Typically starts twelve to eighteen months before the actual purchase. This phase is all about information collection and getting acquainted with the software ecosystem. The search behaviour at this stage is mainly generic. i.e. prospective customers search for generic terms like ‘Asset Management Software’ or ‘Asset Management Software for SMBs’.
The search rate and search objectives are very wide and users look for information that relates to their situation. At this stage, any relevant quality content – a great article, a clear and well-thought-out product video, a series of good tweets, LinkedIn articles etc play a vital role in initiating an online relationship with your prospective customers.
Vendor websites, industry forums, social media websites, review websites—the complete online ecosystem is scanned by those businesses looking for asset management. According to Google’s The Changing Face of B2B Marketing Report, a business user will do twelve searches on average before visiting a specific brand/website. This means that software vendors who maintain a quality presence across the complete online ecosystem gain an advantage in building online relationships.
The awareness phase varies by the user type—an executive or C-Level decision maker will look at the overall offering (company strengths, product strengths, and success stories from similar industries), whereas an end-user may look at details like how the software covers inventory management, asset tracking or asset performance reports. For software vendors, this means maintaining quality information for different types of audiences.
Data from Comparesoft suggests that businesses spend a significant amount of time during the awareness stage. One great example we have is The Guinness Partnership who used Comparesoft to shortlist and compare asset management options in November 2015 and put out an open tender for asset management software in March 2016. That is five months in the awareness stage.
This is where the actual vendor contact begins. The search behaviour here is more focussed, so businesses look for software by industry type or with particular features. Vendor contacts typically happen via online channels – a ‘contact us’ form, chat or emails.
Users look to validate their online research experience via offline/online touchpoints. Communication frequency and quality are critical to building strong relationships with prospective customers.
Asset Management vendors can utilise social media tools to understand their prospective customer’s needs and intentions. For example, a LinkedIn profile can provide a comprehensive insight into the contact who has made an enquiry—elements like the contact’s tenure in his current role and previous experience in a similar role provide a lot of qualitative information.
The Twitter feed of your prospective customer can provide an insight on how they market themselves and if there are any common chords that can be used to provide a better experience.
At this stage, businesses are looking at five to seven options with a view to shortlisting the most relevant suppliers. Hence it is critical to maintaining requirements relevancy in all your communications—emails, calls, online meetings and offline meetings.
Using relevant case studies and testimonials at every touchpoint typically tends to add a lot of confidence in your offering. Typically this stage is managed by Inside Sales Organisation from vendor organisations.
The intent phase is where the search behaviour is very specific; users typically take up brand search in this phase. This phase can also be termed as the validation stage—your prospective customers are mainly looking to get continued confidence in your asset management software solution.
In this phase as per Google’s Customer Journey Tool, social media, generic paid search, referrals, organic search, email and brand paid search plays a critical role.
During the intent stage, prospective customers look at details surrounding their shortlisted software options, i.e. they will closely look at the company, product and software implementation.
Quite often during the intent stage, requirements change. As a result, prospective customers may revert back to the awareness stage.
During this stage it is important to ensure that requirements are clearly defined and agreed upon—this in itself can differentiate your position from your competitors.
At this stage, typically the shortlist includes two or three vendors. Decision-makers from your prospective customer’s organisation start to get involved and this is a sign that you are entering the purchase/final stages of the intent stage.
4. Purchase or Procurement
Reference checks, final demo meetings, implementation agreements, pricing and payment schedule alignment are the final steps before the purchase.
Customers look forward to post-sale activities from this stage.