The Key to Unlocking Engagement with B2B Tech Buyers
In my recent 3 Steps to Better Messaging post, I highlighted the three critical filters for developing messaging that aligns product, sales, and marketing. In this post I will expand on the second filter, buyer mindset, which is the most critical for creating an authentic narrative that connects with buyers. If you successfully map buyer mindset for your target personas, you can go beyond using it in your messaging and also layer it into your content marketing design, orchestrating each step in the buyer journey to support the buyer requirements identified in your mindset map. Integrating a comprehensive view of buyer mindset into your messaging and content marketing will dramatically sharpen your approach to market and help both your sales and marketing programs cut through with buyers at every stage of the funnel.
4 Dimensions of Buyer Mindset
There are four critical dimensions of Buyer Mindset; Technical, Economic, Strategic, and Professional. You can think of each of these dimensions as categories of requirements, or value drivers, that steer buyers towards one product or solution vs. another. To keep things simple, we’ll discuss designing a buyer mindset map for a single persona.
Buyers need to know how your product does what it does—that it includes key technical features, that it will perform well, that it’s secure, and that it integrates with other dependent technologies. If you’re selling hardware for example, buyers will want to know the technical specifications of your product and how they compare to competitors. If you’re selling a cloud-based solution or service, does your product integrate with other critical enterprise applications? What’s the uptime and how do you achieve that? How secure is the solution?
In most cases, articulating technical value drivers is a table-stakes exercise. It allows buyers to look under the hood and assess the viability and potential performance of your product. This is a table-stakes exercise because, while a failure to meet technical requirements will likely disqualify your product from consideration, simply meeting technical requirements may not necessarily lead to a sale. Equivalents are everywhere, so you have to think about the buyer journey as more of a value matrix like the one below, where establishing technical competency allows you to compete on the other dimensions of buyer mindset. Buyers want proof of your product’s viability, it’s impact on their business, and they want to know there is minimal risk, but positive upside to their professional status and reputation. The bar for each of these dimensions is raised as buyers move closer to a buying decision.
In B2B tech sales, buyers are almost universally looking for some kind of economic benefit when making a software or hardware investment. If your software product helps save time by automating processes or provides a dramatic increase in capacity for an incremental investment, you’ll want to translate these better, faster, cheaper benefits into quantifiable improvements to your customer’s bottom line. Your messaging should articulate which product capabilities help deliver on that bottom-line improvement and offer proof points via customer case studies or performance benchmarks that demonstrate that value.
While your messaging may include summaries of these economic proof points, your content marketing plan should also include more elaborate validation of your ROI story, including customer case studies and independent ROI studies such as Forrester TEI reports or Nucleus Research ROI Reports. You may also want to arm your sales team with ROI calculators they can use in the latter stages of the sales cycle to personalize the ROI story for each customer as they get close to making a purchase decision.
Strategic purchase drivers are the high-level business gains that will be achieved when adopting your product or solution. Can your customers do more with less when they use your product? Will they be more competitive? Will they be able to delight customers more? Will their systems be more secure? You should articulate at least one strategic value driver for each of your products and, most likely, several when messaging at the corporate brand level. Validation of your strategic drivers should come from independent third-parties (media coverage on the topic, analyst reports, and industry thought-leaders) and/or be integrated into your customer testimonials and case studies.
Understanding the professional drivers behind buyers decision-making process is crucial to rounding out your messaging and content strategies. B2B technology buying decisions are often fraught with professional concern– the old phrase “No one ever got fired for buying IBM” is a good reminder of this. A good way to develop your thinking about this dimension of buyer mindset is to start with the question, “what are the risks of buying my product?”. The answers to that question will provide a good rubric for building messaging and content that will map to buyers’ professional value drivers. You can alleviate these concerns not only by asserting capabilities that address the underlying professional concerns, but also with testimonials that highlight how customers have grappled with those issues during the buying process.
Another area to think about is developing buyer competence in whatever emerging paradigm your product supports. If your product is new concept, you should strive to build content that develops mindshare with frameworks, how-to’s, and best practices around that concept. This is especially potent when buyers are grappling with an emerging technology trend. The first few vendors to develop conceptual mindshare are likely to have a leg-up on everyone else. We accomplished this at Omniture, where in the early days of Online Analytics it was essentially a 10-way tie for fourth place. We carpet bombed the market with thought-leadership around the emerging online analytics space and after a few short years, Omniture emerged as the de-facto leader with 70% of the Alexa 5000 as customers. Ten years after its acquisition of Omniture, Adobe has retained this dominant position by continuously elevating thought-leadership in the space with its vision of the “Experience Cloud”.
When we map out buyer mindset for STELR clients, it’s not unusual to find gaps in their messaging and content libraries. Most aren’t able to fill the gaps all at once, but it’s important to get on the path towards a complete articulation and response for these mindset requirements if you want to fully unlock engagement with buyers. If you’re seeing a significant drop-off in engagement anywhere in your marketing and sales funnel, take a step back and evaluate the completeness of your messaging and content approach at that buying stage. Are you addressing all dimensions of buyer mindset, or are you leaning too hard on one or two? It’s not unusual to see startups bias towards technical requirements and leave other aspects of buyer mindset unaddressed. By anticipating all the dimensions of buyer mindset and the related value-drivers that determine a buying decision, you’ll start to eliminate these friction points in your funnel and fully optimize your sales and marketing performance.