While the traditional role of marketing still has its place, companies with Cloud-based solutions are quickly building their marketing to address two new responsibilities:

•    Keeping customer acquisition costs as low as possible
•    Taking over the sales process until the decision maker is “ready-to-buy”.

Commonly referred to as “buyer-centric marketing”, these new responsibilities match up perfectly with the buying process we see for Cloud-based technologies.

Prospects for Cloud solutions are self-educating. They identify their needs on their own and pro-actively start looking for a solution to meet those needs. Research shows 77 percent of Cloud-solution prospects have done some level of research before they contacted a vendor. More than half short-listed vendors based solely on their own research and before they reached out to the selected vendors.

This means you need to fit into a prospect’s buying process rather than the prospect becoming a part of your sales process. It is not about you or your solution, it is about the prospect and their needs.

The keys to success become:

•    Getting a better understanding of who the prospects are
•    Developing messaging that is specific to a prospect’s needs
•    Connecting with prospects based on information they need, not sales/marketing pitches.

AND, to automate as much of the process as possible – from lead generation, through the sales process, all the way through to customer retention. Not to worry though, there are plenty of tools out there to help with this…last count (January 2015), more than 1,800.

Buyer-Centric Marketing

It starts by:

•    Defining personas and buying roles
•    Defining the steps you want to take a buyer through as they educate themselves

Personas are job roles or positions that can benefit from your offering in one way or another.  For example, a vice president of sales may be interested in a CRM system to improve sales efficiency; the CFO might want better visibility into forecasting and the vice president of marketing wants to automate and track marketing processes. They all benefit from a CRM system, but the needs and benefits will be different for each persona.

The buyer role is different. It defines a person’s influence in the purchase decision, rather than how they benefit.

There are five major buying roles.

•    The champion is the person driving the process to adopt a new solution internally
•    Influencers may have a say in the solution that is ultimately purchased (e.g., IT might be involved in deciding whether to go with an on-premise or a Cloud solution)
•    Decision makers tend to be CxOs. They might set the overall parameters up-front, and then wait for the recommendations before making a decision
•    Users are the people who actually have to spend time with the technology
•    Ratifiers are those who can derail a purchase (e.g., procurement).

The objective is to get in front of prospects before you even know they exist and to do it with messaging that addresses each persona and buying role. This is done primarily through:
•    Social media campaigns
•    Paid search
•    Search engine optimization
•    Content marketing.

Social Media Campaigns – Becoming a part of social conversations (in a non-commercial way) that focus on the problems you can solve. LinkedIn is usually the first place to go, but it can also be Twitter, maybe Facebook, industry blogs, etc.

Paid Search – Paying companies, such as Google, to ensure information about your company appears among the results of a person’s relevant search.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – Techniques used primarily with your website to help relevant web searches return information about your company in a more prominent manner than your competition.

Content – Educational information that addresses the problems you solve. It helps fuel your social media engagement and improves your SEO results.

Once in front of the prospect, direct them to information that prompts them to take action that makes you aware of their interest.  This is facilitated by having dedicated landing pages on your website. Unlike your home page, a landing page has information that ties directly to the message you sent to a targeted persona. Offering a relevant white paper or e-book or similar on the landing page helps capture their contact information.

Videos are also helpful. Aberdeen Group reports that websites using video have a 40 percent higher conversion rates than sites without and video reduces the number of website visits needed to convert a visitor to a buyer. All of which drives down customer acquisition costs.

It’s no mystery. Your website is the engine that ties everything together and drives conversions. It needs to incorporate the content and visuals that will engage visitors as they move through their buying process. The amount and type of content they consume will be good indicators of how serious they are and where they are in their decision-making the process.

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