New and emerging technologies are shaping the way that sales are done in the B2B world. Businesses are increasingly required to adapt their business models in a way that aligns with how buyers are looking to make purchases.
In this progressively competitive environment where the buyer holds all the power, businesses who don’t keep up will be left behind and slowly become redundant.
The buyer holds more power than the seller. As a business, it is therefore imperative to ‘bend the knee’ to the buyers’ will in order to be successful in B2B sales.
Either you do this or be left behind. Plain and simple.
This prompts the question - what are the desires of the buyer in the digital age? Well, to answer this question, we should first look at some statistics that will help us define buyer behaviour:
- Almost 70% of B2B customers prefer to do their own research on solutions rather than be told about it by a sales representative.
- Buyers are 42% more likely to accept a calls-to-action if it is personalized.
- 62% of B2B customers say they develop their own vendor lists solely based on digital content.
- B2B buyers are 57% of the way through the decision-making process before even speaking with a sales representative about a potential purchase.
- 60% of buyers prefer to not speak to a sales representative.
- 47% of buyers viewed 3-5 pieces of content before engaging with a sales representative.
And perhaps one of the most important statistics:
- 95% of buyers make a purchase when there is good content to allow them to navigate themselves through each stage of the buying process.
Some of these statistics are illustrated in Image 1 (later in the blog) to show which stages of the sales funnel they apply to.
These statistics are indicative a number of buyer characteristics, namely:
- Buyers are informed and can gather any and all information they want about your product and other solutions at the click of a mouse.
- Buyers absolutely do not want to feel like they are being sold to, but rather want to engage in a conversation.
- Buyers expect personalized content.
Perhaps most important, however, is that:
Buyers are independent and are more likely to be pushed down the sales funnel through personalized content rather than by a sales representative.
From there, we can rightfully infer that the buyer in the digital age is looking for a “customer journey.” How can we influence this customer journey? Content, my friends.
The content that you provide the buyer is how you will be able to influence and bend the path that the buyer navigates, to gently lead them to the bottom of your sales funnel (and not someone else's!)
Content is how the seller, in the digital age, regains their control of the sales process, however not just any content will do! You have to be smart about it!
Now, you might be asking “what type of content are buyers looking for?” Or maybe you’re thinking “how do I know what content will push them down the funnel and not away from it?”
Well, this is where A/B testing comes in.
What is A/B testing?
A/B testing will make sure that your business is creating and sharing content that resonates with your target marketing and is the most effective that it can be. Knowing what content to share, with whom you share it with, and when you chose to share it will push those buyers down your funnel so quickly, you won’t even have time to say “CLOSE!”
A/B testing is a way to compare two different version of content to see which one performs better. This is done by providing two variants of your content to a similar audience; after analyzing the results, you will be able to determine which content performed best.
A/B testing can help you determine which of your prospects’ pain points are best to address and what value proposition resonates best with your audience. It will also provide you with excellent insights on the type of customer journey that a particular prospect pool is looking for.
A/B testing can be, and should be, done on all types of content.
The A/B testing process
The A/B testing process generally follows the same guidelines regardless of what content is being tested. The framework to conduct A/B testing is as follows:
- Identify the content. The first step of the A/B testing process is simply identifying what it is that you want to test. It could be your subject line in your outbound email sequences, the messaging in your banner ads, your landing page format to encourage call-to-action, or where your testimonials are situated on your webpage.
- Hypothesize variations. Once you have identified what it is that you want to test, you need to determine the set of assumptions that you want to test. These assumptions should be based on existing data or research that may indicate more favourable variations that you could try out. For example, maybe studies show that the call-to-action is more effective on the left side of your webpage, or maybe you want to try out a different approach to a personalized outbound email sequence.
- Identify and change variables. This is where you put your variations to the test. Obviously the testing will be done differently depending on what you are testing. For example, if you are testing different types of messaging in your outbound emails, you will be sending 50/50 to a similar audience. If you are testing for the most effective landing page, visitors to your site will be randomly assigned to one of the variations, where their experiences are measured and quantified.
