British politician Benjamin Disraeli made the following observation, "There are three types of lies - lies, damn lies and statistics." While politicians can cherry-pick statistics to support their positions, most times statistics tell the truth. That is certainly the case when it comes to analyzing how customers buy to develop a revenue generation strategy that will produce results. The business buying process has changed significantly since the great recession. Those that recognize and embrace the changes thrive, those that don't suffer. Here are 5 key statistics to inform your 2015 growth strategy.
1. Buyers rely on vendor content marketing in their purchase decisions
According to DemandGen Reports' 2014 B2B Buyer Behavior Survey, "66% of buyers agreed that the winning vendor provided higher-quality content and 63% said the winning vendor’s content was more conducive to building a business case for the purchase." If your in the B2B space and you're not practicing content marketing, it will be very hard for you to grow.
Content marketing should be a key component of your 2015 growth strategies. It's important to not just create content to fill the top of your sales funnel, it's equally important to have content that addresses buyers' needs as the move down your sales funnel.
2. Tracking inbound marketing ROI begets success
According to HubSpot's 2014 State of Inbound Marketing, "inbound marketers who measure ROI are more than 12 times more likely to be generating a greater as opposed to lower year-over-year return." It makes sense, doesn't it? If you're tracking the ROI of your inbound marketing efforts, you will focus your efforts on campaigns that produce results and either jettison or improve those that don't.
There are several KPIs to track to measure your inbound marketing ROI, but the three main things to track are website visitors, leads and customers. New visitors come to your site to learn about the problems you solve. They become leads when they download your premium content offers. Lead nurturing helps make them ready for sales interaction and your sales team closes them as customers. There are other measures that influence inbound marketing ROI, but these are the big three.
3. "Getting found" is the highest priority for successful inbound marketers
The 2014 HubSpot report found that inbound marketing projects that helped companies get found by buyers produced the greatest returns. When asked which inbound marketing projects produced the greatest return, survey respondents identified the following top 3:
- Blogging/Content Creation
- Growing SEO/Organic Presence
- Content Distribution/Amplification
These 3 areas of focus all draw new buyers to your website and marketing process. Filing the top of your sales funnel is a prerequisite to getting more sales at the bottom of your sales funnel. You can have the best sales team and the best nurturing programs, but if you don't fill the top of the funnel, nothing's going to come out of the bottom in the form of sales.
This statistic supports the first - successful sellers are producing the content that the buyers referenced above identify as important in their buying decision.
4. Sales cycles are becoming more complex
Simply stated, the DemandGen Report survey found that sales cycles are lengthening and more people are involved in the decision-making process. Consider the following findings from the report:
- 58% of buyers spent more time researching purchases than they did in 2012
- 51% of buyers conducted a more detailed ROI analysis before making a final decision than they did in 2012
- 34% of buyers said more people were involved in the decision-making process in 2014 (52% weren't sure)
It's important to take this into account in your sales process. You need to identify all of the buying influencers and make sure to get them all the information they need to show the value of your solution. This is a good reason to undertake efforts that will draw more people to the top of your sales funnel; it will take more time to complete the sales process.
5. Don't leave social selling out of the mix
The DemandGen Report survey found that 72% of B2B buyers said they used social media to research the purchase decision in 2014. Not surprisingly, LinkedIn was the network of choice for senior executives. The message for your 2015 growth planning is to make sure you have an active social selling program.
I'm very optimistic about the environment to grow in 2016. In my own business, I'm starting to see businesses more willing to commit budget to growth strategies. I hope you're finding the same in your business. A word of caution - don't think old-school sales and marketing tactics will get the job done. The buying process has changed forever. Take a lesson from the 5 statistics in your 2016 growth planning to improve your chances for success.