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It’s no wonder B2B marketers, salespeople, and CEO’s are in a state of confusion. I just read two white papers on the B2B buying process, both written based on survey data. One of the reports was written by The Rain Group while the second paper was written by Demand Gen and they couldn’t be more different in terms of how B2B buyers are interacting with vendors.

They Don’t Want To Talk To You Right Away

In the paper that Demand Gen put together, based on their survey, 43% of these B2B buyers said they don’t engage with a sales rep until 1-3 months into their buying process. This follows closely to today’s conventional wisdom that says B2B buyers don’t want to talk with a sales person until they are about 70% of the way through their buying process.

They Do Want To Talk To You Right Away

But then there’s the white paper by The Rain Group that says that this is a myth. According to their survey of B2B buyers, these buyers say that they prefer to hear from vendors “earlier rather than later in the buying process.”

In their survey 71% of the buyers that responded said that they want to talk to vendors “When I’m looking for new ideas and possibilities to drive stronger results to improve my business.” 30% of the respondents to this survey said that they want to hear from sellers “After a provider has responded to my request for proposal or quote, such as a finalist presentation.” This is dramatically different from today’s conventional wisdom.

Don’t Focus On Just One Strategy

This is part of the problem with all of digital marketing. Because we’re still in the early stages of digital marketing, there are a lot of different ideas about how to get the most out of it. And, because we’re still in the early stages of digital marketing there tends to be more theory than experience.

I think that the problem that we have is that, as marketers, we’re adopting digital marketing strategies that “sound good” and diving in completely to one strategy. And, many times we don’t start a strategy with any component that will help us evaluate the value of that strategy as it pertains to the industry, the client, or your company.

So many resources, time, and energy are put into a particular strategy that it’s difficult to recover from if it doesn’t work out. Here’s an example.

We talk with marketers and business owners all the time that tell us, “I tried that (seo, email marketing, display marketing, etc.) before and I didn’t get anything from it, so it just doesn’t work”. After a more in-depth conversation what we learn, in virtually every instance, is that when they attempted whatever digital channel (seo, email marketing, display marketing, etc.) they tried, they were only focusing on one channel. In other words, they hired an agency to run some PPC ads for them. But, that was all that they were doing.

They weren’t focusing any effort on improving the conversion rate of their website to get more of that increased traffic to buy from them. They didn’t set up any analysis reporting that would tell them if the increased traffic that was coming to their website was made up of people that typically buy from them. Instead, they ran PPC campaigns for a period of time, generally too short of a time to see valuable results, and because their sales didn’t double, or the number of leads they received increase exponentially, the effort was declared a failure

Strategy, Evaluation, Adjustment

I think that the information in both of these white papers are valuable and their both accurate. That’s the problem. There are still some buyers that want to talk with a vendor’s sales rep early in the process, and there are some buyers that don’t. As marketers or business owners, you have to be prepared to accommodate both. Don’t go “all in” with just one strategy, develop your marketing strategy with both of these buyers in mind and make sure that your online marketing campaigns and your website can give both of these buyers what they want.

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