4 B2B Buyer Decision Stages that are Crucial
Most B2B marketing professionals are thinking about their target audiences practically every minute on the job. And there’s plenty to know about them – company revenues, what they make or do, titles and functions of the key decision-makers and influencers, etc.
But there’s more to understand than this essentially static information. The buying decision process is an additional way to segment leads, because prospect needs differ greatly depending on where people are in the buying cycle.
Four B2B buyer decision stages are typical:
Problem solving – This is the first stage where buyers realize they have a need. It’s hard to know about prospects at this stage unless you have consulting partners working deep within the industry (or you have such a massive ad budget it’s impossible for buyers to miss you). Here’s where being known as an “expert” is useful – and that’s facilitated by associations, networks, forums and B-to-B social media. When people “raise their hand” in this stage, your response should be focused on adding value through providing expert knowledge and advice.
Solution seeking – In this stage, your targets have an idea of what they need and are searching for someone to provide it. Your response should be to provide information that focuses on the value of your solution. Capabilities and experience play a large role, since this is when prospects are determining who they’ll include in the “set” of firms that may provide their best solution. When someone indicates interest at this stage, it’s important to gather as much information from them as possible in order to develop a solution that matches their needs.
Criteria development – At this point, prospects have found companies that seem to offer a solution and are developing their decision criteria. This is typically when prospects are trying to learn as much information as they can quickly. Be sure you provide it – in the degree of detail that helps move you with them to the next stage.
Final purchase – When prospects are ready to buy, this is when to communicate how much better or faster your solution is compared to competitors, how much money they’ll save, your superior after-sales support, etc.
Many marketing and sales personnel incorrectly assume that prospects are at the “final purchase” stage when the lead comes their way, but that’s often not the case.
So, the later you come to the party, your prospect has already determined the problem, how to solve it, and which companies are likely to deliver a capable solution – all without the benefit of your involvement. At that point, a competitor who’s been “in the picture” all along has the inside track. In fact, the sooner you can identify prospects in the early stages of the lead cycle, the better off you are.