Marketing

4 ways CEOs can adapt to buyer behavior

COVID-19 not only changed the way employees work but also how customers buy. In fact, Vistage research shows that 78% of small and midsize businesses (SMBs) have seen changes in buyer behavior. In today’s environment, buyers are more autonomous and independent, less likely to meet face-to-face with sellers, and have higher expectations of digital buying experiences.

While these changes weren’t triggered by the pandemic — digital transformation had already begun — they were certainly sped up. Now, CEOs of small and midsize businesses must adapt quickly to this changing tide. They need to:

  • Rethink their marketing strategy
  • Reinvent their digital experiences
  • Realign their sales and marketing teams

Here are 4 factors to consider as you reimagine better ways to connect and engage with customers and prospects:

 

1. Changing Buyer Behaviors

While the 2020 economic shutdown created an initial shock, buyers adapted and settled into new patterns. They’ve shifted dramatically to online buying and moved away from face-to-face interactions.

Also contributing to this behavioral change are slower sales cycles as buyers take a more conservative, cautious approach to buying and (of course) the impact of COVID on the marketplace.

2. Mind the Knowledge Gap

Fundamentally, buying is about acquiring enough information to make a decision. And when buyers can no longer satisfy their information needs, they must engage a salesperson. This is called the “knowledge inflection point.”

Sales and marketing teams must align to establish a seamless handoff between the digital marketing resource and the prepared sales resource at that inflection point. However, the acceleration to digital, both before and during the pandemic, has SMBs catching up.

Sales and marketing teams must expand their digital relationship and align their value story with sales. New skills for marketing and new competencies for sales will be required as marketing is involved with more of the buying process and sales refocuses their efforts to the end of the funnel.

3. Increased Marketing Investments

CEOs must direct their sales and marketing teams to meet the buyer where they are. Because marketing is part of the sales pipeline and a key component in projected revenue, SMBs must increase their marketing investments with an emphasis on digital experiences. Our research shows that 42% of small and midsize businesses increased their marketing investments over pre-pandemic levels this year.

CEOs will also need to reimagine how marketing can best support sales by developing collateral, sharing case studies and formulating messaging to accommodate new expectations for the buyer experience.

4. In Depth: The Digital Spend

Looking deeper into how digital marketing investments are allocated, many CEOs — 88% to be exact — say their top area of digital marketing investment is in their website. That makes sense. The website is your company’s digital storefront. It engages customers and prospects at all phases and helps them fulfill their information needs about capabilities, options, pricing or even the ability to complete a transaction.

Social media is second, playing a role in funneling prospects to your site, cultivating followers, and engaging frequently to gain familiarity and credibility early in the buying process. No matter the digital platform, your messaging must be clear, consistent and direct to deepen connections with qualified prospects. Buyers need to see themselves in a message that both tells a story and uses benefit-centered, outcome-oriented language.

Take your marketing to the next level

Want to learn more? Our research report, “Marketing Matters: Responding to Changes in Buyer Behavior,” offers a deeper look into how buyers have changed and what small and midsize businesses must do to capitalize on these new behaviors. Download the report to learn how to equip your teams to align with the buyer’s journey.

 

 

Category: Marketing

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About the Author: Joe Galvin

Joe Galvin is the Chief Research Officer for Vistage Worldwide. Vistage members receive the most credible, data-driven and actionable thought leadership on the strategic issues facing CEOs. Through collaboration with the Vistage community of…

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