- Analyze Results. The last step involved in your testing process is to measure your results. For some tests, there will be a very clear winner, and for others, you might have somewhat similar results. Either way, you will be able to eliminate the variation that underperformed, allowing you to gain a better understanding of what variables are most effective.
Types of Content to Test
As mentioned, really any type of content can, and should be A/B tested. Broadly speaking, content can fall under one of three categories:
A/B testing will help you narrow down on the type of customer journey that your buyers are looking for. It will help you answer the question, “what content will provide my prospects with the best journey possible?”
Image 1 below illustrates the four stages of the sales funnel. In each stage, you can see the type of content that is most useful in guiding your prospect to the next stage in the funnel.
While all of the content illustrated in the image above can be used and applied to every stage of the funnel, this is just a guideline. Essentially, the deeper your prospect is in your funnel, the more detailed and comprehensive you want the content to be.
Let’s take a look at the these three categories and discuss how you can apply A/B testing to optimize your results.
This section will specifically discuss the importance of A/B testing in outbound email campaigns, since this is the most effective way to reach buyers in the B2B world. Gone are the days of cold calling; I mean, when was the last time you answered your phone to an unknown number? My point exactly!
When looking to A/B test your outbound email campaign, the first thing you need to do is determine how to measure success. What will be the defining factor that will crown variant A or B as the winner?
In outbound email testing, there are three possible ways measure success:
- The open rate: Which email variation was opened more?
- The response rate: Which email variation got more people to reply?
- Click rate: Which email variation was more effective at getting people to click on the linked content (if applicable)?
Once you have determined what success looks like to you, it is time to start creating different variants of your emails.
Here is a list of email variables that you could test:
Email Test #1: Subject line
The subject line is a good place to start with your A/B testing, because this is the first text that your recipients will see. Having a good subject line directly impacts your open rates.
Email Test #2: Time/ day sent
You could A/B test sending your copies at different times of day, to see which time your recipients are most likely to open or respond. Further, this could also be tested on which day of the week you chose to send your emails. It may be the case that more people will respond to your emails on a Monday, rather than a Friday.
Email Test #3: Levels of personalization
Personalizing your outbound emails is key to a high response rate (see my blog on the Importance of Personalization in B2B Today), however there are a ton of different ways to personalize an email. While it is definitely best practice to personalize with the recipients job title and company, try different variants of personalization within the first line of the email to see which one gets better results.
Email Test #4: Length of email
Would a longer or shorter email work better? You might not know until you test it. Try taking one of your emails and condensing it to make it much shorter, and see if this has an impact on your response rate.
Email Test #5: Position of links
If you are going to be sharing links in your email, test out their positioning. You could also try to putting the link on a separate line, bolded or non-bolded, or maybe you have the link embedded in a “click here” type context. Try it all out to see what works best!
Email Test #6: Pain point
You should know your customers most common pain points. Your customers pain points should be addresses or acknowledged at some point in your email. How you address it, or where in the email you address it, is up for testing.
Email Test #7: Value proposition
This, along with personalization, is one of the most important factors contributing to a high response rate. You need to show the prospect what you offer and how it can help them solve their problem. In the email copy, the value proposition usually falls just after you discuss the pain points. There are surely multiple value propositions that you could mention, and different ways to introduce them. Try different methods and see which email copy gets you the most responses.
Email Test #8: Call to action
The way you structure your call to action can have an impact on the response rate, since this is where you prompt the recipient to take action. Try different methods of prompting them to action, or different ways of asking them to speak with you. You could try proposing a specific day or time to speak with them, or maybe propose a meeting. This is what A/B testing is for!
Iterating on your A/B messaging will allow you to narrow-down on what works best with your target, and how to ensure that your campaigns are performing their best.
Since we know that prospects are guided through the sales funnel by content, you want to make sure that people are actually viewing your content. The best way to do this is through A/B testing.
