In the awareness stage of the buyer’s journey, the lead becomes aware of an obstacle they need to overcome. The goal is to capture the lead’s attention by educating them about potential solutions. In order to know what problems your buyers may have and how you can reach them at this point in their journey, you must base your strategy around your ideal buyer persona.
Understanding your buyer personas
Ask yourself, “who would get the most value from my offering?” Think of industries, specific roles, and sizes of companies that would likely use your service to make their processes more efficient. Then tailor your awareness efforts so that every component of the strategy, both outbound and inbound, is meant to attract only relevant leads.
At EBQ, we start with our data. We review our prospect database to determine not only if information is correct and up-to-date, but also if our data is precisely targeted to our ideal personas. While this process is meticulous and can require further research, it ensures our Sales Development Specialists only cold call target accounts that are aligned with our solution.
If you’re less than confident in your customer data, you may need to build out or cleanse your database to ensure it’s targeted and up-to-date. We have data specialists at EBQ that manage databases for us and our clients, should you ever consider outsourcing your data validation to optimize your outreach.
This targeting is necessary for your inbound approach also, specifically when developing your marketing strategy. At EBQ, we target personas like Sales and Marketing Directors because we know they would get the most value out of our outsourced sales and marketing services. While we could write pages and pages of expert marketing content that addresses concerns of SDRs and Specialists, we are aware that our services offer a solution for a different buyer persona.
Once you clearly understand how your service can meet buyers’ needs and you’re confident in your database, you can begin the outbound sales process. In the awareness stage, this involves cold calling leads who have not made contact with your company and might not be aware they have a problem yet.
At EBQ, we have sales development representatives who do all our cold calling, so our salespeople can save valuable time for closing deals. SDRs ask questions about the lead’s business operations to get an initial feel for their needs and encourage them to recognize any shortcomings in their processes.
In the awareness stage, the SDR is the introducer of the offering, creating awareness through a method other than digital marketing. The advantage of having sales development representatives is their ability to target leads more narrowly than the wide net cast by marketing. SDRs should work out of a database that is specifically targeted and includes key accounts worth pursuing.
Many B2B sellers have a long and involved sale process with many factors the customer must consider before choosing your offering. Before your prospect is qualified and passed to sales to be nurtured and closed, it’s important to have a dedicated sales development specialist reaching out to those buyers until they are ready to move to the consideration stage.
The first call is meant to briefly introduce prospects to our company and solutions, but an SDR’s ultimate goal is to qualify the lead and set an appointment for sales with the decision-maker. We will talk more about this in the next section about the consideration stage.
In B2B marketing, our key metric for success is the creation of marketing-qualified leads: leads who have shown interest in your company through engagement with marketing offerings. During this stage, buyers become aware of their problem, so marketing efforts should present your product or service as a solution.
Some tactics for reaching your buyer personas during the awareness phase include:
- Blogs and long-form content: While varying in their depth, both types of content directly identify a problem the buyer faces and offers a solution.
- Optimizing for long-tail keywords: Your SEO strategy will require keyword research built around various high-value keywords within your industry. The most important element to this strategy is to understand the search intent of each keyword, as it is especially valuable to go after keywords that indicate a ready-to-purchase search vs. a casual broad keyword with various meanings.
- Paid ads: Advertise on relevant platforms using specific targeting criteria to ensure your ads are being shown to the right people. Keep in mind that LinkedIn and Google Ads are typically the best options for B2B companies, whereas platforms like Facebook and Instagram work best in a B2C environment. Create ads that address a pain point of your buyer persona, encouraging them to acknowledge their need and consider your services as a possible solution.
Between planning an entire marketing strategy and actually implementing it through content creation and other initiatives, marketers have a lot to prioritize. We should always look for ways to make our work more efficient, so we get the highest possible return on our time, effort, and spending.
We find that for many of our clients at EBQ, outsourcing marketing tasks helps accelerate the execution of their marketing strategies. Other marketing tools that make our jobs easier, such as marketing automation, will continue to emerge as technology evolves.
Email automation can be utilized through every step of the buyer’s journey. At EBQ, we use Pardot to set up complex email drip campaigns that react to how buyers interact with our emails and content.
Here is an example of how the process of nurturing a lead through an email campaign might begin:
- The prospect performs a Google search for “how to build a B2B appointment setting department.”
- They find our Ultimate Guide for B2B Appointment Setting in the results, fill out the form on our landing page, and download the PDF.
- The information they input in the form before downloading the content is sent to our marketing automation platform.
- The form submission triggers Pardot to make the lead an MQL, enrolling them in our drip program for Appointment Setting leads and associating them with a certain “EBrating,” which tells us how far along the buyer’s journey they are.
- The next day, Pardot automatically sends the prospect an email suggesting other pieces of EBQ content about appointment setting, all dependent on the prospect’s EBrating.
We’ll have a more detailed discussion about the EBRating system and how to track leads’ progress across your marketing and sales teams in the next section about the consideration stage.
Passive vs. active approach
Sometimes we, as strategists, make the first contact and shed light on a problem the lead may not know they have. Sometimes buyers become aware of their problem and go searching for solutions on their own. Having a plan of action for both of these possibilities, an active and passive approach, is important for a solid customer acquisition strategy.
A lead may not even realize they have a shortcoming in their organizational processes, so it’s a seller’s job to actively pursue those leads by making them aware of the problem and presenting your product as a solution. Reaching out to relevant leads, using discovery questions to understand their needs, and explaining how your offering could meet those needs can all contribute to generating interest for your product or service.
Your inbound approach, a more passive approach that’s generally led by marketing teams, should complement your sales development efforts with ongoing campaigns and strategies aimed at the same relevant personas. Timely and attractive content and ads that directly present a solution to potential customers’ problems are more likely to convey your brand’s value and create a lasting impression with prospects.
At EBQ, we find that both active and passive approaches add significant value to pipeline growth. While some strategists rely heavily on customers finding their company through inbound efforts, we find that our active outbound approach involving data validation and sales development can be just as effective. About half of our sales meetings set come from marketing and the other half through our appointment setting efforts.