By now, we’ve all seen variations on the statistic, but here’s the SiriusDecisions-approved version: 67 percent of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally. Let’s add to that: Our research shows that online searches are executives’ first course of action (just like everyone else). Now that we’ve set the record straight, let’s talk about some common myths about the 67 percent statistic and what you need to do about them.
Myth: Sales doesn’t get involved until more than halfway through the buying cycle. The 67 percent statistic in no way says that no one talks to a salesperson before getting halfway through the buying cycle, but this is how some have interpreted it. Just because buyers spend time online doesn’t mean sales is not involved at all stages of the buyer’s journey, including the early and late stages. It is true that the standard is now higher for sales to add value to the conversation, because so much information can be found online. Marketers, your mission is to help sellers get engaged early with customers and prospects by supporting them with enablement in the form of messages, content and other tools. Sales reps have the advantage of account relationships through which they can communicate regularly with customers and prospects. Help make those communications truly useful so that needs and opportunities naturally surface, and sales can get involved early in finding solutions.
Myth: It’s best to let buyers find you when they’re ready. Just because buyers look for information online when they’re ready to act doesn’t mean you have to wait for them. There are several ways to help sales uncover buyers who may not yet know they have a need. First, look at data-driven options (e.g. account profiling, propensity-to-buy modeling, segmentation, targeting). Also look into contact and account search behavior patterns and online activity to discover areas of interest. Use these to provide messages and offers for sales to share. This can be at the named account or strategic individual account level or at a macro-trend level that identifies early patterns of interest. Of course, it’s easier to qualify a lead when the prospect is actively interested, but the traditional role of sales to uncover and encourage interest shouldn’t be allowed to fade.
Myth: Your current inbound marketing strategy doesn’t need updating. The real message behind the 67 percent statistic is that every marketing organization must view its inbound efforts as absolutely critical to success at all stages of the buyer’s journey. Do not ignore the role of inbound marketing at later stages of the buyer’s journey, and be sure to look for gaps in the resources available to support buyers looking for validation rather than education. Regardless of stage, marketing must be vigilant in reviewing what’s really happening online and why. From search to content to contact identification, much can be done to understand what works, and where there are gaps in online execution. Build in resources and budget for regular adjustment, or risk losing your share of the 67 percent to competitors who stay on top of changing buyer needs.
Megan Heuer is Vice President of Research at SiriusDecisions. With more than 20 years of industry and professional services experience, she has worked both in – and for – organizations to build a wide variety of collaborative sales and marketing deliverables that drive systematic, predictable growth. Follow Megan on Twitter @megheuer.