Is your online sales pipeline designed in accordance with the latest B2B marketing findings? If you’re unsure, this article gives you useful B2B online marketing ideas and will show you the critical insights culled from authoritative researches on B2B marketing and we’ll map out an ideal online sales pipeline based on these results. This pipeline runs the entire sales lifecycle from customer’s initial research to product discovery to conversion and upsell/cross-sell.
We’ll base our pipeline on one of the most recent authoritative studies: B2B Path to Purchase Study, released in March 2015 by by Google/Millward Brown. The study used 13 months of clickstream data and builds on the findings of an earlier Google study from 2012. Your online sales pipeline diagram should look something like this:
One of the key insights of the Google/Millward study is that B2B buyers start their research with a generic search to look for, surprise, not your product, but your product category in general. Specifically, around 71% of buyers do this, which means your SEO strategy should target your product category and relevant phrases, not just your brand. For instance, Wrike did a good job targeting the long-tail generic keyword “project management for small business” instead of simply focusing on “Wrike”.
However, don’t just focus on one generic keyword; rather, identify the top five keyword phrases that are relevant to your brand. Kissmetrics offers some nice tricks on keyword targeting, indicating you should cover your category, competitors, and complementary terms.
The Google/Millward insight also tells us that inbound marketing is playing a more important role than outbound, that is, customers will get to you first before you get to them, and by that time, they already have a solid opinion about you. That means you need a long, exhaustive content plan to achieve a high SERP ranking. Search engines love new and regular content; hence, regularly publishing new blog content and linking it across your social media pages can help you gain more SEO juice as Wrike did in our long-tail keyword example. If you haven’t got a plan yet, here’s a comprehensive content marketing strategy for beginners.
Likewise, content marketing keeps the communication line open for two types of leads:
The BrightLocal Local Consumer Review Survey (2014) reported that 90% of customers trust online reviews and personal recommendations, while 85% of them read up to 10 reviews before making a purchase decision. These findings corroborate the more recent Google/Millward insight, which identified that reading user reviews, comparing ratings and products are the most important buyer behaviors during the initial product discovery stage. An even earlier study, the Local Consumer Review Survey by Search Engine Land (March 2012) found out that 72% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
What these findings mean is that review sites are a critical part of your lead generation channel that you should pay close attention. Here’s why: review sites act as search extension because they often dominate SERPs for generic keywords. For example, buyers searching for “help desk software user reviews” in their initial research will get SERPs dominated by review platforms.
Imagine if your product appears on a review site landing page. The buyer is just at his second stage of research and you can capture him right there. But don’t just leave this opportunity to chance. Most review sites offer marketing tools that prioritize your software in listings. For example, here at FinancesOnline, you can use our marketing packages to showcase your product as a suggested alternative on review and comparison pages of other vendors. This will give your software a tactical advantage over the competition. You can find more information about marketing your product here.
Also, take a look at this Google graph that plots the buyer’s path to landing on your site:
Buyers start with search (2), then they’re comparing products (4), watching videos (6), and reading ratings (8) and user reviews (10). All these critical buyer activities are happening on review sites, making them an organic source for B2B leads. If you want to check if your product is already listed on such sites have a look at the list of top 5 B2B review sites and check their listings.
As a software vendor, do you know what is your goal on a review site? No, it isn’t conversion. You want leads, specifically leads directed to your product page or free trial form. From there you can take charge and funnel subscribers into paying customers.
Let’s say on some review site you get a break and a buyer likes your software after comparing it with other products. Sure, a bit later he can open another browser window and type your product name and look for your website, then land on your homepage, then finally click on the free trial button, a complicated process. During this time you might lose him if he gets distracted, by a cute cat video.
The ideal way is to directly link the review site to your landing page, where random buyers become your qualified leads in just one click.
The question now is, is your landing page trustworthy enough to convince buyers to subscribe? Here are a few time-tested techniques used by successful marketers to transform their landing pages into a leads factory:
Free trial is more than letting a subscriber use your app for a period of time and hoping that, if he likes it, he buys a plan. It isn’t just a free sample you give away in the grocery. Rather, you should use your free trial process as the touchpoint for an email marketing campaign.
According to Lincoln Murphy of Sixteen Ventures, instead of a take-it-or-leave-it approach, a multi-tiered approach to funnel your free trial subscribers to a plan subscription is recommended.
From signing up, you can introduce specific milestones that will help you collect more personal data and gauge your client’s interest in your app. For example, after learning the app’s basics, the subscriber can be led to a whitepaper or webinar download to advance his knowledge about the app in exchange for a short survey (e.g. a tick-the-box question: “Who is the decision maker in your company?”).
Likewise, down the end of the trial period, you can offer an extension in exchange for more personal data. Not only are you getting a clearer picture of your Ideal Customer, but you’re short listing qualified leads who can be converted into sales. That’s one way to practice the 80:20 principle and not waste time and effort on wrong prospects. There are quite a few powerful CRM and sales apps with email marketing tools that can help you automate this process.
As you go through qualifying leads, make sure to group the leads into segments based on the personal data that you’re collecting. Again, a good CRM app can automate this. This way, you can personalize email messages and content links down the funnel.
For instance, if a subscriber asks about general or industry issues, you can provide thought leadership or educational content, such as: 101 tips; how-to guides; and industry trends. If he asks how to fix a problem, you can lead him to your videos or whitepapers on solutions and product suitability. If he wants to know if you’re the right fit, lead him to your pricing, case studies, or video demos.
Lastly, test and analyze the results of your email marketing campaigns and process insights. What type of questions are you getting most? What’s your rate of converting leads month-over-month? Are you significantly getting more leads in specific geographic areas?
- If you haven’t yet, start planning a search/content marketing strategy based on generic keywords that relate to your product
- Review websites lie along the buyer’s critical path to purchase; use their marketing tools to gain an upper hand over the competition
- Make your landing page credible with trust-building elements, including, trust seals, privacy links, and social proofs
- Transform your free trial offer from a mere product sampler to a touchpoint to launch a series of email marketing campaigns that will qualify leads
We hope this article on effective B2B online marketing ideas helps you to optimize your sales and boost profit.
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