The Pandemic changed how we do business in countless ways, and the business leaders who have thrived post-Pandemic have been those who have adapted their strategies to the new demands of their clients. In any business world, but especially that which we’re seeing today in the wake of the Pandemic, educating prospects is crucial in order to ultimately meet with a Sales rep. In the following sections, we’ll be talking about how buyer behavior has changed due to the Pandemic and how the savviest (and successful) thought leaders in B2B Marketing have adapted their Prospect Education to thrive in today’s new business landscape.
How the Pandemic Changed Buyer Behavior
When the Pandemic hit, the business world was pushed almost completely into the online realm. This reshaped how B2B buyers and sellers interact with each other and business in general. Since much of the buying process went virtual, many buyers shifted their approach to online buying. Reportedly, 68% of B2B buyers now prefer to do most of their product research online—before ever meeting a Sales rep, and even partly as a prerequisite to meeting one.
When Prospects start realizing they have a problem in their business, they’ll go online to research what it may be and how they may solve it. Often, they’ll come across a variety of products and will then research each promising one to narrow down the ones they’d like to talk to a Sales rep about. During this buyer’s journey, they’ll engage with different types of content that they may come across online; blogs, white papers, videos, infographics, and more.
Buyers today are used to finding most of their product information online and independently, meaning that they’ve taken much of the Prospect Education you need them to have about your products into their own hands. This can be either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you react to this shift. If you have an abundance of relevant, helpful content out there for them to find in their research, this could actually optimize your Sales process. However, the content they use to make a decision could just as easily be that which they find on your competitor’s site…
What this means for Marketers is that it’s important, now more than ever, to meet Prospects at every stage of their buyer’s journey with relevant, helpful content that will give them the information they need to advance down the Sales Funnel.
The Three Levels of Buyer Readiness
One way we like to classify Prospects is by the stage of buyer readiness they’re at in their buyer’s journey. As Prospects move along the buyer’s journey, they follow a fairly predictable route that begins with them being oblivious to their problem and eventually ends with them realizing their issue and actively searching for solutions. It’s crucial to understand and break down the various levels that each buyer traverses along this journey to target them with the correct content for the stage they’re currently at. In other words, someone who isn’t currently sure of what problem they’re having isn’t going to want to see a case study just yet.
Level 1: Prospects with No Clue
These prospects are oblivious and unengaged, just beginning to feel and take note of a pain point in their business, but they may not know that it’s a problem yet or, if they do, they won’t know how to fix it. They’ve begun some light research into the symptoms of their problem and are starting to understand the various potential options they have to solve it down the line. For those that are clueless, the marketing challenge is immense. You need a way to deliver messages to them, which generally comes from Lead Generation content such as blogs, infographics, or online ads.
Level 2: Exploring Prospects
Exploring Prospects are interested but not yet engaged. They’re fully aware of the problem they’ve been experiencing and are actively seeking to solve it. They’ll be researching all of the products available to them and interacting the most with those whose content is the most informative and relevant to their needs.
At this stage, they should have ample access to relevant and helpful information to learn more about how they may solve their problem. They likely won’t be ready to talk with Sales until they’ve learned enough about the issue and their options to solve it.
Level 3: Actively Searching Prospects
Actively searching and fully engaged prospects are deep in their buying journey and have likely narrowed their list down to a few options that have stood out to them along the way. They’re now searching for the final information that will let them decide on which solution to employ to solve their original problem.
Content at this stage should be targeted for those at this advanced level of buyer readiness, like comparisons between your product and your competitors’ or more in-depth content like case studies and white papers.
It needs to be pointed out that a “Contact Us” form will not cut it here. You must provide them with a way to schedule either a demo or a call with one of your sales reps, on their own and see that the meeting is set on their calendar as confirmation.
Why it is Critical to Educate Prospects
As mentioned above, prospects these days like to complete the majority of their buyer’s journey before they meet with a Sales rep. In fact, a study found that around 70% of B2B buyers both define their needs and locate various solutions before agreeing to meet with reps, meaning that what buyers today want is not to be sold to, but instead to be assisted along their purchasing process with the right information that will supplement what they already know.
It is critical to educate prospects along their journey so that they have all the information they need to want to book a meeting with Sales. We already know that this is the case with B2C; it’s been shown that consumers are 131% more likely to buy after being exposed to early-stage educational content. Keeping in mind the human behind a B2B decision-maker, we can apply this knowledge to the B2B realm to understand just how important prospect education is. Indeed, a study found that 96% of companies agree that customer education is important, whereas another study showed that 69% of B2B marketers point to relevant content as the most effective tactic for lead nurturing. In short, the more educated prospects are when they meet with a Sales rep, the higher the likelihood that they’ll make the deal. It’s up to marketing to educate prospects so that the leads that Sales receives are all actively searching for solutions and are fully engaged with the product.
In a day of a majority-virtual purchasing process, the products with the most relevant content will win the most meetings with Sales reps and ultimately earn the most closed deals. Since actively searching and fully engaged prospects are the readiest to buy, the only question now is from whom.