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Who’s Murdering all the B2B Tech Leads?

Tom Perry
by Tom Perry - June 7, 2019

Broken buyers journey

The Three-Stage Buying Journey is Killing Your Leads. Here’s How.

Too many leads are dying, cold and neglected, before they reach a salesperson. The killers? A model of the buying journey that can’t handle B2B tech sales. And an over reliance on a single marketing tool…

When content marketing exploded onto the B2B scene, it was regularly heralded as a silver-bullet strategy.

Content marketing could – its most fanatical proponents claimed – engage and inform prospects at every phase of the three-stage buying journey. Used correctly, it would gently guide them from awareness to consideration, and ultimately through the decision to purchase.

And yet. The most recent State of Inbound survey reveals 40% of salespeople find it harder to make contact with leads today than they did two or three years ago.

What’s more, only 7% of salespeople say they’ve been receiving high quality leads from their colleagues in Marketing.

All of this begs the question: what went wrong? Why is it that, right now, more leads are effectively dead on arrival when they reach the people tasked with conversion?

We launched an investigation, focusing on our own field of expertise, B2B tech marketing. And we quickly identified our prime suspect, one of Marketing’s oldest friends…

Awareness. Consideration. Death.

The three stage-model of the buying journey has long been an ally to marketers – providing a simple way to understand customer needs, and organise nurture activities. But the truth is, it’s never been a great fit for complexities of B2B technology sales.

And as we’ve marched further into the age of digital transformation – where B2B tech purchases regularly impact processes and people in every corner of an organisation – it’s ceased being a useful shorthand, and become an extremely dangerous oversimplification.

Here’s why:

It’s too narrow, and too linear

Challenger estimates the average number of stakeholders involved in a single B2B purchase may now have entered double figures. Each of those people has different needs and preferences. And not all start their buying journey at the same point – with senior decision makers frequently coming in after the initial ‘awareness’ activity has been completed.

But the three-stage model encourages marketers to send every lead down the same, linear path. It doesn’t impress upon marketers the mandate to gather insights on multiple individuals within the same organisation. To engage with them in highly personalised way. To notice when they’ve actually looped around, back to an ‘earlier’ part of the journey.

(And don’t even begin to try and square channel marketing with the three-stage model.)

It’s allowed content to replace the human touch

Worse, this reliance on the oversimplified, three-stage journey model has enabled Content Marketing to run riot.

Don’t get us wrong. Content is a very useful tool for demand generation and lead nurture. But content can’t qualify leads. Just because someone’s downloaded three of your eBooks, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re interested in your services.

To qualify a lead, you need concrete insight into their motivations – and more often than not, that means speaking to a prospect, human to human. Which, unsurprisingly enough, is something that prospects want too. In May last year McKinsey reported that 76 percent of B2B buyers still find it helpful to speak to a salesperson when they’re researching a new product or service.

It’s entrenched a fatal gap between Marketing and Sales

The best time to follow up with someone who downloads that third eBook? Immediately. According to InsideSales.com, if you call within 5 minutes of someone downloading your content, and you’re 400x more likely to get a response.

But the three-stage buying journey – backed up by overzealous content marketing – has reinforced the idea that Marketing and Sales are discrete functions, and that picking up the phone is Sales’ job. All too often, by the time Marketing has ‘qualified’ a lead through content, it’s too late for Sales to make that vital, first human contact.

The reality of the B2B tech buying journey is that there’s no hard border between marketing and sales. A relatively cool lead may need to speak to a salesperson to be reassured a solution can actually meet their organisation’s unusual needs. Sharing a marketing case study at the right moment may help a salesperson up-sell their deal.

What all this means for B2B tech marketing strategies

If the three-stage buying model has reigned for so long, it’s perhaps because the alternative seemed too daunting to contemplate. Once you accept the true complexity of the B2B tech buying journey, you realise:

  • You can’t rely on content marketing alone – you need a broad and deep marketing strategy, that uses ABM, paid traffic and whatever else it might take to engage multiple stakeholders on their own terms.
  • You need to blend your Marketing and Sales teams – so when a prospect shares their details, you can reach out in minutes, not days, and start building those crucial, human relationships.
  • You need to harness MarTech – effectively managing such fluid, multi-stakeholder journeys is all but impossible without making smart investments in marketing technologies.

See our new model of the B2B tech buying journey

We’ve created a new model of the B2B tech buying journey, and mapped these new, crucial elements to it.

You can see our new model in the Case of the Broken Buyers' Journey

As well as taking a deeper dive into the everything we’ve talked about above, the eBook offers practical advice – and even checklists – to help you align your marketing strategy to our new, much less murderous, Buyer’s Journey model. 

 Download the case file

If you would like to discuss how Sherpa can transform your marketing, please get in touch… 


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