A combination of genius and incredible access to capital has enabled Amazon to become a retail operation truly inconceivable just a decade or so ago.
Untethered from the constraints of physical location, Amazon has made it possible for many of us to rarely visit a retail operation for more than a tank of gas or a cup of coffee. And by consolidating a larger and larger percentage of our shopping and consumption behaviors, there’s less and less that Amazon doesn’t know about us or that they couldn’t easily figure out if they wanted to.
While we can certainly argue about whether the end game is to everyone’s benefit as a society, B2C marketers know that, in the near term, it behooves them to accept reality and try to play along in Amazon’s game.
As I think about lining up catalog operations, department stores, big-box retailers, suburban malls and Amazon along an evolutionary timeline, it’s the similarities that jump out at me more than the differences. It’s the strength of each concept taken singly and together that B2B sellers should all try to take advantage of.
1. Go where the buyers go
In B2B, you don’t need to dive into the many years of academic research to decide where to place your storefront, you know you’ve got to be on the web.
But being open for inbound business alone simply isn’t enough. Retailers use data about pedestrian and car traffic patterns to site their next store. B2C brands know they have to be on Amazon.
Every B2B seller owes it to themselves to find out where buyer traffic already congregates. You need to know where your total available market (TAM) goes when it’s in a buyer’s journey, and you need to be there, too.
Surf on Google’s gravity. While it’s not yet Amazon for B2B, for us, Google exerts much the same sort of “internet gravity” on our buyers. When a buyer begins their journey, they go to Google and ramp up search behaviors, which is why you can and should use SEO and paid search to be prominent on Google.
At the same time, however, you should also study who is consistently ranking high in and around relevant topics and see if there’s a way for you to do the same. Look for high-ranking third-party properties that will let you add your content and offerings. Then build your campaigns to link and bend their audience back to you.
Make sure to advertise to buyers instead of surfers. Although there’s plenty of browsing that happens on Amazon, and advertisers there may well be able to stimulate impulse buys, B2B buying behaviors are very different, as are the outlets that support them.
In B2B, we all spend plenty of time on the web reading about things that matter to us without ever demonstrating what could be recognized as real purchase intent. It would be easy to spend your entire advertising budget targeting demographics or on sites that have no contextual relevance to what someone in a buyer’s journey is actually looking for. Make sure the outlets you narrow your investigation to can show how their content supports the buying research efforts of the people you need to add to your funnel.
2. Bring the buyers to you
I think we can all agree we still aren’t where we need to be with advertising retargeting. When I’m shopping on Amazon, I’m definitely not in the market for my next piece of martech stackware.
Context continues to be a stumbling block for many B2B advertisers. But thinking about exactly what you’re trying to accomplish goes a long way toward landing on better a strategy. To drive maximum ROI, you need to raise consideration for your solution among the companies that are in a deal cycle.
On Amazon, you’d want to promote your offering whenever someone was shopping for products like yours. Real third-party purchase intent can put you in exactly the context you need to bring buyers to your store. By advertising in and around editorial content designed to support purchase decisions, it becomes natural for your desired audience to pay attention to your message and click through to your website.
3. Know what real buyers want
Once you’ve narrowed your advertising focus down to the optimum number of outlets, you need to access a significant volume of real buyers in your specific market category. Then you’ll need to make sure to get everything necessary to convert those people into prospects. This can be harder than it sounds.
Even though a lot of advertising suppliers can now help target specific companies somewhat accurately, outside of activity within your own program, very few of them can tell you very much about what’s working with your audience and what isn’t.
This is exactly the kind of information Amazon withheld from sellers until recently. Here’s another area where the best third-party purchase intent provider can help out. They should be able to show not only your own effectiveness but also what else is attracting your target audience’s attention, be it editorial or promotional material.
To improve your own performance, you’ll want to study this closely and modify your material as necessary to address what buyers are actually looking for.
4. See what real buying groups do
Even though we understand how buying groups actually behave, too many organizations are still relying on a kind of jury-rigged approach to pursuing demand inside of accounts.
First, they find accounts they think might be active. If they get any clicks on ads or inbound web traffic, they then assign sales development reps (SDRs) to call down a list of all the potential folks at the account with titles similar to those who held the most authority in their previous sales.
The problem is that they can’t be sure the account is viable, and they have no way of knowing where in the account the behavior is actually coming from. This approach leads to far too much tele-spend and far too little contribution to the pipeline.
Real third-party intent is much more than an old-school lead gen mechanism. Instead, a quality provider should be able to show exactly who is exhibiting purchase behaviors right down to their role and function, their name, and even their contact and consent information.
5. Engage buyers for yourself
Once you’ve located an active buying team with the right information in hand, real purchase intent data puts you in a much better position to drive efficiency by knowing which accounts and buying centers to target.
Likewise, because you can see both who’s interested and what they’re interested in, you’re able to be much more effective with your own outreach. Whether you choose to deploy targeted marketing to nurture these buying groups or address them more aggressively with people-based tactics, you are no longer guessing who exactly to go after and how to open the conversation.
Real purchase intent gives you Amazon-like insight into exactly who is looking for exactly what. What’s more, because this is now data we’re talking about instead of advertising, these buyers are available to you directly, to engage via your own systems and processes.
Not quite Amazon yet, but something you certainly should take advantage of
While each of us is free to evaluate at what point Amazon’s incredible convenience has gone a step too far, the impact of real purchase intent data on those companies that are taking advantage of it is really no longer up for debate.
As we head toward 2019, if you’re looking for a way to accelerate positive change in your demand generation performance and you haven’t investigated the purchase intent resources available in your market, there’s no better time to start than right now.
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