B2B sales and marketing is all about building and fostering long-term, meaningful relationships. This could make the sales funnel notoriously slow. Once you have collected marketing-qualified leads (MQLs), you need to ensure they move quickly through your sales funnel.
Here’s a detailed guide to how B2B companies must envision their sales funnels to enhance conversions.
Understanding B2B Buying Behavior
What many B2B sellers don’t realize is that businesses are customers too, and essentially B2B sellers are still communicating to people. The customer journey touchpoints are different, but the psychology of effectively communicating to prospects is similar to B2C clients.
B2B prospects have challenges they need to overcome, requirements they need to fulfill, and values they need to adhere to. They prioritize relationships and focus on enhancing brand image. The major difference between a B2B and a B2C strategy is that B2B prospects have multiple stakeholders and decision-makers in the marketing funnel, and different companies have different decision-making frameworks. Understanding what these businesses need and what drives them can help you streamline your marketing decisions.
In order to understand the B2B buying process, you’ll need to first understand organizational culture, as it drives the entire process. Organizational culture comprises two components – external influences and internal influences. External influences include firmographics, culture, marketing activities, and reference groups, whereas internal influences consist of organizational values, motives, emotions, etc.
The external and internal influences collectively form the organizational culture. Based on the culture, an organization determines its needs and desires. Once the requirements have been determined, the organization undergoes the decision process.
The organizational purchase process is often compared with family purchases due to the involvement of multiple decision-makers. Organizations have pre-defined, articulated, and objective criteria, such as profit maximization, reducing operational expenses, enhancing workforce productivity, etc.
The group of people in an organization who make the purchase decision is called a decision-making unit (DMU). It functions as a buying center for the organization and includes individuals from various departments, such as engineering, manufacturing, marketing, customer support, etc.
That said, let’s look at the steps involved in the organizational purchase process.
- Problem Recognition: Identify the problems faced by the organization.
- Information Search: Evaluate potential vendors, product prototypes, etc.
- Evaluation and Selection: Make a buyer’s approved vendor list; narrow down the list based on specific requirements.
- Purchase and Decision Implementation: Once the vendor is selected, determine the method of purchase, including all the terms and conditions.
- Usage and Post-Purchase Evaluation: Assess the tangible value the purchase has added to the business.
Adapting Sales Funnels for Better Conversions
Now that we’ve discussed the organizational purchase process, let’s look at how to optimize your funnel to align with an organization’s requirements and achieve better conversions. The key is to build a funnel keeping the above factors in mind and prioritize critical decision-making touchpoints.
Here’s how you can adapt your B2B sales funnel for better conversions.
Build Better Brand Awareness and Brand Equity
B2B brand awareness is critical although it may not be a priority for some B2B marketers. After all, just making B2B buyers aware that you exist may not necessarily drive sales. And it’s true, brand awareness and equity don’t always guarantee a sale. But it’s an important first step in the B2B sales process. It can have a substantial impact on whether a prospective buyer decides to learn more about your company or walk away.
Building brand awareness goes beyond bringing your name and company logo in front of B2B customers. Instead of solely focusing on reach, you should focus on building positive associations you want customers to have with your brand. Data from EConsultancy shows that 49% of B2B marketers obtain better ROI by prioritizing relationships over acquisitions.
Here’s a four-step process to building B2B brand awareness.
- Be Active on Social Media: As social media usage continues to rise, maintaining an active presence on social media is one of the best strategies to improve brand awareness. More than 83% of B2B marketers today use social media to run paid advertising campaigns, and LinkedIn is usually the most-used platform for both organic and paid campaigns.
- Infuse Personality: While choosing the right channels plays a critical role in generating brand awareness, it’s the content you share that determines your success. Creating disingenuous, uninformative, and boring content will do no good. Give your brand a human feel and infuse your brand’s personality into your content so that your target market can relate to you.
- Be Original: Content marketing can go a long way in building brand awareness, provided that you stay original. Creating original content has two benefits. First, it helps with SEO. Nowadays, Google is smart enough to figure out if you’re creating original content or stealing someone else’s ideas. Second, if you’re not original, your audience will soon figure it out. This will hurt your reputation and deteriorate brand equity even further.
- Implement an Outreach Strategy: Devise and implement a robust outreach strategy. Your business website and social media channels are fantastic starting points, as you have complete control over what you publish and how you promote it. QR codes do a great job at increasing your outreach. You can use QR code generators to create custom QR codes, and then link those to your website, landing page or social media, and also put them up on your offline marketing materials, like brochures and flyers. This way, you’ll be able to reach a larger audience and drive more awareness.
Align with the Stakeholders’ Needs
If a promising sales opportunity gets derailed at a later stage in the sales cycle, it might be because you failed to identify the needs of all the key stakeholders. And over the years, stakeholder management has only become more complex.
To overcome this hurdle and align your marketing efforts with the needs of your stakeholders, be sure to carefully assess the following factors:
- Role in Decision-Making Process: Is the stakeholder the final approver, power sponsor, key contributor, gatekeeper or influencer?
