You’ll never sell a £60k product with just an email and a tweet

The emphasis on digital marketing has affected investment in other channels. So have we lost sight of the benefits that ‘live’ human interaction can bring to B2B sales?

The rise in digital marketing seems set to continue. Its speed of delivery, measurability and low entry cost make digital an attractive tool for any Marketing Manager.

The chart below shows advertising spend for major channels during the period 2000-2013*. While virtually all channels saw a drop in spend, the internet saw a rapid rise, going from the bottom of the chart to pole position.

The rise of digital marketing and the internet

But is there a danger we are ignoring a fundamental part of many B2B sales – Human Interaction (HI).

There’s no doubt small company purchases can be made online without HI, but do buyers still need the confidence they get from a telephone conversation or meeting before they consider that large order or new supplier?

HI is not as cheap as other marketing tools, such as email. To ensure maximum ROI, we have to use it wisely. So where is HI most effective in a B2B sales process?

To answer this question, I researched a group of buyers across a wide range of vertical markets and job titles.

The group were asked if they had either a telephone conversation or a meeting with a company representative before placing orders on their last three purchases.

Just over 68% of buyers had some form of HI before making their purchasing decision.

But the figures are more revealing when we examine the size of the order. The average order value with HI is £68,032, but with no HI the order value drops to £1,018. This supports the theory that when it comes to high value/complex sales, buyers want to talk to someone on the phone or meet them in person to be reassured they are making the right decision.

Interestingly, 89% of new purchases required HI (even for order values as low as £146). So the benefit of HI in winning new business is clear, but it also has an impact on repeat orders.

58% of repeat purchases had HI, and the average order value of repeat orders with HI is £29,439; but without HI the repeat order value drops to £3,407.

The whirlwind advance of digital marketing has resulted in a stampede as Marketing Managers race to ‘land grab’ their part of the digital space.

In the frenzy we may have lost sight of one enduring fact… buyers are people; always have been, always will be.

Can our marketing truly connect with buyers if we treat them as just ‘data’ and a ‘digital footprint’?

It’s still a multi-channel world, and successful campaigns require a mix of the most appropriate and effective tools. But ‘variety’ is sometimes missing from many B2B campaigns as Marketing Managers perhaps rely on digital to provide all their solutions.

Digital captures 38% of the average B2B marketing budget, while telemarketing was allocated just 2%**.

According to further research I conducted, Marketing Managers believe the top 3 most effective channels were Email, Events and Telemarketing. Could a campaign using all three prove to be a winning formula that delivers lasting value on a variety of levels? Check my blog post ‘Discover the multi-channel dream team; events, email and telemarketing‘.

* Source: WARC, 2013. ** Source: B2B Barometer, 2014

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