How do you get a buyer to close a sale? For consumers, the decision process can be impulsive: You might pick up a new bag of chips at Trader Joe's when it catches your eye in the checkout line, and decide to purchase it within the space of 30 seconds. The decision might be based on a funny ad, a cool design, or a special promo. On the other hand, business buyers typically follow a much longer sales cycle—it could take them weeks, or even months, of research, evaluation, and discussion to decide when to buy a product. If you’re in the market for a new CRM, you might spend months digging into research and demos before pulling the trigger.
The process of getting a customer to commit to a sale is a true science—and in order to do it effectively, you need a solid understanding of who your customer actually is, what their pain points are, and how your business can cut through the noise to win them over. Here’s a look at some winning marketing strategies on the B2C and B2B side:
Who is the B2C buyer?
When you’re dealing with business-to-consumer purchases, you’re generally thinking about a relatively small purchase, like a T-shirt, a body wash, or maybe a six-pack of craft beer. Customers make these kinds of purchases regularly, but it can be overwhelmingly difficult to get them to commit to your brand for the long-term. Brand loyalty is on the decline, even among those ever-present companies like Kellogg and Procter & Gamble: 90 percent of the best-known CPG brands in the world are losing market share to new competition.
So what are some of the key strategies for getting—and keeping—a B2C buyer?
Competing on price
Many consumers tend to be price-conscious. One of the simplest ways to get them to part ways with a competitor—or to come back to you after an absence—is to offer a tantalizing deal. “To encourage regular customers for returning purchases, we use email promotions, incentives (discounts, free shipping or other types) in our social media posts and time-sensitive offers on the blog,” says Natasha Kvitka, a marketer for a gift basket company called eGestures.
This strategy alone isn’t likely to keep customers for the long-term, however, so also consider:
Building social proof
Personal recommendations are a key tool in driving brand trust. According to a 2015 Nielsen study of 30,000 consumers, a recommendation from a friend or trusted contact was the most effective of all potential advertising methods, with 87 percent of consumers claiming they’d been inspired to buy thanks to a friend’s tip. “Almost all of our pet products were recommended by our dog breeder or trainer. We're pretty untrusting of anything outside of what they've given their 'stamp of approval' on—this includes dog food, behavior correcting spray, leashes, and training collar,” says Sarah Parker Ward, a communications specialist based in Saratoga Springs, New York.
While reviews from trusted friends are the best form of validation, anonymous reviews can also help: Encourage your customers to share their feedback on third-party reviews sites (Amazon, Yelp, etc.), so that you can showcase your glowing feedback to new prospects.
Connect with a cause
Consider tying a portion of proceeds to a worthy cause. For millennial buyers, four out of five are more likely to buy from a company that supports a cause they care about. Consider the success of TOMS Shoes: For each pair of shoes sold to a customer, another pair is donated to a child in a developing country. That simple “1-for-1” business model has turned the company into a $400 million business.
Who is the B2B buyer?
On the B2B side, the process is often considerably more involved: In many cases, your customers are making a significant investment in software or equipment that they anticipate using for months or years to come. As a result, they do a lot more advance research than they would when choosing a chocolate bar or a brand of chewing gum: Almost three-quarters of B2B buyers told Forrester that they had typically completed at least half of their research online before making a purchasing decision. Many of them have nearly completed their buying process before even speaking with a sales rep.
For this tough-to-please audience, what’s your strategy?
Create case studies that show the power of your solution
Just as B2C customers like to see social proof, B2B customers do too. In this case, a detailed case study that showcases how your solution benefitted another company, including hard data points, is a valuable asset. “Often, our biggest clients ask for our ‘references.’ They want to talk to other big customers who've used our product,” says Brian Sparker, product marketing manager at ReviewTrackers. “In essence, a case study does that for you. Leads can see that C-level teams at other major brands are using your service and seeing results.”
Build a phased content journey
Content marketing is a key strategy for appealing to B2B buyers: 89 percent of B2B brands are now incorporating it into their marketing mix, according to the 2017 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends - North America Report. “Our most effective strategy is using content for awareness (e-book, infographic, blogging), using LinkedIn and Google to promote it,” says Matthew Osborn, senior marketing manager at Apruve, a fintech SaaS company. “When they have shown interest in our product through submitting a form, email or call, we move through the decision process (case studies, white papers, demos and so forth) using email and phone to promote. If all goes well from there, we move to ROI calculations and pricing strategies.”
Build more buzz by tying your company to pop culture or news trends
Many B2B subjects aren’t the most compelling, so marketers are working to drive interest by tying them into more popular themes. For instance, Red Stag Fulfillment, an online fulfillment company, produced a Game of Thrones-themed video to showcase the difference between fulfillment and dropshipping. While it’s too early to show results yet, “the strategy behind this video is essentially a test of combining RSF's area of content (e-commerce fulfillment, which is relatively 'unsexy' to the average content consumer online) and merge it with a pop-culture topic that's more widely shared (Game of Thrones), but has nothing to do with e-commerce fulfillment,” says the company’s director of business development and marketing, Jake Rheude. Newsjacking, as it’s often known, can be an effective way to build relevance for your brand, but make sure you’re not doing so in a way that could damage your credibility or be seen as exploitative.
Let them try before they buy
If you’re able to, give your prospect a taste of your solution before asking them to pony up. Offer a free trial, or, at a minimum, a product demo: “Demos are extremely effective,” says Sparker. “We find that once we get a B2B prospect logged into our SaaS and looking at the dashboard, they convert at a really high rate: 30 percent.”
With both B2C and B2C prospects, your marketing strategy will make the biggest impact if you’re able to tie it to a marketing automation system that allows you to build clear paths for your audience and customize your messaging to their actions. Make sure that every interaction with your brand is incentivized with a new content offer or promotion, to keep your company top of mind—no matter what road your buyer’s journey leads down.