is exposed to 5 000 advertisements a day. Whether or not that number is scientifically proven, it gets the point across: We are exposed to a lot of ads.

Influencers are able to cut your brand through the clutter and get it straight to your target market’s eyes.

4It’s native advertising

Traditional advertising interrupts the consumer experience (think TV commercials during your favourite series).

Native advertising places brands and products within the organic content, creating a more pleasurable experience for consumers and a more powerful marketing solution for brands.

5Your SEO will strengthen

On top of building your brand and improving your sales numbers, influencer marketing also helps your search engine ranking.

User-generated social posts account for 25% of search results for the world’s top 20 brands. The more people mention your brand on social media, the more popular and relevant you will be on Google.

Related: Basics Of SEO For Businesses And Brands

6It’s measurable

Probably the most important thing of all is that marketers and brand owners can actually track the success of their influencer marketing campaigns, unlike expensive TV, print and radio campaigns.

The digital world is different. Every website visit, social like, and picture posted online can be stored and analysed, giving you tons of data that turns into valuable insights about your target market and your advertising performance.

Influencer marketing presents a massive opportunity for brands to leverage the power of word-of-mouth at scale through personalities that consumers already follow and admire. The possibilities are endless, you’ll actually save marketing spend and guess what…? You can finally measure your results.

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