Have you considered, or mapped out, the steps your prospects go through to making a purchase decision, aka their buying cycle?
Did you know much of the B2B buying cycle occurs before a prospect even contacts you. In fact two-thirds or more of this journey takes place before the buyer reaches out to a vendor at all.
As marketers we are overwhelmed with data. We’re tracking web traffic, impressions, click-through rates, lead capture, page views, re-tweets, impressions, followers and more. While us marketers are fuelling the pipeline, sales teams are often frustrated waiting for qualified leads to be provided to enable them to hit targets.
However the biggest concern for both of these teams is that the B2B buying cycle/sales funnel is getting longer as buyers linger in the research phase. Typically a traditional sales cycle is broken down into four distinct steps:
This model is commonly known by the acronym ‘AIDA’, but for more complex purchases in the world of B2B marketing there may be 5, 6, 7 or more steps.
A variant on AIDA adds a ‘C’ for Conviction or Confidence. The idea is that prior to a final purchase, a cognitive state of understanding the value is needed that matches the emotional state of desire. This may appear before Desire (AICDA) but sometimes after (AIDCA), demonstrating two alternate approaches:
One which starts with getting a logical agreement and then moving to emotional desire, comparative to creating desire first and then reaching the state when the purchase also makes logical sense.
An even more extended version is when the letter ‘S’ for satisfaction is added, indicating the fact that happy customers will buy more.
A quick Google search will reveal numerous and very different (often conflicting) sales funnel models. Let’s rein this in and remember what the sales funnel is meant to be,
‘The purchase/purchasing funnel is a model which describes the theoretical customer journey from the moment of first contact with your brand to the ultimate goal of a purchase.”
(Marketing Made Simple, 2007)
There are some new factors to consider when using the funnel in a contemporary context (e.g. social media). Do not be fooled into thinking purchase decisions are simple, particularly for large, complex and expensive decisions. McKinsey (2009) believes the traditional, old-school sales funnel could do with a few tweaks here and there and identified a five step process as follows:
McKinsey also propose a purchasing loop to include an initial consideration trigger, active evaluation and information gathering, the actual moment of purchase and finally the post-purchase experience.
This stage, arguably the most paramount, is where the loyalty loop can be established – referring to whether consumers opt to repeat purchase from the brand, dependent upon if their initial purchasing experience with the brand was a positive one.
What is important is to identify the key stages in your own unique funnel and then decide how you can maximise the chances of progression towards a sale.