- Predominant Perspective: Is the predominant perspective of the stakeholder strategic, financial, operational, technical or contractual?
- Influence: Is the stakeholder’s influence dominant, strong, average, weak or non-existent?
- Attitude: Is the stakeholder’s attitude very positive, somewhat positive, neutral, somewhat negative or very negative?
- Accessibility: Is the stakeholder’s accessibility unrestricted, frequent, infrequent, promised, or inaccessible?
Once you get answers to these questions, you can develop accurate persona profiles for each stakeholder and align your funnel with them. Focus on being credible and consistent and prioritize building long-term relationships with them.
Implement an Omnichannel Communication System
Data from Marketing Week shows that modern-day consumers use an average of six touchpoints, and 50% of consumers use more than four touchpoints regularly. Also, research from McKinsey states that 83% of B2B leaders believe that omnichannel selling is more successful in securing business than traditional selling. Therefore, implementing an omnichannel marketing and communication strategy can not only help you reach more consumers but also engage them across various touchpoints.
Now, how can you implement an omnichannel communication system? What most businesses think when they hear about omnichannel communication is having a presence on as many channels as possible. It goes beyond that. Going truly omnichannel includes understanding your consumers’ behaviors and reconstructing your communication strategy accordingly.
Here’s a three-step process to implementing a B2B omnichannel strategy:
- Pinpoint Valuable Segments: If you have existing customers, determine which companies generate the most revenue for you. If you don’t have any existing customers yet, find out which companies have the potential of generating the most revenue. These are your most valuable segments. You can then divide them into smaller, more precise segments and provide them with more personalized experiences.
- Reset Your Customer Experience: Once you’ve identified your most valuable segments, design customer experience based on thoroughly examining them. A customer-centric approach is the cornerstone of a successful omnichannel strategy. Make sure that every step in the buying process is consistent, and you streamline everything from your operations to the channels you’re active on. Then, consider adopting new technology based on the channels you need.
- Restructure Your Business: To implement an omnichannel strategy successfully, every area of your business needs to be on board. Hence, once you’ve redesigned your customer experience, it’s time to restructure your business operations. The first step is to restructure the way your company collects, analyzes, and utilizes customer data.
After restructuring your core business processes to offer the best possible customer experience, you can consider your business to be fully omnichannel. But that’s just the beginning. Once you’ve implemented an omnichannel strategy, continuously monitor it to determine the results it’s producing for your business and tweak your strategy accordingly.
Prioritize Continuous Product Improvements and Stellar Customer Service
Continuous product improvements, along with stellar product service, can help B2B brands increase brand value and advocacy. Let’s talk about product improvement first.
Product improvement refers to making strategic product changes that improve customer experience by increasing the benefits realized by current users. You can improve a product by either adding new features or improving existing ones.
Adding new features can expand your product’s scope and increase your customer base. But new features can be risky, and you need to be confident that they’ll be valued and appreciated. Improving existing features is a safer option, but all users may not appreciate all the improvements. When you enhance existing features, ensure that the features are widely used, and the improvements are substantial.
Providing exceptional customer service is another important pillar of B2B marketing success. Customer service is directly proportional to customer retention. According to Microsoft, 90% of Americans consider customer service to be a major factor when making a buying decision. Therefore, streamlining your customer service efforts can go a long way in enhancing brand equity, reputation, and brand advocacy.
Product-Led Growth and Marketing
Numerous marketing strategies exist, but none of them comes closer to the effectiveness of product-led growth. It’s a go-to marketing strategy in which you use your product as the center of focus to engage, acquire and retain customers.
If you’ve used tools like Salesforce or Slack, you probably already have seen product-led marketing in action. You didn’t read lengthy white papers to understand the benefits of enterprise resource planning and effective internal communication. You saw the product in action, and you decided to use it.
Businesses that adopt product-led growth have a hidden advantage over their competitors. Here’s how product-led growth can streamline your B2B sales funnel.
- Dominant Growth Engine: Product-led growth usually includes a free trial or a free version, which opens up the funnel and makes the buyers’ journey shorter. This is more effective as your prospects are using and evaluating your product instead of filling out demo requests. Hence, you don’t need to hire sales reps worldwide. You can focus on improving the onboarding process or customer service.
- Lower Customer Acquisition Costs (CACs): The freemium or free trial business model speeds up the sales cycles, as you can leverage cross-selling and upselling to convert your free users into paid consumers. A product-led, go-to marketing strategy also enables you to improve customer experience, which guarantees increased customer loyalty, retention and revenue.
Conclusion: Streamline Your B2B Sales Funnel Today
Future-proofing your B2B sales funnel and the pipeline is essential to consistent, uninterrupted business growth. As the B2B landscape continues to become competitive, companies with a strong and effective sales strategy are more likely to succeed. By understanding the organizational purchasing behavior really well, you can optimize your sales funnel to align with the requirements of B2B decision-makers.
Akshay Deogiri is an SEO Outreach Specialist at Beaconstac, enabling businesses to bridge their gap between the digital and offline worlds through custom QR codes.