The industrial buy cycle consists of four stages that buyers pass through in what often can be a long and complex process of reaching a purchase decision: Needs Awareness, Research, Consideration & Comparison, and Procurement.

Last month, a Marketing Maven article described in detail each of these four phases. The article also demonstrated how the buy cycle has changed because now online methods dominate the four stages. Buyers conduct research on the Internet, contact suppliers and request quotes online, compare supplier offerings using content found online, and even submit purchase orders online. Read last month’s article here.

This month we will focus on what the changes in the industrial buy cycle mean to marketers and how you should account for the buy cycle when determining where to invest marketing dollars to reach your target buyers. For a more comprehensive analysis of the industrial buy cycle, download the GlobalSpec white paper: Understanding the Industrial Buy Cycle: How to Align your Marketing with Your Customers’ Buying Process.

A Mandate for Comprehensive Online Presence
Because so much of the industrial buy cycle takes place online, suppliers must establish a comprehensive online program to reach buyers at all stages of the buy cycle. While having a company Web site is a requirement, it is not enough. According to the GlobalSpec Industrial Buy Cycle Survey, the top three most frequently used sources for searching for products and services to purchase are search engines, supplier Web sites, and online catalogs.

In addition, buyers use different sources, depending on the stage of the buy cycle. For example, in the Needs Awareness and Research stages, buyers use a broad array of sources to scope out the overall market and potential vendors, including social media, Webinars, e-newsletters, search engines, and GlobalSpec. At the final Procurement stage, supplier Web sites and catalogs are the most important information sources.

Get Found Early in the Buy Cycle
In order to make the final short list of potential vendors, suppliers must get found in the early Needs Awareness and Research stages of the buy cycle. The GlobalSpec survey found that 42% of buyers evaluate four or more suppliers during the Research stage, but only 26% of buyers get quotes from four or more suppliers during the later Procurement stage. The conclusion is that as buyers move through the buy cycle, they eliminate suppliers from contention, as opposed to adding new potential suppliers to their short list. That’s why it’s so important to be found early.

Good Content Helps Propel You Through the Buy Cycle
Some suppliers establish a strong online presence and get found by buyers in the early stages of the buy cycle, only to be dropped during the Consideration & Comparison stage. The reason is often because the supplier did not provide the right level of information to meet the buyer’s needs—and another supplier did.

Throughout the buy cycle, buyers seek access to content that educates them about solutions to their challenges, improves their decision-making capabilities, and increases their confidence level in their final purchase decision. It’s also true that the more expensive the purchase, the more content the buyer needs to support their decisions.

For example, 70% of buyers review four or more pieces of content for purchases greater than $10,000, but only 17% of buyers review that much content for purchases under $1,000. Suppliers must create a robust library of content and make it available online to buyers. The content should be targeted to multiple different decision makers, such as the economic buyer seeking ROI and value vs. the end user seeking features and functionality. Your content should include specification sheets, white papers, Webinars, e-newsletters, application notes and more. Only with this breadth and depth of content can you help build confidence in the buyer that your brand and solutions can meet their needs, and at the same time, distinguish your company from your competitors.

Download your copy of the white paper, “Understanding the Industrial Buy Cycle: How to Align Your Marketing with Your Customers’ Buying Process.”

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