Your buyers are more confident, critical, and informed than ever before. Whether you’ve encountered these buyers directly, or only heard horror stories from across the aisle in the sales trenches, you’re probably well aware of the challenges in cultivating successful customers out of empowered buyers. For all the talk about engaging these buyers and guiding them through their buyer’s journey, however, there’s one hard truth that you have to accept: with empowerment comes independence.
The more empowered your buyers are, the more likely they’ll want to independently manage their own buying journey – often preferring to discover, consider, and evaluate potential vendors like your organization with as little direct interaction as possible. These are your independent buyers – the people who don’t want to be marketed or sold to, but who are in need or in search of potential solutions. So how do you market to those who are averse to marketing? How do you sell to those who scorn sales pitches? How do you handle the independent buyer? The truth is, there’s no one-size-fits all, silver bullet solution, but below are six marketing tactics that will make your life a little easier in dealing with independent buyers.
Ungated Content Collections:
The practice of gating content for lead generation hinges on a transactional value exchange – the content has to be worth a person’s contact information, otherwise, it’s no deal. Independent buyers, however, don’t just consider contact info disclosure as a cost for getting gated content; they also weigh the cost of being automatically queued up for sales follow up, or additional nurture messaging. In that light, gated content can be a serious roadblock to your independent buyers as they may fear that your content isn’t worth the ensuing sales calls or email messages.
By offering ungated resource libraries, well-maintained blogs or publications, or other informative, easily accessible collections of content, you can passively guide independent buyers through their buying journeys without getting in the way. You can still have gated assets for your buyers who are more comfortable with submitting contact information, but to expand on this tactic, you should also build into your overall content strategy a consideration for the kinds of content to gate and the kinds to leave ungated.
A perk of having large volumes of useful, yet ungated content is that it also feeds into your overall SEO efforts. If you ignore all the typical SEO tech specs – wait eight minutes and they’ll probably change on you anyway – content is all that you have left. What most search engines are trying to do, and are continually trying to optimize, is to simply serve up the most relevant content for a given search query. Thus, the question you have to ask, especially for independent buyers, isn’t “what can we rank for;” it’s, “what are our buyers searching for?” By having content that effectively answers the questions your buyers are searching for, you can, again, guide the buyer’s journey without getting in the way.
Talk to your existing customers to find out what they were looking for when they found you. Review the data you have on your existing content to see what people are consuming. Identify the terms and topics that drive the most traffic. Above all, however, make sure that your SEO efforts center around what your buyers are looking for – not what your organization wants to say.
Use Video Content:
Research on using video for marketing has shown that 95% of Best-in-Class marketers are already using video as a part of their content marketing programs. This research also revealed that marketers who use video, on average, require 37% fewer visitors to achieve the same amount of conversions as companies devoid of video content. Empirically, you can see the over all performance benefits of using video, but in the context of independent buyers, you also have a single content type that allows people to actively choose how they wish to consume information. From serving both audio and visual learners, to delivering content upon request by simply pressing play, video content allows you to communicate with independent buyers at scale in the manner of your buyer’s choosing. In terms of engaging people who don’t want to be engaged, it’s a simple yet elegant solution.
Explicit Opt-In Lead Nurturing Options:
As mentioned earlier, independent buyers are often hesitant to allow their time (and inboxes) to be filled with unwanted marketing messages, “unwanted,” however, being the operative word. If you can create a series of marketing messages that an independent buyer would want, though, you still have an opportunity for an effective marketing program. As marketing automation research shows that lead nurturing practitioners outperform non-practitioners in both MQLs converted to sales-accepted leads (40% vs. 30%), and sales-accepted leads converted to sales qualified leads (41% vs. 28%), you wouldn’t want to pass up such a competitive advantage, but the key is getting it right.
For independent buyers, you want to have lead nurturing paths they can consciously opt into of their own accord. Explicitly state how many messages they should expect, what topics will be covered, how the delivery cadence will work, and other details that will allow your buyers to know exactly what they’re singing up for or subscribing to.
Manage What’s Manageable by Mapping the Buying Journey:
Customer experience management research has recently revealed that organizations with a formal program to map and manage customer journeys enjoy a 79% greater annual increase in cross-sell and upsell revenue, and a 30% greater annual improvement in positive social media / word-of-mouth mentions, on average. Of course, for independent buyers, the defined customer journey will rarely be the path that’s actually taken, but that’s ok. Along with the beneficial business results gained from mapping the buying journey for typical buyers, you can also gain increased agility and responsiveness for independent buyers as you’ll have an established framework to build off from or improvise upon.
What’s also significant to independent buyers, in particular, is the 30% greater annual improvement in positive social media / word-of-mouth mentions noted above. Because independent buyers don’t want to be marketed or sold to, any way you can improve your odds of having advocates, influencers, or end-users do your marketing or selling for you through social media or word-of-mouth conversations, the more effectively you can support their buying journey.
Don’t Coddle Independent Buyers When They’re Customers:
Even after you’ve converted independent buyers into active customers, you will still have to cater to their feelings of empowerment and self-reliance. When it comes to solving service issues, guiding them through new features or functions, or simply supporting standard activity, as customers, independent buyers still want to be in the driver’s seat. Fortunately, technology solutions like Co-Browsing – which allows trained service / technical personnel to jointly navigate a web page, application, online document, etc. with a user – can facilitate customer-controlled interactions with companies, even in situations where the customer is out of his or her comfort zone. Beyond the technology itself, though, the principle of co-browsing, which caters to empowered customers, may be why marketing technology research shows that users enjoy 73% higher year-over-year growth rates in company revenue, compared to non-users.
No matter if it’s through technology, or through your people or processes, be sure to build in ways to empower and enable your independent customers. Train your sales / service professionals how to recognize when customers want additional options or offerings, and, more importantly, when they don’t. Create self-serve success guides, how-to assets, or FAQs. Over all, ensure that your customer is in control.