The traditional concept of the sales funnel is dead. Today’s business buyer is 24/7, gathering 70% of their information online before they raise their hand to a salesperson or dealer. That buyer is also part of a team; up to 17 people are involved in B2B purchases of over $500K. If you’re not prepared with relevant content that anticipates and addresses each buyer’s needs, they might eliminate you from their consideration set before they even enter the so-called funnel.
At Schermer, we help clients find what matters most to each buyer, so we can design and deliver the right content to the right person at the right time in the organizational buying process. We call this approach our Buying Stream Methodology.
The first step in the process is identifying the buying team and defining personas and information needs for the three groups that influence every major business buying decision: the upstream, midstream and downstream. Doing so enables us to align content and connection strategies to how they buy, versus expecting them to conform to the way your company wants to sell. Let’s break it down by buyer.
THE UPSTREAM BUYER
Upstream buyers, usually owners, CEOs and VPs, have a future view of the business. They want to know how a product or service helps them achieve big-picture, company-wide goals, meaning they evaluate the tradeoffs, opportunity costs and ROI of each option. Content for this audience should focus largely on business benefits, with a lesser focus on operational benefits. Keep features and functionality to a minimum, and use them primarily as business value proof points.
THE MIDSTREAM BUYER
Midstream buyers, typically directors and managers, consider the needs of the total organization, giving them a more balanced perspective. The midstream typically leads the buying process, often initiating and then driving the consideration and evaluation phases through to the final purchase. Content for this audience should focus on operational benefits and departmental efficiencies, such as quantifiable process improvements, integration with existing systems and cost savings.
THE DOWNSTREAM BUYER
This audience uses the current product or service day in and day out, which gives them a more backward-facing perspective. Their high level of familiarity with the product or service makes them experts, and thus they’re often called upon to demo or lead an in-depth evaluation for the mid- and upstream buyers. Which gives the downstream serious sway over a purchase decision. Messaging to this audience should tie key features and functionality to immediate role-based benefits and offer comparisons against legacy systems or products.
Identifying the roles and information needs of the upstream, midstream and downstream is an important part of the Buying Stream Methodology. But it’s only part of the equation. Making the buying stream actionable means developing a connection strategy that delivers paid, earned and owned channels and experiences to the right audience at the most relevant point in their buying journey. Ultimately, this methodology enables organizations to prioritize and align their sales and marketing efforts to create a more seamless brand experience for prospects and customers. Which helps buyers make better, faster purchasing decisions.