The online opportunity for scaling up in the global bioeconomy

Canada’s Scaling Up in the Global Bioeconomy 2018 conference last month saw over 200 organisations gather to hear the very latest economics, innovation and entrepreneurialism that will drive the country’s bioeconomy.  In the absence of a political environment that robustly supports this sector in Canada, the small and medium sized enterprises very much rely on their own commercial capabilities and entrepreneurial spirit to launch and scale the innovations we need to reduce carbon emissions and waste.

So, for those that are in the business of influencing another organisation to adopt a major new process or technology, it’s probably relevant to know that up to 70% of that organisation’s decision-making process will be carried out online – before engaging with any suppliers or potential partners.

businesses educate themselves online before adopting new solutions

When an organisation faces or anticipates a problem that requires a change in practice, the decision makers do what any human being would do – they Google it. They are nowhere near searching for suppliers, that comes much later on.  This earlier, dominant part of the process is to educate the business on the problem and gain insight into the different ways in which it could be approached. And organisations don’t just use search engines; 75% of decision makers use their LinkedIn network and 41% use Twitter to find the very latest industry insights. 

The point of gaining all this knowledge is to be in control of the buying process; it’s so the decision makers can come up with their own list of criteria bespoke to their specific circumstances against which suppliers can be shortlisted or eliminated.  And this is the part that has changed B2B marketing so dramatically.  Today, the customer is very much in control and suppliers need to adapt their marketing and sales approach.  Even if there are a limited number of players in the market and potential partners are already known to you, they will still form opinions about your company from your online presence.

The opportunity to engage earlier and build your thought leadership

When we map out this new process you can start to see the opportunity.  Because even though there is all this consumption of information and appetite for insight, the vast majority of suppliers don’t enter the process until the later shortlisting stage.  Here, they rely on their company name being remembered from a previous event or introduction or appearing on the first page of the right Google search.  They also rely on the generic information on their website matching the reader’s criteria.  They will only know this has worked if the customer makes the effort to call them.  And here’s the really scary thing: those companies that are eliminated at this stage will be none the wiser.  They’ll probably never know they were in the running and who they were in the running with.

So, here’s the opportunity: you can engage much earlier in the process than you could previously and you can do this in a way that adds value to the customer and builds your thought leadership in the field – but only if you do it right.  Because you are entering their space here and there is no room for selling.

Start with understanding the customer

The key to getting it right is to put yourself firmly in the shoes of two or three specific customer groups. Identify the most common circumstances and the problems that are becoming so painful they have prioritised finding a solution.  Categorising people by their problems and circumstances rather than their job title or company size is key to successfully engaging online.  Because it is always a human being at the other end and the more human you can be with your marketing, the more impact it is going to have amongst all the other information and social posts out there.

Be generous with your knowledge

Publish your insights, experiences at events, scientific perspectives and the most relevant news that might help solve these problems on your website and social media platforms.  Create new content and share insights from others.  This is not about selling; this about sharing the most useful information in the fields surrounding your technology or service and helping as many people in the target groups as possible.  This will increase the top of your marketing and sales funnel so that, by the time conversion rates are applied, you’ll have more leads and prospects to nurture face to face.  Keep posting and sharing on social media and actively build your connections every day so that more people can benefit from your knowledge and experiences.

The opportunity for small and mediums sized enterprises

The great thing about serving your customers like that is the search engine and social media platforms will reward you for it.  They want to provide the most useful and highest quality insights from the most credible sources and they are getting very sophisticated at recognising and prioritising great content. This is why smaller organisations with huge amounts of technical knowledge to share can punch well above their weight online.

However, Google only checks your website for new content and where it should rank only once every 3 or 4 months and there is no fast track way to build a social media following.  So, that, along with the fact that your customer’s decision-making process can take months it means it is never too early to start building your online presence.

Thank you to Jeff Passmore, founder of the Scaling Up conferences for inviting me to speak at this inspiring event.

You can read a bit more about marketing advice for business leaders here

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