How to Respond to the Evolving Industrial Buy Cycle

Recent research has shown that the widespread availability and use of digital resources is resulting in changes to how technical professionals approach their buy cycle. The stages of the cycle are still the same, but the timing of contact between buyer and seller has changed.

The industrial buy cycle consists of distinct stages: Research & Needs Analysis, Comparison & Evaluation and Purchase. The cycle can be long and complex, involving multiple decision makers, recommenders and influencers; or it can be short and straightforward, with a single person presiding over a purchase decision. However, regardless of length or complexity, the buy cycle is evolving.

Technical professionals today use digital resources at every stage of their buy cycle, particularly during the Research & Needs Analysis stage. The most popular resources are general search engines, supplier websites, online catalogs and industry-specific search engines such as GlobalSpec.com. Because of the vast amount of useful information available from these digital sources, it’s easier than ever for customers to discover and research information about products, services and suppliers, and to narrow down their options before getting a vendor involved.

In 2014, only 41 percent of technical professionals are contacting a supplier in the early Research & Needs Analysis stage of their buy cycle. Thirty-eight percent wait until the Comparison & Evaluation stage and 21 percent don’t contact a vendor until they are ready to make a purchase.

The evolving nature of the buy cycle has a number of implications for suppliers, including:

  • You must connect with potential customers early in their buy cycle in order to be a contender later when they are ready to make a purchase decision. This means you must build and maintain a strong online presence on those digital resources your customers use most in the early buy cycle stages.
  • From a sales perspective, think of your digital presence as a way for potential customers to add themselves to the top of your sales funnel when they are searching for products and services. They will then engage with you as they advance through the funnel.
  • Don’t make the mistake of thinking if you choose not to provide relevant, educational content to customers early in their buy cycle, that they will contact you earlier in order to get that information. Instead what will happen is customers will forget about your company and instead focus their attention on those suppliers who are meeting their needs for content over digital channels.
  • You should publish a steady stream of content on digital channels for your prospects and customers, including blog posts, product information, white papers, webinars, videos, web pages, spec sheets and more. Your audience is eagerly searching for this content as they engage in their buy cycle.
  • Your digital presence is required to build brand awareness and visibility so that when a customer recognizes a need and begins their research, they will already have your company top of mind and be able to find you easily, which will increase your opportunities to be under consideration from the beginning of the buy cycle.
  • When a customer or prospect does contact you, they are likely to be more educated than the person who reaches out to a supplier at the beginning of their buy cycle. This fact may affect your processes for handling engagement opportunities. Some prospects may be more sales ready. Most of them will have specific questions at this point and want detailed information, including product availability, specifications, pricing, testimonials, ROI calculators and other content that will help them make a purchasing decision.
  • Technical professionals rely on different digital resources at different buy cycle stages, according to the research. General search engines, supplier websites, online catalogs and industry-specific search engines such as GlobalSpec.com have increased in importance to support the Research & Needs Analysis and the Comparison & Evaluation stages of the buy cycle. In the Purchase stage, industry-specific search engines and online catalogs increased in importance.

The industrial buy cycle has been around as long as there has been industrial commerce, but the nature of it continually evolves. Stay on top of the current evolution by creating a strong digital presence and providing technical professionals with the information they are looking for. To gain greater insight into your customers’ digital behavior, download a complimentary copy of the new IHS GlobalSpec research report 2014 Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector.

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How have you adjusted your marketing efforts as the industrial buy cycle evolves? What tips or strategies would you pass along to your peers in industrial marketing? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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