The digital era has dramatically altered your customers’ buying cycle. In B2B markets, the term “buy cycle,” which presumes the customer is in control of the process, has largely supplanted the term “sales cycle,” which implies the vendor maintains control.

Buyers have so much control now, and such broad access to comprehensive information online, that the majority of them do not initiate contact with a vendor until they have completed the early needs awareness and research stages of their buy cycle. Some even wait until the consideration and comparison or even the procurement stages to contact a vendor. IHS Engineering360 survey data supports this conclusion: 56% of industrial buyers don’t contact a vendor until they’ve already finished their research phase of the buy cycle; 19% wait until they are ready to make a purchase.

Not only have technical professionals taken control of the buy cycle, they’ve moved online in their search for products and services, mandating that industrial companies develop a robust digital strategy to connect with potential customers. According to the marketing automation firm Eloqua, which is part of Oracle, “your next customer will research and evaluate your products through websites and online networks long before your sales people get involved.”

Why multichannel works
If potential customers are online during their early buy cycle stages – where they have many digital resources to choose from and their own platform preferences driving their behavior – then you must have a strong presence across multiple channels. Only in this way can you get onto a buyer’s shortlist and generate engagement opportunities for your sales team when buyers are ready to make contact with vendors.

Evidence shows that a multichannel marketing strategy improves campaign performance and delivers a higher return on marketing investment, a phenomenon called the Cross-Media Multiplier. But you can’t simply cast a wide, multichannel net in hopes of luring in buyers. And you need much more than a company website as your digital presence.

Which channels should you use?
With so many digital channels now available, marketers will need to allocate their budgets wisely in order to achieve the greatest possible impact. Few companies have the resources to blanket every channel with marketing campaigns. Instead, you should focus on those channels that your audience uses the most, and make sure your marketing program is integrated and trackable across all channels you use.

Websites are the biggest resource for technical professionals. Sixty-eight percent of engineers and technical professionals visit at least six websites each week for work-related purposes, according to the Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector report. The top digital resources engineers and technical professionals use for work are general search engines (89%), supplier websites (79%), online catalogs (76%), and industry-specific search engines such as Engineering360.com (54%).

To be noticed and remembered by prospects in early stages of their buy cycle, when they are identifying needs and beginning research, tactics such as banner ads and articles on industry sites, online catalogs, and sponsorship of industry e-newsletters can help you raise brand awareness, get your message across, and be remembered by prospects. As buyers begin comparing potential vendors, you need to get closer to prospects and provide more specific and differentiating information. Webinars, how-to videos, demos, and product specs on your website are good choices here.

Integrate and measure
When using multiple channels to execute your marketing program, you must make steps to make sure your tactics are not isolated from each other. Marketing automation software can help you integrate and coordinate your various efforts – for example, a social media post and an e-newsletter advertisement that promotes the same webinar. Or a banner ad on industrial websites and your company website that offers a white paper, and those that download the paper are sent a subsequent offer via email. You can also set up campaigns and keep track of prospect behavior using marketing automation software, as well as measure and report on your results.

In addition, your media partners, such as IHS Engineering360, can also help you create, execute, and refine multichannel marketing campaigns that reach your target audience through all stages of their buy cycle.

Multichannel marketing doesn’t end with the sale. Don’t forget an often overlooked stage of the buy cycle: post-sale behavior. Once you land a customer and they are using your product, you must continue marketing to them using their preferred channels in order to encourage upgrades, make other offers, and provide exceptional support. Online customer forums, customer-only newsletters, and webinar topics covering new features and benefits can all help you keep your customer satisfied and in the fold.

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