The buying process: How to create value before your customer buys

Posted by Peter Lines

Understanding your customers’ buying process is key to meeting their needs at each stage of the buying journey.

For the majority of B2B technology purchases, the customer has made their decision long before they get in touch with sales. While that might make it sound like all hope of influencing your customers’ choice is lost, the opposite is actually true.

With an understanding of the modern cloud solution buyer’s journey, a solid differentiator and a digital marketing team capable of implementing your strategy, you’ll be able to provide consistent value to your customers from the beginning of their buyer journey and secure your spot as their provider of choice. So, how do you provide as much value as possible to your customers before they’ve even shown up on your sales team’s radar?

First, let’s look at the buying process of the modern cloud solution buyer

Think about the context of the modern cloud solutions buyer: they’re digital-native tech enthusiasts who know how to find the information they’re seeking at a moment’s notice. They’re self-motivated, hyper-connected and skeptical of marketing messaging that doesn’t outwardly demonstrate the value they’re looking for. Failing to understand this

Here’s how Microsoft’s Smart Partner Marketing network defines the cloud solutions  buyer’s journey:

  • Stage 1: Exploration

At the first stage of the buying process, cloud solutions buyers are seeking a solution to fit a particular business challenge. This could be the need to provide better customer service, shorten their sales cycle, or improve productivity. At this stage, the buyer is looking for relevant, valuable information that speaks to their needs and compels them to investigate the solution further.

  • Stage 2: Evaluation

After exploring their options, cloud solutions buyers typically begin trialling and evaluating seller claims, through references, testimonials, product trials and demos. Here, they’re looking for first-hand experience or a trusted opinion on their shortlist of prospective providers.
  • Stage 3: Purchase

Once they’ve evaluated their options, the next step is for customers to make their choice of service provider. At this stage, they’ll want to negotiate terms and conditions, develop Service Level Agreements (SLAs) if necessary, and commit to implementing as soon as possible.
  • Stage 4: Expansion

After purchasing the product or service, the customer’s next objective is to master it, and move from piloting to full implementation. At this stage, they’ll consider adding additional functionality, services and/or user groups.

    • Stage 5: Renewal

In the next stage, customers review how satisfied they are with their current solution, assess its current and projected performance, and decide whether or not to continue their relationship with the provider.
  • Stage 6: Advocacy

If the customer decides to renew their relationship with the provider and is consistently impressed with their service, they may look to develop a strategic relationship with them and become a reference account.

How can you create value from the beginning of the buyer journey?

From this model, it’s clear that there are two stages of the buying process that the customer undertakes before they’ve even settled on a purchase. How can service providers go about meeting the customer's requirements at these stages and provide value from the beginning of the buyer journey?

1. Understand what your customers look for at each stage of the buyer journey

This may sound like a no-brainer, but before you can have any hope of adding value at specific stages of the buyer journey, you need to understand and document exactly what your customers are looking for at each point. You’ll also need to know the types of media and the style of messaging that your customers find most compelling. Then, you’ll need to publish your content in places your customers frequently visit and optimise it for keywords your customers are likely to search for.

2. Create tangible value with targeted content that is tailored to a specific funnel stage

In the exploration stage, potential buyers are looking for information that shows an understanding of their challenges and provides a compelling solution. Think about where they are in the sales funnel: they aren’t necessarily looking for in-depth product information at this stage, they’re looking for content that shows an understanding of the problems they’re facing, the industry they operate in and the solution they’re looking for.

3. Give them a reason to choose you over your competitors

The cloud services market is highly competitive, and it will only become more so in the coming years. In a previous blog, we spoke about the importance of a clearly defined unique value proposition, specifically about how to develop a compelling differentiator that focuses on why, rather than what, that you’re selling.

4. Give them the resources they need to make their decision

When your customer enters the second pre-purchase stage in the buyer journey, they want trusted opinions or first-hand experience of their shortlisted service providers. Make sure that you’re providing conversion assets that give the cold, hard facts about your service offering. Consider using case studies, testimonials, or showcasing previous work you’re proud of to encourage them to partner with you.

5. Show them that you’re the expert

Consistently publishing thought-leading content that speaks to the needs of your customers and shows that you understand them will position you as an expert in your field. Providing this type of information helps you get into their consideration set and if you don’t provide it, it’s only a matter of time before a competitor does.

Pipefuel’s team of digital marketing experts can help you streamline your sales funnel to create value for your customers from the beginning of their buying journey, reach more of the right prospects and close more leads. If you’d like to know more about how Pipefuel can help revitalise your digital marketing strategy, download our free Guide to growing your business

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Topics: digital marketing, inbound marketing