In Business to Business Marketing, decisions tend to be lengthy and complicated. They usually involve more than one person, a good deal of money and a fair amount of risk. Every step of your marketing efforts should be moving them towards becoming a lead.
I'm talking about serious, considered purchases here, not buying biscuits for a meeting. Considered purchases tend to follow a fairly predictable decision making process, which you may well have seen before.
The start of the journey
At awareness stage, your potential buyers are just beginning to realise that they may have a problem or an opportunity and they start to find out more about it. The chances are, they will use their trusted friend GoogleTM, maybe have a look on Twitter or ask a mate in the pub. So at this stage you want to be found or you are not even going to be considered later.
However, in B2B, awareness should not be an end in itself. If you are promoting biscuits to individual consumers, awareness is often enough. They walk into the shop, head to the biscuit aisle, see your pack, recognise it and pop it in their basket. Promotion to businesses is different. Once they are aware of your product or service they move, often very slowly, to the next step, which is NOT making a purchase.
Take your time
Marketing's job is to move the potential customers along the stages until they are sufficiently interested to justify a sales call. But you need to move at their pace, not yours.
So just because they have heard of you, and maybe even visited your website, that doesn't mean they are ready to buy. Leaping in with a sales call here may well be enough to put them off you for ever. You have to earn their time.
They just want a little more information to help them decide what they want to do about their problem or opportunity. If you can offer something genuinely useful at this stage, something that helps them with their decision, then you should be able to earn the big prize in lead generation - their email address.
Now you can start talking about you
Ahah, yes, go ahead. They've decided how to solve their problem so now they need to figure out which supplier to use.
You, of course are in a favourable position because you've already provided lots of useful information, earned their time and, with any luck, their trust. They consider you an expert in the subject, so when it comes to choosing a supplier they will think of you first.
Now they need a bit of evidence that you can deliver: comparisions, case studies, testimonials, statistics - it's time for the hard facts.
You've generated a lead
And now it's time for that sales call. And this time it should be easy, as you know they are close to making a final decision and that they trust you.
Remember, marketing isn't going to create sales, just leads, so all activity should be aiming to move them gradually along until they become a lead. So lead generation is the ultimate aim of all your marketing work.
You might even want to find a lead generation agency to help you provide the right content for each stage of the journey and move your potential buyers along so that your sales team can take over and turn them into customers.