The Internet and search providers such as Google have revolutionized the way we access and interact with information. Nowhere is this more evident than in our purchasing decisions, whether as consumers considering major appliances for our homes, or as businesspeople considering goods and services for our firms. Our desire for information, the time required to deliberate, and the potential for post-purchase dissatisfaction all seem to have grown exponentially.
Marketing expert Jon Miller agrees that the availability of online content has altered the B2B buying landscape. The growth of social media and the belt tightening of the recession have accelerated those changes. During a recent discussion, Jon, a co-founder of Marketo, a B2B marketing automation firm, shared his thoughts on the nature of those changes — and on effective marketing and sales techniques in light of them.
Changes in the Marketing-Sales Cycle
So how, exactly, has the Internet changed the B2B marketplace?
Sales representatives are no longer the gatekeepers of information. The days when customers had to meet with sales reps to get information on company products and services are gone. Today, buyers can study industry-specific best practices, identify recommended approaches to problem solving, and begin evaluating possible solutions months before sitting down with a salesperson.
Demand for information (specifically online) is high. Among all demographics and across generations, interest in content is strong. Format preferences may vary between digital natives and boomers; for example, one may follow a Twitter stream or watch a YouTube video whereas another may read a white paper or attend a webinar to gather information. Everybody, however, wants access to it online.
Buyers initiate dialogue when they are ready to talk. Push-through techniques, such as traditional cold calls and broadcast messages, are becoming less and less effective. Overwhelmed with the abundance of information, prospects tune out attempts to get their attention. When they find the need to begin investigating solutions to a problem, they use pull-through methods of accessing information, typically searching for relevant online content.
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