If one were to ask a marketer or salesperson today whether purchasing decisions are made by individuals or groups, few would hesitate to say, groups. It has long been accepted that enterprise purchase decisions are not typically made by individuals, but by buying groups of individuals with different roles, considerations, and inputs into decision-making processes.
However, many B2B companies have failed to align their Demand Generation motions with this reality and continue to acquire and nurture individuals instead of buying groups. As a result, organizations are failing to optimize the true revenue opportunity and return on marketing investment from lead generation. According to data from the Sirius Decisions Command Center, 98% of automation qualified leads (AQLs) fail to convert to actual revenue.
In contrast, buyer group-based lead qualification is driving the future state of Demand Generation strategies. Here are some tips for how to build a Demand Generation model that identifies and nurtures buying groups.
Step 1: Define your audience
Smart marketers don’t guess who their target audience is, they dig into their data and conduct research to form a 360-view of the leads that will generate the most value. The more you can focus your targeting on high-value opportunities with the highest propensity to buy, the better.
Dig into your data to segment your audience, going beyond surface-level categories like industry and company size. What does your firmographic data tell you about the kinds of businesses that are most likely to need your products and also generate the most revenue impact? What current or past customers are likely to purchase more from you?
Get marketing and sales together to align behind a vision of what your ideal opportunity looks like, going into as much detail as you can on factors that will help you tailor your campaign and messaging to their needs.
Step 2: Map out your buying groups and build personas
Once you understand who your ideal customers are, you can start to paint a fuller picture of the buyer groups that make purchasing decisions on their behalf. According to Sirius Decisions, there are five typical buying roles in each group:
Champion: The "champions" stay engaged throughout the buying process and tend to sit in mid-level managerial roles. This means that they understand both the practical and strategic needs of their organization and will be concerned with improving efficiency and productivity in the work they are directly responsible for.
Influencer: These individuals come in and out of the journey when their knowledge or unique point of view is needed. Think about the types of individuals whose expertise will be needed during the purchasing process and be sure to engage them with content that will help them evaluate your offer.
Decision Maker: These are typically running the department whose budget will pay for the solution they are seeking. Be sure to engage these buyers when a buying group is approaching the point of decision-making.
Users: Gather any information you can about whether your buying groups bring users into the journey at any point. Typically, they are brought in early to help committee purchase groups, or later to help departments test demos.
Ratifiers: Brought in toward the end of a buying journey, ratifiers give the sign-off for a purchase. Case studies or use cases are useful in addressing any final concerns they have before signing the check.
Once you have mapped relevant buyer groups you can create personas profiles for each of the relevant members. These profiles should act as fictional representations of the people that interact with your products and services, and provide a psychographic summary of their motivations, responsibilities, obstacles, and any other factors that influence how they make decisions related to purchases. Taking this step has been proven to pay dividends: A recent study revealed that 71% of companies who exceed revenue and lead goals have documented personas.
Step 3: Build their journey into your nurture
At this point, some of the hardest work is over. You know who your audience is, you know what individuals you need to engage at different points in the buyer journey, and you know what they are looking for from your content. Now, design nurture streams that will address your segmented targets and their respective buying groups.
Nurture streams should be built with the following elements in mind:
Segmentation: The number of nurture streams you develop will depend on how segmented you want your customer journeys to be. This will depend on how you broke your audience down in the previous step: For example, you may choose to build persona and industry-based nurture streams.
Nurture Stream Architecture: The way you design your nurture streams will determine how leads are captured, segmented, and tracked. Consider what channels, content formats, and combinations of gated and un-gated assets will enable the most targeted, efficient, and dynamic customer journeys.
Lead Scoring and Qualification: Lead scoring and qualification models should align with a buyer group-based view of Demand Generation. Ensure that lead scores reflect A) the level of engagement that your program is achieving with the entire buyer group behind the opportunity, not just one member and B) how valuable the opportunity is in terms of alignment with your target audience.
Content Topics and Themes: Achieving a full understanding of your ideal customers is a wasted effort if you don’t put an equal amount of thought into the kind of content you are developing to address them. To complement your audience research, set aside time to conduct content research: What are the big trending topics in your industry? What are your competitors creating content about? Incorporate this insight into your content strategy, keeping in mind that buyers want different kinds of information (i.e. educational versus product-focused) at different points in their journeys.
Step 4: Track and measure
A carefully designed Demand Generation campaign is nothing without effective tracking and measuring. Otherwise, how are you supposed to iterate and improve? Establish KPIs that produce insight on both account and campaign-level activity.
As you refocus your nurture around buyer groups, take this moment to evaluate your entire Demand management motion. Where can you tweak elements of your strategy and tactics to better align with your buyer groups’ needs and behavior? Don’t worry about getting it right the first iteration. Achieving a true competitive advantage requires consistent recalibration of your Demand Generation approach across all aspects of lead acquisition, lead nurture, and sales conversion strategies. It’s a long journey, but by putting the focus on your customers and their needs, you’ll be taking an important first step.