The Awareness Stage of the B2B Buyer's Journey
In the awareness stage of the B2B buyer’s journey, a potential buyer becomes aware of a business problem they’re facing and begins their journey to solve it.
Your goal in this stage is to be a useful resource for solving that business problem. This involves educating them about the challenges they’re facing and introducing possible solutions, positioning your product or service as the best solution.
In order to know which challenges your buyers face, and the best way to reach them during the awareness stage, you must identify your ideal type of buyers to base your strategy around.
Ask yourself, “what type of customer would get value from my offering?” Think of industries, job titles, and company sizes that could use your product or service to make their business better. Then tailor your awareness efforts so that every piece of your acquisition strategy is hyper-targeted toward those relevant buyers.
There are 2 different segments you need to nail down before you can build a buyer-centric strategy:
- Ideal customer profile: The specific types of companies you will target with your B2B efforts. An ideal customer profile includes information such as industry, verticals, company size, revenue, and average deal size.
- Buyer personas: The individuals within a company that you will need to convince in order to make the sale. Buyer persona information may include demographic details, decision drivers, challenges and fears, and their role in the purchase decision.
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 to check that our data is precisely targeted to our ideal personas.
While this process is meticulous and can require further research, it ensures your awareness-stage efforts are only spent on accounts that align with your product or service.
If you’re less than confident in your prospect data (or you don’t have enough yet), you may need to build out or cleanse your database to ensure it’s accurate and appropriately targeted. We have Data Specialists at EBQ who manage our databases for us and our clients, should you ever consider outsourcing your data building to an experienced firm.
Appropriate targeting is necessary for both your sales and marketing strategy—it tells your sales reps who to call and tells your marketers who to engage.
For example, the marketers at EBQ target personas like sales and marketing leadership because we know people in these roles get the most value out of our outsourced sales and marketing services. While we could write pages and pages of expert content that addresses the challenges faced by entry-level sales and marketing employees, we know that our services are purchased by a different buyer persona.
with outbound sales
Once you understand what motivates buyers to purchase your product or service, and you’re confident in your prospect database, you can begin the outbound sales process.
In the awareness stage, outbound sales involves cold calling leads who have not made contact with your company and who might not even be aware that they have a problem you can solve.
To reiterate, it’s your job to educate them about this problem and tell them how you can make things better for them.
At EBQ, we have sales development representatives (SDRs) who do all our prospecting and cold calling, so our salespeople can save their valuable time for closing deals. SDRs also follow up with inbound marketing leads, but since inbound leads are usually further along in their buyer’s journey, we’ll discuss that later in this guide.
The SDR introduces cold leads to your offering, allowing you to create awareness through a method other than marketing. One huge advantage of using sales development in the awareness stage is the ability to target leads more narrowly and intentionally than the wide net cast by marketing. To achieve this, SDRs should work out of a database that includes key accounts worth pursuing and the decision makers within those accounts.
During their outreach, SDRs enhance your prospect database by gathering additional information about accounts: organizational challenges, individual pain points, and other key decision makers. These details will be useful for closing reps further down the pipeline.
B2B sales often have higher deal values and, as a result, longer sales cycles and more involved buying processes. The specialized SDR role is the best way to speed up those sales cycles by identifying obstacles to closing and other key information about accounts early on.
However, the SDR’s ultimate goal is to warm up leads until they are interested in learning more about your product or service and agree to a sales appointment with a closing rep to do so. This happens later in the buyer’s journey as well, but this is why the SDR function is often referred to as B2B appointment setting.
If you’d like to learn more about the SDR strategy and how it helps you move prospects to the next buying stage, we recommend reading our Ultimate Guide to B2B Appointment Setting.
Inbound marketing strategies for the awareness stage
In B2B marketing, one key metric for success is the creation of marketing-qualified leads (MQLs): leads who have shown interest in your company through interaction with marketing assets. During the awareness stage, buyers recognize and learn about their business challenge, so marketing efforts should focus on education and subtle introduction of your offering as a solution.
Some tactics for reaching your buyers and generating marketing-qualified leads during the awareness stage include:
- Blogs and long-form content: While varying in their depth of information, both types of content should directly identify a problem the buyer faces and demonstrate possible ways to solve it.
- Search engine optimization: An SEO strategy requires extensive research to find high-value keywords within your niche. The most important element of SEO is understanding the intent behind each keyword. It’s especially effective to create content targeting keywords that indicate a ready-to-solve or ready-to-purchase sentiment, rather than a broad keyword with ambiguous intentions.
- Paid ads: Advertise on relevant platforms, using specific targeting criteria to ensure your ads are being shown to the right people. LinkedIn and Google Ads are typically the best online advertising 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, helping them recognize their problem and consider your offering as a possible solution.
Other marketing solutions and tools that make the job easier will continue to emerge as technology evolves. Email marketing automation, for example, can be used throughout the buyer’s journey. At EBQ, we use Salesforce Pardot to create personalized email drip campaigns, which adapt to how buyers interact with our emails and content.
Here’s an example of how an email campaign—in tandem with other strategies—can nurture leads in the awareness stage:
- Steven, Sales VP at a tech company, performs a Google search for “how to build a B2B appointment setting department.”
- Steven finds our Ultimate Guide for B2B Appointment Setting on the first page of search results, fills out the form to download the guide, and receives the PDF in his email inbox.
- The contact information Steven submitted on the form is funneled into Pardot, our marketing automation platform.
- The form submission triggers Pardot to increase his lead score, converting Steven to a marketing-qualified lead, and enrolling him in our appointment setting email drip program.
- Pardot also sends MQL Steven’s contact information to Salesforce, assigns him to the SDR team to follow up, and associates him with a certain lead rating, so both marketing and sales can track his progress through the buyer’s journey.
- The next day, Pardot automatically sends Steven an email suggesting other EBQ content about appointment setting to keep him engaged with our brand and increase his awareness of the business challenge.
Passive vs. active approach
Sometimes a business makes the first move, reaching out to potential buyers to shed light on a problem they might 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/outbound and passive/inbound approach, is important for a solid customer acquisition strategy.
Companies need to actively pursue buyers who have yet to realize how their organization could be better. Make them aware of the problem through outbound efforts and tell them why your product or service is the best solution.
Your inbound approach, a more passive approach led by the marketing team, should complement your outbound efforts with ongoing campaigns and strategies aimed at the same relevant personas.
At EBQ, we combine our active and passive approaches, working together to create pipeline growth. While some strategists rely heavily on customers discovering their company through inbound efforts, we find that our active outbound approach is just as effective. About half of our sales appointments come from marketing and the other half through our cold calling efforts.
Chapter 2: The Consideration Stage
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Guide to the B2B Buyer’s