Hey everyone, Jake Shaffren here, Director of Sales at DiscoverOrg.
Today, we’re talking through the buying journey and intent data – from the perspective of my true-life example of buying a sewing machine for my fiancée. Believe it or not, it’s a great comparison for how companies buy technology: It can be complex if you aren’t familiar with the industry, and it has a higher price point.
For the holidays this past year, my fiancée had asked me to get her a sewing machine. Of course, I was more than happy to do so … but I don’t know a lot about sewing machines.
Step 1: Buyer research
Frankly, if you were to audit my personal Google search history on a normal day, I can assure everyone here that “sewing machines” are not going to pop up! That’s not who I am – usually. But now I was doing a lot of research.
This is how it starts: by identifying a problem or solution. In this case, that means getting a gift for my fiancée.
Your buyers are doing this, too: They’re trying to get clear on what problem they’re trying to solve.
Step 2: Vetting the market
My next step was understanding who the different sewing machine manufacturers are. There’s Singer and VIKING and Janome and Brother … they’re all new to me! I’m just trying to understand who the vendors are.
Moreover, I want to know what the different types of sewing machines are – computerized versus mechanical, for example. At this point, I’m reading reviews, I’m considering the benefits and drawbacks of each machine, looking at prices… I’m just getting a feel for the market as a whole.
And they’re starting to differentiate between qualities and prices.
Step 3: Vendor selection and elimination
Vendor selection is an important next step – and even more important is vendor elimination.
As a buyer myself, I eliminated different sewing-machine manufacturers long before they even knew I was shopping. I knew that I would be eliminating certain machines flat out – before I ever went to a brick-and-mortar store, before I ever went shopping on Amazon.
As a B2B seller, if you can get your message out and drive awareness of your brand, you can get ahead of these preconceived notions by tapping into this phase of the buyer’s journey.
This is where buyer Intent Data comes in.
Step 4: Price consideration
I already knew what my sewing-machine budget was. Honestly, even back when I was identifying my problem, I knew about how much they should cost – but I didn’t really understand how they were priced.
NEWSFLASH: Some sewing machines cost up to $1500 – and up! (That’s not what I got for my fiancée, sorry.)
Here I have to pause and point out that 57% of the buyer’s journey happens LONG before they engage with vendors. Couple that with SiriusDecisions’ finding that 67% of a purchase decision is made digitally – not by engaging with a salesperson, but by actually doing research on their own time.
Why do those stats matter?
Well, to what extent can you tap into this research phase?
If I’m a sewing machine manufacturer or a retail brick-and-mortar store, and I know the Jakes of the world are doing their homework on my product – I can start messaging proactively, before they reach out to anyone.
You’re SO much better positioned to drive real brand awareness and influence the decision-making process.
The right message at the right time
One important thing to remember at this point: These are very different messages.
When you’re talking about proactive engagement based on buyer intent, you’re NOT talking about product demos. No one is coming on site. Don’t talk about actually getting your hands dirty.
Buyers at this point are just trying to educate themselves. That’s it.
If you can send me resources about components to look for in a sewing machine, or pitfalls of going a computerized versus mechanical – that kind of information is really interesting to me.
Intent Data, in this scenario, would answer questions like: As I continue to research, how does my content consumption increases and decreases in certain areas? How much time am I actually spending perusing the web?
So the messaging should be tweaking and tweaking and tweaking the buyer’s opinion: Driving me HERE, through the sales cycle.
Step 5: Engagement with a salesperson
Time for the inquiry: Now I’m shopping.
- I have an idea of who I want to go with
- I have a good sense of what are the pros and cons.
- I know my price range.
- I’m pretty sure I know what brand I want to go with.
Now I’m going into the store. This is the equivalent of an inbound lead.
The product demo
Then there’s the actual demo. For sewing machines, I can quite literally go in JOANNE stores (see their org chart!) where they have a little demo station. They showed me the process, the stitching, and how it can stitch through different layers of denim.
Read it: 5 Steps to a Killer Demo
Step 6: Evaluation from multiple stakeholders
The evaluation and proof-of-concept phase is really important: Now there are stakeholders involved, and you might not know who those stakeholders are.
When you’re creating your marketing message, remember that this buying journey isn’t done across one individual.
Coincidentally enough, my mother-in-law knows a lot about sewing machines. While she’s not directly involved in my sales cycle per se, I know she wanted me to get a machine that she can show her daughter how to use. She’s a stakeholder, and she certainly has the power to influence my purchase decision.
Decisions aren’t made in a vacuum – not usually in B2C, and definitely not in B2B.
Start planting seeds here and there. Start speaking to the different seniority levels and the different pain points they’re looking to solve. Build out different personas and consider what they’ll be looking for, once they get to the evaluation phase.
Now you have a head start!
Step 7: Negotiation and purchase
From here, then it becomes a negotiation.
Look, I know what I want to buy. I know the vendor that I want to go with. I have a good idea of my price range. Now it’s for me to find the product that checks all these boxes.
For the B2B world of technology purchases, that might mean going back and forth until you reach a conclusion.
Now get out the checkbook, because it’s time to spend some money.
As a consumer, my goal wasn’t hitting the gong, or putting my name on the leaderboard. It was watching my fiancée open up her Christmas present and say, “Oh my gosh, this is wonderful! I had no idea that you had been planning this!” Meanwhile, I had been planning this since September.
So what is intent data and why does it matter?
Well, we know most of a buyer’s journey happens long before they engage with a salesperson. So those who are already engaging with prospects – long before a demo comes in or a lead comes in – will be best poised to win.
This engagement includes the messaging, identifying problems and solutions, creating an educational, high level, top-of-funnel sort of activity like a nurture campaigns – that kind of thing.
The rest comes later. But before you start pushing sales cycles forward, before you create urgency and push for that demo – or rush that morning when you get to watch your fiancée open up a gift – lay the groundwork with intent data.
That concludes another Discover X in our Whiteboard series. Thanks for joining us! Don’t forget, like, comment, subscribe to our YouTube channel!
Read the study: Which Data Points Predict More Sales?