In several of our previous articles we’ve been citing the recent Google/Millward study (from March 2015) that reported about the changing B2B buying behavior. The report mirrored past studies, notably that majority of B2B buyers (89%) make preliminary research before landing on the product site, by which time they already have a strong purchase opinion.
What’s new about the 2015 study is the changing practices behind the buying process, notably that nearly half of B2B researches are made by millennials and that non-C-suite employees (81%) also influence the buying decision. However, in this article we want to highlight a key finding: how buyers get to you during their initial research. The Google/Millward study said buyers conduct twelve searches on average before visiting your site. The study plotted the buying process like this:
The study surveyed 3,000 B2B researchers and Google analyzed 13 months of clickstream data from Millward Brown Digital. In short, it’s one of the most credible studies on B2B buying trends, so if you’re thinking how to increase your software sales, the visual above offers a powerful map to outline your online marketing strategy.
This article provides solutions to the question, “How to increase B2B sales?” Let’s discuss each point in the chart above and see how it applies to your marketing.
The study reported that 71% of B2B researches start with a generic search. Buyers aren’t looking for XYZ learning management software; rather, they’re probably searching for keyphrases like “LMS user comments” or “best learning management software” to look for leads about user experience on the software in general. In SEO, that means you should be targeting more generic long-tail keywords instead of relying solely on your brand name if you want to get attention right at the start of buyers’ research.
However, SEO takes time and consistent content to get a respectable SERP in a year or two, even three. You do that for the long haul, but in the meantime, you need to appear in search as soon as possible to start selling, right? One way to accomplish that is to ride on the ranking of other sites. For example, get published on a top site like CNN Money or Forbes.com.
You might think paying an exorbitant publicity fee is the only way to appear on these sites. There’s a free way, though. Some savvy B2B executives contribute articles as thought leaders to gain exposure.
Media sites need specialized content for specific topics, in your case, your product category or industry. They entertain contributors on the basis of their insights and original content; in return, contributors often get to display their credentials or earn a backlink to their product sites. Here’s one marketing agency president that enjoys a top SERP spot on a high-value long-tail generic keyword (effective lead generation in B2B marketing) by being published in Forbes as a contributor:
Of course, writing a professional article is easier said than done. You can get a ghostwriter to weave your thoughts together or try another search strategy, which is related to the Google/Millward study’s second point in the buying process: product comparison and review sites.
In the study, B2B buyers were reported to compare products during the early part of their research. It’s one way they shortlist the best candidates by matching their features and terms. This buyer behavior drives B2B review sites (like us here) at the forefront of generic SERPs because search engines can see these sites enjoy a high traffic stream for their educational content.
For example, a buyer looking for a collaboration app may start by searching for “best collaboration software reviews” to see what’s out there. As you can see, the SERP is dominated by review websites and a sole Wikipedia post.
You may not appear in this SERP (yet), but what you want is to appear when the buyer clicks on any of the search links. Now your software is probably on all of these sites already (you can check that to be sure by browsing through top B2B review sites), but the catch is, so are your competitors’ products. To get a headstart, you can tap the review site’s marketing tools and enjoy more prominence in their database (think Yellow Pages).
Just imagine the lead opportunity highlighted apps enjoy by appearing at the right time and spot on the review site. The takeaway is look at B2B review sites as search extensions, and explore their marketing tools that can help get you the tactical advantage over the competition. If you’re curious about our marketing services check our lead-generation services and quality awards.
Google estimated a 52% jump in B2B video watching within just two years. In fact, it’s where the most growth in buyers’ behavior is, according to YouTube data. Over 895,000 hours of B2B brand videos were watched last year. Nearly half of B2B researchers are also watching B2B videos for thirty minutes or more, while another 20% watch more than one hour.
The Google/Millward study detailed that product features tops the content type that’s being consumed, followed by how-tos and professional reviews. B2B researchers are also found to talk to colleagues, share the video, visit a brand site, or search for more information after viewing the video.
With these insights in mind, you should have a strong video content presence on YouTube (then linked to your website and other digital channels) to leverage the study findings.
However, don’t just focus on your software (product features and how-to tutorials). Consider creating tutorials (how-tos) about category topics that relate to your product to cover more ground. For instance, you can develop video tips on how to transition from on-premise to cloud or how to manage a decision-making unit to be more responsive and collaborative.
Meantime, although professional review videos are commonly viewed on third-party websites like B2B review directories and niche media sites, you can mimic one by creating a customer story video featuring a happy, credible customer talking about his experience with your software. For example, how he grew the business or expanded the market with your product’s help is close enough to a professional review about your software’s benefits. It’s bias, we know, but effective.
Star ratings and users comments are also the two reasons why B2B review sites are popular as a lead for B2B product research.
Did you know that nearly 90% of customers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations? That’s according to BrightLocal Local Consumer Review Survey (2014), which reported 85% of consumers say they read up to ten reviews before they can trust a website.
Although the study focused on B2C, it’s corroborated by the Google/Millward findings, which showed that star ratings and user reviews are near the tail-end of the B2B path to purchase, right before visiting your product site.
Star ratings and user reviews are social proof that builds trust. Buyers are more interested in what others say about you than what you say about your software because they want an objective opinion.
Here at FinancesOnline, for instance, the Customer Satisfaction Algorithm aggregates user reviews, comments, and opinions about the software across the internet and averages the data into a satisfaction rating, which reflects the general consensus about the software. Although, buyers don’t rely solely on the star rating to make a decision, it points their path to purchase in the right direction.
So, you have an awesome product and support, how can you take advantage of star ratings and user reviews? Don’t just wait for nice comments, actively solicit them from your happy customer base. Make user review solicitation part of your marketing strategy, which means clearly communicating with your sales and support team to look for positive user review leads when they engage customers.
Likewise, listen to social media signals and amplify positive comments. You can also encourage customer testimonials in exchange for tokens, such as: free one month subscription, free add-on, link exchange, etc. Publish user reviews across your online channels, including your product sites, landing pages, and social media pages, as well as on external sites like B2B review platforms.
Finally, the buyer lands on your website. Congratulations! Because at this stage, you have already been shortlisted as a purchase candidate. This is the last lap on the buyer’s journey.
You can further cement his trust on your website by displaying trust marks on your site to project legitimacy. But that’s a completely different topic, which we have covered extensively in our previous article on how to use trust marks and where to display them on your site.
We hope this article has provided useful answers to the question, “How to increase B2B sales?” and helps you enhance your marketing efforts.
FinancesOnline is available for free for all business professionals interested in an efficient way to find top-notch SaaS solutions. We are able to keep our service free of charge thanks to cooperation with some of the vendors, who are willing to pay us for traffic and sales opportunities provided by our website. Please note, that FinancesOnline lists all vendors, we’re not limited only to the ones that pay us, and all software providers have an equal opportunity to get featured in our rankings and comparisons, win awards, gather user reviews, all in our effort to give you reliable advice that will enable you to make well-informed purchase decisions.