Selling Martech in 2016: The Buyer Journey Evolves

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The birth of marketing technology, or martech, happened sometime around 2011 when it was reported that buyers considered the salesperson the least influential part of the sales process. Selling martech, reports warned, didn’t involve a sales rep until the buyer had made it two-thirds of the way to a buying decision.

The buyer’s journey now begins with an online search or peer-review research. Content and lead nurturing strategies have become the new normal as a result. And martech is also the pathway to reach buyers as they travel along their digital journey.

The good old days of B2B selling when marketers provided product exposure and brand name recognition through traditional advertising are gone. Also gone are the days when sales reps swoop in to educate prospects and close the deal. Buyers and sellers were comfortable with this approach, and it worked well for decades.

Martech Changed Everything

Things changed. The birth of martech marked a new era in marketing and sales. The explosive growth of martech solutions has created a marketing culture where Big Data, more than anything else, drives decision-making. B2B sales continue to evolve and martech is a big part of the evolution.

Walker Sands, a Chicago-based B2B marketing communications firm, recently released a new report, State of Marketing Technology 2016: Understanding the New Martech Buyer Journey. The report contains the results of surveys completed by more than 300 marketers ranging from entry-level employees to CMOs. The surveys were conducted to find out how companies make decisions about marketing solutions.

The Walker Sands report confirms a lot of what we already know. If we want to connect with and nurture our prospects throughout the buyer’s journey in 2016, we need to consider some of the findings in the report.

Buyers Still Don’t Want to Talk to You

As B2B marketers, we can be confident in our quest to lure the buyer who prefers not to speak with a sales rep. The report finds that only 11 percent of buyers consider the sales rep influential while researching martech solutions. Buyers are at least halfway to a decision rather than two-thirds of the way in before contacting a sales rep.

Keeping up best practices for search engine optimization, content generation, social media and lead nurturing will continue to help you connect with buyers. These are the best tactics we have as B2B marketers to influence the sale.

The More Tech the Better

The report revealed that marketers consider themselves innovative when it comes to the use of personal technology, but they think their companies are slow to adopt martech. More than half of millennial marketers, known to be tech-savvy digital natives, have led the decision-making process over the last three years. Marketers think their companies don’t spend enough. They also believe the technology they have in place is not sufficient according to the marketers surveyed.

The good news is that marketers want and need your solutions. That sounds like a great opportunity to re-evaluate those leads you may have considered ‘dead’ in 2015. Just because they didn’t adopt your solution in the past doesn’t mean they won’t seriously consider it next year.

Some Things Never Change

Another reason to continue to nurture those old leads is timing. The three major obstacles to implementing martech remain the same according to the Walker Sands report. Budget, the difficulty of implementation and internal resistance to change are the reasons marketers cited as obstacles in the survey.

Staffing and budget changes happen all the time. Continue to nurture  those leads next year. The time just may not have been right in 2015 because they didn’t see a compelling need for change. That is sure to change in the future. Or, perhaps they have seen a need to increase the technology budget for 2016.

Content is Still King

Buyers are learning about new technology from peers, news articles, search engines and social media according to the report. The most influential types of content for buyers are product demos, case studies, and online reviews. Analyst reports and peer recommendations are also very influential.

Walker Sands contends that prospects have seven to fifteen touch points with a seller before turning into a qualified lead. Brands must continue to educate buyers throughout the sales process, so there’s just no need to scale back on content generation. Online engagement tactics and promotional efforts such as B2B ad retargeting can help you break through all the online noise and get your case studies in front of prospects.

Who’s Got the Power?

More than half of all marketers say three to five people are involved in the decision-making process according to the report. Only 10 percent say more than 10 people are involved. Two-thirds of marketers say they are influencers and about the same say they led the process for at least one martech purchase. Even half of the entry-level marketers surveyed have led a martech purchase decision.

As B2B marketers, we know there are multiple decision-makers in the buying process, but maybe we should consider paying more attention to the entry-level marketer who could potentially make or break the sale. Reaching out to the entry-level marketer with your content and through social media channels can influence this new key decision-maker.

We like to share good information we find along our journey. You can view and download the full report here.

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