Once upon a time, it was a B2B marketer’s job to find prospects for sales. We pushed out banner ads and waited for clicks. We dropped massive email blasts and scrutinized open rates. We used demographic data to identify our ideal customer profile and focused our attention on them.
To tell the truth, all this wasn’t that long ago. The fact is that many marketers are still using these tactics to varying degrees of success. But the world is different now. The old model assumes a predictable buyers journey, but as savvy B2B marketers well know, the buyers journey is not a mapped road. It’s a meandering path with many detours. In fact, most buyers take entirely unique journeys.
Today, a B2B marketer’s job should not be focused on finding the leads, it should be helping the leads find the brand.
Who’s in charge, the Buyer or the Brand?
Prior to our current digital age, information was scarce. To learn about a product or service, a buyer had little choice but to place a call to a sales rep. In the earliest days of the Internet, information flowed only through only a few channels. In these days, brands had more control of their message.
Now, the buyer has myriad educational resources at their fingertips: trade websites, YouTube, hyper-focused blogs. These channels, along with search and social, allow today’s B2B buyer to be 57% of the way through the decision-making process before reaching out to a sales rep. SiriusDecisions goes as far as saying that 67% of the buying decision is now done digitally. We’re in the age of the self-directed buyer. The brand isn’t in control anymore, it’s the customer who is in charge.
You Don’t Find Your Customers, They Find You
In my inbox today is an email from a list vendor telling me that they have leads that match my Ideal Customer Profile (ICP); they promise thousands of individuals at the right job level, in the right industry. According to this email, they’re perfect leads for my sales team to call, ready and rarin’ to go.
Is it just me, or does this seem old fashioned? These leads don’t know anything about my company or its products. You can’t buy customers. No matter how they’re positioned in this email, leads on this list aren’t likely to convert. Consider this, according to Marketing Sherpa research, 80% of decision makers said that they found the vendor they eventually bought from, only 20% said that the vendor called them first.
Today’s best B2B marketers are positioning themselves in the places where their most likely prospects are doing their research, they’re leveraging search and social platforms, building hyper-relevant content and employing data and technology to get it in front of their ICP while they’re actively researching the solutions they intend to purchase.
The Need for Pre-Nurturing
Earlier this year, SiriusDecisions recognized the age of the self-directed buyer by releasing a new version of their Demand Waterfall with two new stages:
- Target Demand, ideal customer profiles or accounts most likely interested in the company’s products or services
- Active Demand, accounts most likely specifically in-market in the near future.
In this model, the Target Demand stage occurs before prospects even know they’re about to embark on a journey, while the Activate Demand stage occurs when a prospect has begun the journey and is actively researching solutions. Winning business in today’s marketplace means getting your message and content in front of them during these two stages, nurturing prospects before you even know them.
Anticipate Your Prospect’s Needs
When I was a kid, my mom told me that the way to succeed in the world was to “anticipate the need.” She told me that if something needed doing, I should do it before I was asked to do it. While I think this was her way of asking me to empty the dishwasher without her having to tell me to do so, it’s still pretty good advice for B2B marketers.
For example, Madison Logic’s Activate ABM™ uses a fact-based approach to identify prospect accounts and deliver messaging and content to them while they are engaged in research, but before they self-identify. This is another way of saying that we can give them what they need before they ask for it.
How does this work? In short, Activate ABM™ tracks unique surging topics (let’s say cloud security, cloud solutions, cloud computing) across thousands of companies. When we see a statistical rise in relevant cloud topics being researched at a certain company, we call that account “surging.”
When this is performed at scale, Activate ABM™ can identify hundreds of accounts that are surging on specific topics so we can target them with display ads and content that matches the exact terms they’re currently researching.
Bringing It All Back Home
Technology has made the B2B marketer’s job both more difficult and easier. It’s more difficult because the buyer’s journey is no longer predictable, the path is a meandering one with many touch points; buying committees are large and composed of people with different functions and titles; and a huge amount of information is readily available to a potential customer so a brand no longer has total control of its message.
At the same time, technology has made a marketer’s practice easier by providing the tools necessary that help them adjust their practice to match the new buyer and each unique journey.
 CEB (Gartner)
Photo Courtesy: ruran
If you want to know more about how Activate ABM can help you identify surging companies that match you ICP, download our whitepaper How to Capture Your ABM Audience.