Three Ways to Categorize B2B Buyers

There’s a few different ways we like to categorize buyers. Though they are by no means fool-proof indicators of any individual’s behavior or preferences, these classifications can help us organize the strategies we use to educate different prospects at a more broad, macro level. 

In this discussion, we’ll be looking at three different categorizations of buyers, each of which will influence the content and strategies we use to educate them and move them along the funnel; 

  • Psychographic Buyer Types
  • Generational Differences
  • Buyer Readiness
buyer

Psychographic Buyer Types

The Psychographics of a B2B buyer tells us that person’s internal attitude towards change. Different people have widely varying openness to change一 from those who are the first to try something new, to those who will never willingly try something new, and to those in between.

Geoffey Moore, best selling author and leading B2B high tech marketing thought leader, describes three types of B2B buyers in his classic book, Crossing the Chasm.

Visionaries

Visionaries actively seek change and are constantly looking for a significant competitive advantage, a capability that does not exist yet, or a “game changer” that nobody else has. They like to see improvements in order of magnitude (5X, 10X) and cost is rarely the priority. Unlike the following two types, they are willing to accept projected ROI.

The messages that engage Visionaries are things like; game changer; dramatic; the first; the only; X times faster/better; cutting edge; “X factor.”

Pragmatists

Pragmatists take pride in being rational, practical, and objective in their decision-making process. They accept change as inevitable but do not precipitate it, and they don’t believe in “game changers.” They consider themselves rational and objective and are willing to take some risk for a proven level of reward. When researching solutions, they look for demonstrable incremental improvements, case studies, and quantifiable ROI. Importantly, the cost is not the primary concern, but it is factored in the ROI calculation.

The messages that engage Pragmatists are things like; proven; verifiable; demonstrable; incremental; have x number of the top 10 companies as customers.

Conservatives

Conservatives hate to change unless forced to do so due to regulation, customer demands, obsolete products, etc. They do not believe that things will get better. In fact, they really believe that things are getting worse, more complicated, harder to use, and expensive. 

For this group, cost and brand are everything. They typically buy the cheapest of something they already use all the time. They hate taking any risk, resist change, and deeply believe that the best things in this world have already been invented. They want things to remain the same—forever if possible. They don’t trust or like technology and hardly ever willingly embrace it. 

The messages that engage Conservatives are things like; oldest, most used; most popular; most trusted; award-winning; since 19XX.

Generational Differences

In addition to the psychographic element of a B2B buyer, generational differences add a significant layer of complexity in designing our marketing campaigns. The three dominant generations in the workforce today are Baby Boomers, Generation Xers, and Millennials, all of whom have had majorly different experiences and involvement with technology and culture. These differences will influence the type of marketing that will most engage them.

Baby Boomers

Born between 1946 and 1964, Baby Boomers tend to be highly individualistic and grew up in an era when “A-type” personalities were highly admired by employers. They are therefore generally very competitive in the workplace and not as collaborative. When buying, they generally prefer vendors that have extensive networks, and that are willing to let them access those networks.

Compared to the two other generations, they do the least amount of online research, preferring to use their networks to find new vendors. Unlike later generations, Boomers are more likely to want to talk to someone in real time, so it’s important to be reachable by phone by displaying contact info readily on your website and having a live person on the other end to answer it. Boomers also prefer conferences and webinars because these present venues that allow them to network.

Gen-Xers

Born between 1965 and 1980, Gen Xers like to see data or evidence of a claim before moving forward with a solution. They seem to be more focused on improving organizational outcomes and become the most interested in productivity increases, process improvements, and revenue gains. In accordance with this, they will need to see demonstrable evidence of any claims you make during the Marketing process. 

Gen Xers are tech-savvy and don’t have a problem with any digital channel; they will comfortably chat, email, text, and call. They also don’t mind attending conferences and other physical events to learn about solutions. Importantly, while communication doesn’t have to be formal, Gen Xers expect it to be professional.

Millennials 

Born between 1981 and 1996, Millennials make up over 70% of the workforce today. Roughly 51% of all B2B decision makers today are Millennials. When searching for a vendor, they tend to look for characteristics surrounding a company’s values. They want to understand the vendor’s vision on that particular subject and whether it is something they can support. In fact, a survey from Deloitte found that 90% of Millennials today view the success of a business through more factors than simple performance; they’re likely to take into consideration the employee satisfaction, the company’s integrity, and environmental concerns where applicable. 

Millennials prefer to engage digitally, preferring a Zoom meeting to a live one because they find it more efficient. They need lots of content in all types of digital media—documents, videos, podcasts, recorded and live webinars, and more. They’re also much more receptive to chatting casually and virtually than other demographics. As such, chat boxes on website pages can go a long way with them.

Buyer Readiness

As explained in our white paper on Prospect Education, a third way to classify Prospects is by the stage of buyer readiness they’re at in their buyer’s journey. The levels of Buyer Readiness indicate how aware they are of their problem and how engaged they are with finding a solution for it. We can use this classification as a way to further narrow down the messaging we should be sending to Prospects, as not every Prospect is at the same level of Readiness as others, and will therefore need messaging that reflects how far they are along the buyer’s journey. 

