Customer acquisition in a digital world

No one needs us to tell you there has been an explosion of growth in digital-first and digital-only commerce. What I can help you with is how to drive customer acquisition in this digital world. Here are four ideas to start with.

It’s no secret Covid pushed B2B buyers and sellers to go digital: go online or stop trading were the two choices. It wasn’t a short-term solution either, and those who were digital pre-pandemic or acted fastest won the day. As the digital world continues to grow post-pandemic, how can you stand out to customers? Here are four tips and tricks.

Digital growth rates

According to DataReportal, this year the amount of people using the internet has grown nearly 5%, meaning 62% of the world’s population is now online. Around 4.5 billion people – just over half the world’s population – are social media users. 

Sure, not all those people using the internet or logging into their socials are doing so for business purposes. However, we do know that the number one reason people use the internet is to find information and nearly half of them are researching products and brands.  The question for businesses is - will they find your brand when they are searching

The shift to digital selling 

It seems buyers have adapted more quickly to the huge swing towards digital commerce than sellers. Of course, it’s more complicated to set up a business or transition operations online than it is to click into the checkout as a consumer. Nevertheless, digital selling now needs to catch up with its buying audience. But what exactly does that mean?

Digital selling is the art of leveraging online tools to find a buying audience, engage them and then shorten the sales cycles. Essentially, you are streamlining the points between research, discovery and purchase. Today’s customers are digital natives and very demanding, so if you’re not all-over digital selling, you can be sure one of your competitors is.

More than three quarters of buyers now say they prefer digital self-serve and remote human engagement over face-to-face interactions. B2B sales and marketing leaders can’t afford to feel as though they are being forced to adopt digital strategies, they have to know it’s the only option.

Four game-changing insights

Have you heard of the 3% rule? The idea comes from the book Sticky Branding by Jeremy Miller and suggests that approximately 3% of your market is buying at any given time. Think about it as a triangle: 3% of your target audience is ready to buy right now. They form the pinnacle of your top 10% of buying audience. The other 90% are just full of potential. 

So, how do you boss the digital world and win that 3%? I’m going to give you four game-changing ideas.

1. Use insights to create segments and personae

First, you’re going to research your segment. You need to understand who is in it and what their needs are so you can articulate those needs. 

Think about your ICP and what will make them attractive to you, and you to them. Be realistic about whether you are going to be able to penetrate that segment. If you can, great, if not, create another that is right for you and own that segment.

Your segment only has value once you bring it to life and contextualise it so that it’s understandable and relatable for your product and the rest of your organisation. They will ‘get it’ and agree this is what you should go for. 

From a tactical perspective, it is critical to create buyer personae that include:

  • Titles.
  • Business pain points.
  • Keywords associated with their topical interests.
  • Having the right ICP defined will also help you create a buyer-centric approach to customer acquisition and digital selling, including via social media.

2. Use intent-based analytics to find the 3%

Digital customers leave a digital trail and there are plenty of companies with specialist buyer intent tools: you’ve probably heard of Zoominfo, 6sense, Bambora, etc. These companies look for signals of buyer intent. These are the buyers attending an industry event you’re at; they are searching for your keywords; they are hiring in areas that tick your ICP boxes. 

According to G2, companies that offer buyer intent data tools will:

  • Capture online research of actual buyer journeys to determine purchase intent signals.
  • Deliver context to enable companies to proactively reach out and market to prospects and customers with active intent.
  • Provide enriched contact profiles to better segment audiences and personalise messages.

But there are other (and cheaper) ways to do this too such as:

  • Spotting companies that are warming to your brand through personal posts on LinkedIn.
  • Tracking who is interested in attending your webinars. 
  • Scanning industry news for press about senior hires or watch the job ads of target companies. 
  • Sharing relevant content and creating download forms to capture information about who is interested in key topics.

3. Stock the digital shelves with appropriate and compelling content

We already know that in the new digital world, buyers are researching products and services online. It’s our job as marketers to stock the digital shelves with appropriate and compelling content that is relevant to the audience and that will enable them to find us. This is especially important when it comes to the ICP in our top 10%, but remember, we also need to use content to nurture the 90% who aren’t there yet. 

Marketing should be able to tell sales which content is most popular from search and website navigation, so they can use it in email cadences and social posts as well. 

Firms can be notoriously poor at clearing out old content too. Even your best performing content has a limited shelf-life, so make sure you purge regularly and bin anything past its sell-by date.

Of course, the content you produce needs to go out into the world to meet your audience, it can’t simply sit on your website looking pretty or going off. 

4. Master the art of digital conversations

This leads us on to insight number four: mastering the art of digital conversations. There may be some arguments from Metaverse (nee Facebook) over this, but for B2B sales the number one social media tool is LinkedIn. It has nearly double the amount of company pages today than two years ago, and content creation increased by 60% last year. Individuals as well as company posts contributed to the upswing.  

If marketing encourages employees to be active on LinkedIn, that firm will stand out, because although there is a lot more content out there, only 3% of LinkedIn members are posting once a week or more. 

Posting leads to engagement, which leads to connections, which leads to the inbox. And inbox conversations are what’s most important for sales. Two-way communication creates the possibility for deepening relationships, setting up calls and discussing the problems you can solve together.  

Marketing can help salespeople have more inbox conversations by helping them increase engagement and responses:

  • Train salespeople to write good connection messages that get accepted.
  • Be generous with likes and comments so people are more receptive to conversations.
  • Provide ideas on content that sales can share, so they become subject matter experts.

Mastering the art of digital conversations isn’t necessarily easy for everyone, and we have all experienced salespeople getting it wrong and putting our backs up. Above all, be authentic, and don’t be a pest.

In the digital world, selling is actually about one person connecting with another on a topic of mutual interest. That means sharing posts and sending comments that pique interest. It also means engaging with other people’s posts who might be influencers or that share interests in your segment.  
And there will be rewards for getting it right. According to LinkedIn, 80% of B2B leads come from the platform, and certainly for PassFort, LinkedIn has played a major part in our new business.

A quick reminder

There has been a dramatic increase in digital adoption. This has been embraced globally by both B2B buyers and sellers – and in fact buyers actually prefer their new digital reality.

Remember the 3% rule. Only 3% of buyers are active and ready to buy at any given time. How do they find you and how do you find them at the right moment? And how do we nurture the remaining 90% who aren’t ready to buy right now? We do that in four ways:

  • Using insights to create segments and personae.
  • Using intent-based analytics.
  • Stocking the digital shelves with appropriate and compelling content.
  • Mastering the art of digital conversations.

And if you want to find out more about how customer insight strategies can help you to create remarkable marketing…well, that’s for next time. Happy selling!

*Shared first on MarketingB2B.net