Decision Stages

Understanding the decision stages B2B customers go through as they decide to buy from you and developing the content they are looking for at each stage is an essential B2B Marketing best practice.  Creating and sharing the information your customers want at each stage of their decision process will dramatically improve the findability, relevance, and ultimately the value of your content and increase qualified traffic, visitor engagement, and conversions.

Marketing Sherpa’s #1 lead generation best practice is: “IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT THEM (NOT YOU)“.  Understanding “What your customer wants to know” is how we apply that discipline.  But in order to understand what your customer wants to know, first you need to know more about your customer.

That idea leads us to Marketing Sherpa’s #2 lead generation best practice: “SEGMENT BY PROSPECT TYPE“.  We recommend starting with the natural segments in your audience.  For example, a C-level segment vs technical users.  While it is always helpful to have a formal segmentation analysis, our experience is that these segments can be roughly mapped out with learning from sales and other customer-facing teams. You can refine your segments over time with more robust analytics and data but a quick segmentation is a great place to start knowing more about your customer and what they want to know.

Let’s look at Marketing Sherpa’s #3 lead generation best practice: “CREATE CONTENT FOR EACH STAGE OF THE SALES CYCLE“.  This is all about optimizing the content assets you already have and identifying gaps you should fill.  At BrainRider we take this best practice one step further by mapping content against each stage of the decision process.

Here is a quick guide on how to map content for each stage.  First, model your pipeline by understanding the different stages a customer goes through when deciding to do business with you.  They key is to keep it simple while identifying meaningful differences in “what you customer wants to know”.  Here is the model we use as a strawman for our clients.

Key Decision Stages by Information Need

  1. Defining the problem: education and thought leadership
  2. Evaluate alternatives: solutions & product suitability
  3. Negotiate & commit: credentials and decision support

And at each stage of the decision process you need to target your content to address differences in what your customer wants to know

1. Defining requirements: education and thought leadership

  • They are casting a wide net and may or may not have an idea what the solution will be
  • The information seeking has a broad focus using more generic and high-level search terms and keywords
  • They may be seeing assistance with definition, scope, and internal buy-in.

2. Evaluate alternatives: solutions & product suitability

  • They are searching for available options that will meet their requirements
  • Keywords and search terms will be more specific and will start to reflect solution alternatives or categories
  • Their goal is developing a short-list of viable alternatives

3. Negotiate & commit: credentials and decision support

  • They have a solid understanding of how each alternative measures up and the decision maker is trying to get comfortable with committing to one of the decision alternatives
  • Keywords and search terms will be much more specific and will be focused on specific solutions
  • They are managing questions and building a case with various stakeholders

We then map specific differences in what each segment wants to know.  The chart below is the tool we use to simply map decision stages and content opportunities against existing, repurposed, and curated content.

B2B Decision Stages: Understanding what your customers want to know at each stage of their decision-making process from defining the problem to evaluating alternatives to negotiate and commit. Including: Trends & Statistics, News & Analyst coverage, Benchmarks, 101 Education, Need & Gap Assessments, Solution comparisons, Implementation plans, Product roadmaps, How to buy, Credentials, Real case-use studies, ROI/TCO, How to build their business case
Understanding what your customers want to know at each stage of their decision-making process

As always, we would love your input on how this planning compares to how you are marketing to your customers.  Let us know if you have any questions or would like to see real life examples of this tool in action.


8 thoughts on “Decision Stages

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention B2B Marketing: Understanding Decision Stages « BrainRider Blog --

  2. Great stuff. Another layer could be what marketing vehicles are best used for each stage (webinars for gathering information, etc.). Or to take it further what type of content (thought leadership for early in the sales cycle, case studies for gathering and evaluating, etc.

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