Finding and getting traction with new customers in today’s highly competitive B2B market remains a major and costly challenge. If you have hot new technology, you might be able to rely on excitement and interest to drive the spread of your message. But if you’re rolling out version 3 or 4 of your solution with relatively few new capabilities, or simply looking for new customers for your existing products, then you’ll need to have a clear target in mind and know what need will yield sales, if you address it. That said if you have a good understanding of the issues and challenges of your target segments, kick starting your buyer’s journey is entirely possible.
To be clear, we’re referring to thought leadership; to getting out ahead of the crowd. Not about discussing old or existing (and potentially stale) needs, but rather about shifting your prospect’s perspective to bring awareness to a developing need where you can provide an ideal solution. This emerging need might be the result of, for example, technological innovations or shifts in market dynamics (e.g. competitor positioning, changing regulations, economic events etc.). In essence, you need your buyer to a) recognize the new problem and b) explore the issues and potential solutions, including yours.
Getting onto your prospect’s radar and kick-starting their buyer’s journey begins with a three-step process:
1. Understand the context.
You’ll want to conduct research to flesh out emerging needs as well as the Big Picture perspective – and pay close attention to the underlying key business drivers, both internal and external. Start with social media, for example use the LinkedIn “Signals” capability to monitor new topics of interest to your extended LI connections list. Or use Hootsuite or one of the many social media monitoring tools to do the same on Twitter and Facebook. Then sharpen your understanding of the context, drivers/motivators, and your target market’s pain points by creating pointed prospect surveys. Such surveys can identify the facts behind the most pressing emerging issues; give insight into how your solution(s) may help and, provide you critical understanding into the mindset of your prospects.
Surveys can also be used to expand your understanding of the circumstances and practices used by the different segments of your target market. For example, how do the answers from one industry-oriented segment differ from another or, what concerns the decision makers in each segment? Does it differ from segment to segment? Understanding emerging needs provides the perfect opportunity to be among the first to engage on these topics and to influence your prospects thinking.
2. Tailor supporting content & messaging
Be sure your website and all supporting materials provide content and messaging in support of these identified emerging needs, as well as the understanding of their related drivers, and the solutions you offer. Use the insights you’ve gleaned from your research to get inside your prospects’ heads to provide answers to the questions they’ll be asking, such as:
- Why should I change?
- What are the consequences of inaction?
- How might things change if I adopt a particular solution?
- What might force me to address this problem?
- How are others viewing/addressing this issue?
- What do I need to know before moving forward?
3. Get your prospects thinking!
Recall that the goal is to get your prospects to recognize the new problem and explore the issues and potential solutions (ideally, yours). As such, you can also leverage social media by being a conversation starter in various related discussion groups and blogs (LinkedIn, industry forums, etc.). Ask hard questions to get your target market thinking about the issues. When the conversation is flowing and your prospects are engaged, provide links to a helpful resource on the solution side of the problem. Be generous and share insights and thought leadership content primarily from others. It will build your credibility and make you a go-to-person (a trusted advisor) when prospects need help.
Your own website should be primed with material to support the buyer’s journey you’re seeking to kick-start, and be sure to you address the key issues your conversation-instigating raises.
When looking for new customers, understanding the context of your evolving target market and its drivers, as well as your prospects’ pain points and needs, will position you well to capture emerging opportunities. The trick is to identify evolving needs and drivers early via social media monitoring and prospect surveys, to provide relevant content and messaging, and to kick-start your target audience’s buyer’s journey with strategically placed conversation starters. In this way, you can move prospects from unaware to aware and start the process of converting them into customers.
Learn how a global leader in workforce management solutions uses prospect surveys to identify emerging issues for their thought leadership content and their lead generation efforts. Click on the button below to download the SimplyDIRECT Kronos Case Study.
What ways have you found to kick-start your buyer’s journey? What results have you had?
Maastary blog post March 2013, Triggering Your B2B Buyer’s Journey.
Babcock & Jenkins, The Buyer’s Journey – Strategic Decision Maker