In order to influence a purchase in B2B there a wide choice of methods, tools and channels that can be used:
2. White papers
3. Case studies
4. Technical articles by third parties
5. Analyst reports
7. Popular or known bloggers
8. Webinars / Webcasts
9. Video/screen cast
10. Free trials
11. Proof of Concepts
12. Nurturing by email
The problems is that they all are effective, some more than others depending on your market and the product or service you sell, but it is nearly impossible to propose all of them effectively as it just will cost too much money and time.
As a result you will have to make a selection what is best for you.
1. Website without a website people will doubt you are a legit company.
The website plays a large role in all phases of the purchase process.
2. White papers are effective, show your authority and knowledge, but can be too technical or too rational which limits them to the technology influencers. people will download the white papers but gating for this content won’t help much as often free web mail addresses are being used.
3. Case studies have the advantage of a recognizable brand name and a story of a problem getting solved that resembles the existing company. Thus even CxO will read it. However getting the case study written and approved is a long investment.
4. Technical articles by third parties are just to be too technical limiting them completely to engineers and technology influencers.
5. Analyst reports have the advantage that these reports are to be paid by the company or can only be obtained upon request to one of the vendors making these reports more exclusive which drives the interest. Moreover this a a view or insight fro ma third party which is highly respected. There is also a risk involved if the analyst gives you a below average rating.
6. Reviews have the benefit of combining a technical insight, an easy scoring and a short summary for the offering of each vendor requiring not much effort. Even CxO’s will read the conclusion and look into the scoring. Again your product needs to score high as else the review will have a negative effect on your sales.
7. Bloggers that are popular or known will bring their authority and supposed knowledge of the market to the table, which will be taken for granted. As their reviews in their blog posts are short, CxO’s might just read it and stick with it thus you better get a good appraisal.
8. Webinars / Webcasts have the benefit of knowing who is in the virtual meeting allowing for interaction and follow-up. Of course no CxO will ever participate in a webinar, leaving you with technologists, managers and influencers.
9. Videos and screen casts can be great and can be boring – can convince or leave the decision maker indifferent. The cost of creating and professionally editing a video can be high as it needs to be entertaining. One of the problems is that a video is only effective if it is not too long (2minutes) resulting in having to cramp too much information into the short time. And people will press the Fast Forward button missing.
10. Free trials are very tempting and you have to hope the product sells itself. if your product is complex or has special features then you have to make sure people will use these features to make your product stand out.
Actually a free trial can slow down the sales process as the customer first need to install the product which requires time and effort and then during the 15 to 30 days the customer should be using your product which is beyond your control. During the free trial the sales process is being halted as all await the result and conclusion of the free trial, which can take time too.
11. The Proof of Concept is rather similar to a free trial but is mainly to show the solution is actually working within the environment of the customer, but it requires investment of time and money of both the vendor and the customer.
Still the question remains if the potential customer will actually use the system.
And again the sales process is completely halted during the POC (weeks if not months) and the duration of the POC conclusion report (weeks).
12. Nurturing by email is very important too as without it most of the above will be much less effective.
Probably all tactics and methods have their place depending on your market, type of product and what your competitors propose and use. In B2B you have probably be able to offer most of these methods and marketing content as you have to use whatever the potential decision maker expects or requires. Don’t send him an invite for a webinar when he wants a video/screen cast.
Or you have to send a white paper to the technology influencer and a matching case study to the CxO.
Free trials or Proof of Concepts are probably the last step after a longer decision process in order to select between two competitors.
The influence of content by third parties are very important just due to teh fact they are third parties.
What do you use and is effective ?