Online marketers need to keep the basics of marketing at the forefront of their strategy. In B2B professional services companies, there is a pretty standard buying cycle that online marketers can use to address the strategy, tactics and campaigns to accomplish their business objectives. The buying cycle usually consists of 5 steps and with each step, there are better online marketing tactics than others.
(1) Awareness – the message here should be about positioning, and should use a hook to get visitors to your website.
(2) Consideration – the message here should be about positioning as well and should get users to click somewhere on your website once they arrive. To be successful here (watch the bounce rate), you need to narrow the message to focus on each of your segments. Use landing pages to address segment needs and content that provides a direct, engaging answer to that segments problem.
(3) Interest – In B2B sales, especially in cases where committees are making decisions, it’s important to get and stay on the short list of companies being evaluated. To do so, you need to provide content that educates the purchaser on how they should be assessing the decision, and in some cases, actually providing a sample decision criteria with relative weightings for each line item.
(4) Preference – This is the most important step. To surface at the top of the short list, your professional services firm must demonstrate that they can provide the most value. Keep in mind that value is not measured as “who is the cheapest?”. In government sales for example, most government RFPs indicate that “technical capability” is usually first. And so it is with business contracts, value is a mix of capability, trust, risk avoidance and of course price.
(5) Purchase – If your company emerged the leader at ‘Preference” – then you’re at the top of the list. Purchase is the final negotiation and contract signing. If you have won at Preference, then the prospect is ready to engage in a final negotiation. In larger organizations they may hand off the process to a contracting function within their organization. This step involves the formalities of acquiring signatures and payment.
(6) Retention – Now that you’ve attracted an ideal client, the shift for marketers (and this is why it’s so important to distinguish between organizations that view themselves as online sales organizations) is to retain their clients. Marketing is the most strategic function in most businesses, and for organizations that really understand this, they bring in the marketers to collaborate in product development, post-project satisfaction surveys, and of course sales. Learn from the client base and see how the organization solved their problems. Then go out and find other companies with the same needs. See what that can do for your profitability.