The Internet web design has changed how business buyers of products and services search for vendors, but the fundamentals of how they buy remain the same.
Companies will gain the best results if they coordinate their business-to-business marketing and promotion with customers’ buying processes. Vendors’ websites are a primary source of information used by buyers, according to research firm Enquiro’s Mapping the Buyersphere study. However, sellers still need to promote their web sites via channels that include traditional media.
Business Buying Process
The buying process has five stages:
- Awareness of a need or problem;
- Searching for a solution;
- Searching for a product or service to develop a short list of suppliers;
- Negotiation and purchase;
- Confirmation of the choice during use of the product or service.
The Internet helps in the first two stages only if the buyer is aware of the need or problem, and is aware of all potential solutions.
Why The Need to Promote Web Sites
For example, in a situation the writer of this article learned of some time ago, the manager of an industrial company became concerned about the cost to the company health benefit plan of medication for neck and shoulder pain among employees. He initially sought a solution from his health benefits provider. Later he found the real problem to lie in the ergonomics of the work site that led the neck and shoulder pain.
The manager might never have searched the Internet for the correct solution, or might not have known what words to enter into a search engine.
At the earliest stages in the buying process, vendors cannot rely on prospects searching them out on-line. They need to attract buyers to their web sites through other means.
Increased Investment in Marketing Promotion
An American Business Media report (The Importance and Value of B2B Advertising During Times of Economic Uncertainty) shows that b2b marketers plan to increase investment in direct mail, online promotion, events and advertising in business magazines from 2015 to 2016, even in a down economy.
Direct mail and emailed on-line promotion work only if the marketer knows who to send them to. Unsolicited direct mail often ends up in the trash and unsolicited e-mails in spam files. The planned increase in business magazine advertising is not as great a percentage as for other promotions but it is still a healthy 27.9%.
Magazines offer advantages:
- Publishers have done the work compiling lists of potential buyers for advertisers’ products and services.
- Continual exposure of company and brand names in advertisements and editorial keep them in the minds of potential buyers.
- Coverage of new products, technology, solutions to problems, how companies have benefited from products — all of these spark ideas in readers’ minds, helping them identify needs, opportunities and solutions.
Search Engine Optimization
Once a buyer has identified a solution, he or she knows what terms to place in a search engine to develop a short-list of suppliers. The marketer needs to use the techniques of search engine optimization so that the buyer’s search will display the marketer’s web site at or close to the top of the sites listed in the search results.
A sale can fall through at the negotiation stage. This is partly because several people will be involved in a purchase decision, whom a sales representative may never meet. They have access to the Internet also and can search for alternatives. Loss of sales in this way is not new, as many veteran sales reps know, but the Internet has added to the ease with which someone in an organization can second guess a purchase recommendation.
The same can occur after the sale, when a search of other options could suggest a better alternative has been overlooked, making it hard for repeat sales.
Internet No Substitute for Good Sales Professionalism
The best way to keep sales and maintain a relationship is for the sales representative to keep close to the customer.
The Internet has expanded the tools for buyers to make choices (and change their minds) but in the end, business comes down to human interaction