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. However, 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 messaging 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 in order to learn more about how they may solve their problem. They likely won’t be ready to talk with Sales until they’ve learnt 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.

Recapping

These three categories (Psychographics, Generations, and Levels of Buyer Readiness) should greatly inform how you target your messaging when educating Prospects. Though we covered the essential information of each category and what messaging works best for them here, you can read a much more in-depth profile of these marketing strategies and possible solutions for your company in this white paper. 

Additionally, you can find more resources like this on the SOMAmetrics website under resources. Or click here to schedule a call if you would like to speak with one of our associates.

How Prospect Education Can Drive the Sales Funnel

The Sales Funnel is a way of defining the process. Prospects will go through when getting educated enough to want to meet with Sales. In the following sections, we’ll be breaking down the three stages of the Sales Funnel that make up the buyer’s journey. Additionally, we’ll highlight which Prospect Education content will be the most helpful to Prospects at each stage. Content is becoming increasingly important in the B2B Marketing world today. Studies have shown that the use of Prospect Education content is now one of the top strategies for 77% of B2B marketers. 

Because these stages relate to different levels of engagement and awareness, the content that should be sent out to buyers will differ depending on what is the most relevant to their interest level. What’s important to note here, too, is that actively searching and fully engaged prospects will enter the funnel from the top like everyone else一 but will then progress through the stages very quickly, hence why it’s so helpful for Marketing to nurture Educated Prospects to meet with Sales.

Prospect Education is the best way to drive the Funnel; attracting more prospects to the Top and helping others advance to the Bottom and eventually on to meet with Sales.

prospect education sales call

Top of Funnel (TOFU)

The Top of Funnel (TOFU) is where your prospects begin their buyer’s journey. Depending on what level of Buyer Readiness each individual prospect is at, the speed at which they progress through the funnel will vary. 

Before prospects can reach the TOFU stage, they must first get acquainted in some way with your company. Demand Generation content is broad, less targeted content that’s meant to attract new prospects to your funnel. This type of content should be created to attract the most people possible and to be broadcasted easily to a large population. The emerging strategies Marketers use today are mainly SEO (optimizing access to blogs, podcasts, or other content) and online ads (perhaps on Google, Facebook, or YouTube), which can all attract attention to, or at least spark awareness of, new products. 

In engaging with this material, the Prospect is sent to a landing page that describes the asset and if they are interested, they’ll fill out their contact information (typically start with just first name, last name, email, and title). Then, they’ll get added to the top of funnel. 

For these unaware Prospects, having online content readily available is the only way for them to find their way into your funnel. Additionally, for Prospects who are already aware of their problem and are close to purchase-ready, letting them find your content is the best way to escalate them quickly through to the Sales level.

Once a prospect is added to the top of funnel, they’ll therefore need quite a bit of education and nurturing before they may graduate to later funnels, and they often repeat the cycle in TOFU a couple of times before progressing. 

What prospects need at this stage is lead generation content, which is generally shared with them through email nurturing. This will still be very broad and educational in nature一no need to give them the hard sell just yet. Instead, it will build up trust over time as they slowly start to recognize their problem and realize the power of your solution. Light, easily digestible content like relevant blogs, short quizzes, or engaging infographics can all educate buyers at this level. 

Middle of the Funnel (MOFU) 

As TOFU prospects engage with the content you send them in their targeted nurture emails (clicking, downloading, etc.), they’ll eventually work their way down the funnel to the middle, at which point the marketing content to be sent to them will become a little more specific and targeted. 

MOFU prospects make up about 20-30% of your target market and have generally already begun to have conversations with Sales to assess their options. At this point, Marketing’s job is to give them all the information they need to see why your company is their best option. This content will be more specific to your solution in particular and can take on a more aggressive sales approach. Content like buyer guides, case studies, white papers, third-party analyses of your product, and competitor comparisons are all good options for prospects in this range.

Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU)

Once the prospect has narrowed down their options to a select shortlist and has started looking at pricing, they can be moved to the more Sales-oriented level at the bottom of the funnel. Clicking on the demo/meeting request button will also instigate this. BOFU prospects represent around 3-5% of your target market and are already fully aware of their problem and of their options in resolving it一they just need to find which product is the best fit. 

Actively searching prospects will advance to this level quickly if Marketing educates them effectively when they initially reach the TOFU. Otherwise, prospects can reach this level through extensive prospect education during their buyer’s journey. 

BOFU engagement will lean more towards the Sales side of Marketing, with the ultimate goal being to book a chat with a Sales rep and sign a deal. Chats about pricing, appointments, and deliverables, and customer testimonials will all be relevant to BOFU prospects at this point.

Recapping

Having the right content in Prospect Education available to Prospects during their buyer’s journeys will help them advance down the Funnel and encourage them to eventually meet with Sales. It’s important to have content available that will meet them where they are in their buyer’s journeys. To read more about this type of Prospect Education, and why it’s so important post-Pandemic, click here.

You can find more resources like this on the SOMAmetrics website under resources. Or click here to schedule a call if you would like to speak with one of our associates.

Educating Prospects: Why It’s Crucial in 2021

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. 

educating prospects

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.

You can find more resources like this on the SOMAmetrics website under resources. Or click here to schedule a call if you would like to speak with one of our associates.