"74% of buyers choose the company that was FIRST to add value as they are defining their buying vision." The Sophisticated Marketer's Guide to LinkedIn
During the dotcom era it was hip to talk about first mover advantage. You had the idea, secretly developed it, secured the 'eyeballs' and it was easy cheesy from there....at least so went the story.
Except it was largely a myth - real business is done by real people who make judgments about those upon whom they are relying. It was never good enough to have an easy to remember URL - it wasn't then and it isn't now.
But there is a first mover advantage which does matter - one that is perilously ignored by many B2B companies in today's world where 93% of B2B purchases start with internet search and in which buyers are 70% through their buying process before speaking to a rep.
Companies must be the first to add value to the clandestine buying process of prospects. And that's a challenge - after all, if buyers aren't inclined to interact with you, and your rep has no relationship building touch points, how's one to add value?
Personas & journeys
If you have to pay to play, then your table ante is a very robust and nuanced understanding of who your buyers are, what is important to them from a selfish professional perspective, and how their company buys products like yours. You MUST be able to anticipate their questions, challenges and objectives. You also must know where they'll look for help and how they'll find it. And then you have to provide the help they need and want - specifically that which will help them solve their problem. In other words your B2B marketing is really a form of sales consulting - not in the sense of a Miller Heiman system, but selling as a byproduct of virtually consulting.
Early & convenient
But it's not enough to be a resource when they're ready to buy. You may have the best competitive comparison matrix and strong value in each cell, but if they only discover you when they're close to their final decision you're likely too late.
That's the significance of the 74% number that LinkedIn has discovered. You've got to be the first to help them. That means you've got to be first, or among the earliest that they discover through their research. And it means that the content you provide can't be vapid marketing speak, but it must be solid, industry informed insight that speaks directly to the challenge they have and introduces solutions in a context which will resonate.
And then you need to coach them through the often lengthy and convoluted buying process, even providing tools and advice which they can use to sell within their company. You need to understand the pace of a typical decision and critical decision points along the way, and continue to provide value through insightful contributions from social savvy reps, and well planned, segmented, marketing automation.
The role of sales consulting
There are two sides to the sales consulting coin here. First, you must manage your revenue growth function as a continuum which includes overlapping elements of marketing and sales, and leverages digital tools expertly to sell consultatively through a virtual buying journey. Second, most companies find that they are too close to their own product, process and known buyers to have the perspective to develop a successful system internally. In that case it's sensible to engage an outside sales consulting resource familiar with the B2B industrial world, with P&L experience making buying decisions, and with digital marketing savvy.
Or you can fight it out with your other responsive competitors for a piece of the 26% that doesn't select the vendor that first adds value. Just remember they're probably the ones buying on price. So don't whine or wonder why your margins are shrinking and competitive pressures are growing!
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