The goal of any piece of brand communication is to prompt an action on the part of the audience. But in the complex world of B2B, the best Call to Action (CTA) for your content is unlikely to result in an immediate purchase.
With long sales cycles, large buyer groups and expensive price tags, B2B purchasing decisions are highly considered and may take many months. This is very different from B2C, where the key stages of the buyer journey – awareness, interest and action – are usually compressed into a short amount of time, and the choice is made by a single individual rather than a large group.
Why your Call to Action should reflect a different journey in B2B
In the world of B2B, your audience is spread out across different stages of their interaction with your brand. The funnel is much more elongated, and members of the buying group may loop back multiple times rather than following a linear, downwards journey. And your audience is usually not restricted to customers or prospects; you will typically be trying to reach a wider range of ‘influencers’, too. This can make the marketing funnel an unsatisfactory framework to use when thinking about calls to action in a B2B context.
When it comes to choosing the right Call to Action for your content, it’s important to step back and consider the wider context. It might be better to think about audience journeys rather than customer journeys. When you think about the entire universe of your audience, they will be spread across different stages of engagement with you – all the way from those who know nothing about you and are not even aware they have a problem, through to those who are long-term customers and advocates of your business.
Below is an example of a buyer audience journey. Bear in mind that you may need different audience journeys for influencers or non-buyers.
Your content portfolio has to serve these different audience groups and provide opportunities for them to think differently and/or act differently at each stage, ultimately moving them along the audience journey from left to right.
Get them to think differently
This is all about changing how a segment of your audience perceives your brand. It may be their first interaction with you, so you might just want to make the audience aware of what you do and position yourselves as experts in your chosen topic.
Alternatively, perhaps you want to create an association between your brand and topic that primes the audience for a commercial conversation in the future. Or you may be looking to create a halo effect around your brand that creates an association outside the traditional commercial relationship – for example, by positioning your brand as having a strong focus on sustainability in your operations.
Get them to act differently – the real Call to Action
The action you can expect from a campaign will depend on where each segment of your audience is in relation to their understanding of what you do.
Segments of your audience that are at an earlier stage of the journey are unlikely to sign up for calls to action like ‘Click here for a free call’ or ‘Click here to hear more about our products’, because they are not ready to have a conversation with you. But they may want to sign up to a webinar to find out more about your areas of expertise. They might also sign up to a newsletter that keeps them informed about developments in their industry or role.
Calls to Action for each stage of the audience journey
For more on action triggers and behaviour models, download our latest ebook: Influence and impact.