The way that users navigate your website needs to be tested, since the way that you present information has an impact on visitor behaviour.
The most impactful content to guide your prospects, as outlined in Image 1, are as follows:
- Blog posts
- White papers
- Case Studies
You want to make sure that your website does a good job at leading your prospects to view this content. Variables that you can A/B test on your website include, but are not limited to:
Website Test #1: Headlines
The headline that you use on your website is likely one of the first things that a viewer will see, so you need to make sure it is impactful. Your headline should be a short and sweet summary of what your company does, or the problem that you solve. For example, take a look at Ubico’s headline - “Smart Prospecting for Better Customer Targeting.” Short, sweet and to the point. You will definitely want to A/B test the headline to make sure it resonates well with your viewers.
Website Test #2: Font and colour
The font and colour has a huge impact on the viewer’s perception of your website, and if these elements are not on point, you might find that your viewers don’t stick around too long. Remember, the goal is to get them to stay on your page and navigate your content. You want them to view your testimonials, case studies and white papers, but they will only be lead to view these pieces of content if they stay on your site!
Website Test #3: Calls to action
This is one of the most important aspects of your website to test because the call to action prompts are what convinces and leads your viewers to your written content; the content that statistically will lead your prospects to the bottom of the sales funnel.
There are definitely many different ways you can structure the call to action on your website, and there should certainly be more than one on your page. For example, maybe you have some information, and have a “learn more,” button, or maybe you also have a “download white paper” option. The wording, the positioning and the colouring are all something that you want to test.
Website Test #4: Placement of testimonials
Testimonials are important because they show your prospects “social proof” that your company is reputable and can deliver. Where you place these testimonials on your webpage should be tested to see where they are the most effective.
Website Test #5: Images and Photos
The way you incorporate images or photos on your website and where you chose to display them, have a huge impact on user behaviour. Images are a good way to tie together your website; you don’t want too much text, and want to fill in the blanks with good images to get your point across. It is important to test out different variations of imaging, as well as where they are positioned on your website.
Through messaging and layout iteration on your website, you will be able to collect data and information on visitor behaviour. From here, you will be able to streamline your customer journey to optimize their time on your site through encouraging them to reach the content you want them to read.
A/B testing is an essential part of effective advertisements. When looking to launch online ads, it is important to A/B test the designs and messaging. This will help you determine which ad is the most effective.
You can measure the effectiveness of your ads though the click rate; which ad got more clicks?
As best practice, when a viewer clicks on your ad, they should be taken to a landing page. A landing page is different than your website because it focuses on the content in the ad that encouraged the click. Further, the landing page does not have multiple links or tabs, like your website, but rather directly leads the viewer to take action.
There are multiple variants that you may want to test when it comes to your advertisements.
Ad Test #1: Images.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. To viewers of an ad, this is true. Images play a huge role in online ads because they encourage engagement. You should test different variants of an image, including the colouring and placement on the ad.
Ad Test #2: Call to action.
As usual, the call to action is always something that should be tested, regardless of whether it is on your ad, in an email, or on your website. You could test the impact that colour might have on the call to action button, or the type of message, such as “learn more,” versus, “sign up.”
Ad Test #3: Audience.
Different audiences will have a unique view of the type of customer journey that they are looking for. You want to make this journey as personalized as possible and make sure that your ads reflect this. Try uploading a custom audience for you ads, and then test out different messaging for each audience type.
Ad Test #4: Placement.
Where is your ad placed on a webpage? There are multiple places where you can put your ad on a social media site, or a webpage. You should test out each of these positions and see which one does the best.
Ad Test #5: Messaging.
The messaging that you use in your ads definitely needs to be tested. To determine which type of messaging you should test, you could take a look at what email copy was most successful in your outbound campaign, and test that value prop messaging in your ads.
By now, you should know what A/B testing is, why it’s important and what content to test. You should be testing constantly in order to optimize your content and provide your customers with the journey they are looking for.
Good luck, and happy testing!