The B2B SaaS Marketing Blog

    How To Build An Effective B2B Enterprise SaaS Marketing Strategy For Extended Buying Cycles


    Last updated: February 16th, 2024

    B2B Enterprise SaaS marketers can often feel pressure to justify their day-to-day activities and investments when an MQL may be months or quarters away from becoming an SQL, and a closed won deal is even further away on the horizon.

    For mission-critical enterprise B2B software serving the largest organizations in the world, the buying cycle can sometimes take years between the moment a stakeholder on a prospective customer’s team becomes aware that they need to make a change to when they sign up with you.

    Yet the factors that cause longer buying cycles for B2B enterprise SaaS solutions are often out of the marketing team’s control. For example, some companies only issue RFPs on a three or five year basis, so you won’t be able to engage with buying committees until they’re ready to issue that RFP.

    In addition, the key stakeholders on your prospective customer’s team are spread across functional areas and each have individual needs to be met and your marketing needs to speak to each of their unique pain points and desires. Some stakeholders will be solely focused on ROI or reducing expenses while others may be more concerned about ease of use and switching costs.

    Marketing teams often receive undue scrutiny from finance and leadership stakeholders when it takes so long for pipeline to turn into realized revenue, making it almost too easy for the marketing budget to be frozen or reduced for short term savings.

    Therefore, you need a strong argument to show the long term impact of short term thinking.

    In this post, we’ll discuss how you can make your marketing strategy more effective to achieve better results, protect your marketing budget and give the finance team confidence in your investment decisions.

    Do you need help with accelerating your B2B enterprise SaaS marketing strategy? Reach out today to get your Free Marketing Plan.

    How To Make Your Marketing More Effective During Long Buying Cycles

    Feeling pressure from executives to close more deals quickly, marketers often turn to bottom of the funnel marketing campaigns to capture and close prospects who are ready to buy.

    However, there is a careful nuance with this approach especially for enterprise prospects.

    Bottom of the funnel marketing channels tend to be the most expensive. As a result, focusing exclusively on the bottom of the funnel marketing campaigns can make your marketing less effective and less efficient. It must be dialed in to truly reach those prospects that are in fact ready to buy from you specifically.

    If your bottom-funnel marketing is trying to reach a prospect that has never heard of your solution previously, it’s much harder to insert yourself into their consideration once they’ve already reached the later stages of their buying journey.

    At this point, if they’re ready to buy then they have already convinced internal stakeholders of other competing solutions that everyone has had plenty of time to evaluate.

    If they haven’t heard of you, at best you encourage them to reconsider their options and avoid buying any solution right now. However, they’re not going to immediately pivot and draw up a purchase order for your SaaS.

    So instead of attempting to shortcut the buying journey by exclusively focusing on bottom-funnel campaigns, your marketing budget may be more effectively spent nurturing, and ultimately converting, prospects that already know, like, and trust you.

    The real opportunity to improve the ROI of your marketing strategy is addressing the full buying cycle rather than just the bottom of the funnel.

    Improving each step of the buying cycle will help you speed up the sales cycle as you’ll move prospects from one stage to the next in less time, and you’ll retain and ultimately convert more of the customers you capture at the beginning of the buyer journey.

    As a result, you’ll see lower customer acquisition costs and ultimately improve the root challenge of lengthening buyer journeys.

    Engaging Your Ideal Customer At Every Stage Of The Buying Journey

    Following the Buyer Awareness Matrix, there are 4 key levels of awareness in the buying journey where your marketing needs to meet the exact needs and pain points of your target customer for them to successfully navigate down the funnel.

    • Problem Unaware: Audiences who aren’t aware they even have the problem your product solves.
    • Problem Aware: Audiences who know they have a problem but aren’t yet aware of solutions.
    • Solution Aware: Audiences who are problem aware and also know there are solutions that exist (and may be actively looking for one).
    • Product Aware: Audiences who are problem and solution aware, and who are also aware of your product as a solution (potentially wanting to evaluate it).

    For an enterprise solution, each of these stages is almost a mini-journey in itself. It may take months or years for a stakeholder to understand that they have a real problem with their existing solution and then countless meetings to convince others that the problem is worth solving.

    Related: Boosting B2B SaaS Marketing Results With Hypothesis Logs

    For your enterprise SaaS to have the highest probability of being the winning choice when it comes for your prospective customer to buy, your best bet is to design your marketing program to reach each stage of buyer awareness and effortlessly guide your prospect from one to the next.

    What happens if you aren’t marketing to one of these stages of awareness?

    • If you aren’t marketing to Problem Unaware prospects: You’re missing out on an opportunity to build the initial relationship at a fraction of the cost. This is often the most cost effective stage of the buying journey as potential customers are at the top of the funnel. They’re not ready to buy and that’s to be expected, so you’ll often see competitors being much less aggressive here compared to high intent channels.
    • If you aren’t marketing to Problem Aware prospects: Your competitors will build higher brand consideration than your SaaS as prospects will discover, engage, and anchor with their content to learn more about their pain points and potential solutions. You’ll miss out on share of voice, which can be very expensive to conquest for in latter stages of the journey.
    • If you aren’t marketing to Product Aware prospects: You won’t be on your prospect’s shortlist of potential solutions. Even if your product is vastly stronger than competitors, if you’re the ‘best kept secret in town’ then your product isn’t part of the upcoming buying conversations.
    • If you aren’t marketing to Solution Aware prospects: You’ll slip out of mind when it’s time for your prospect to trigger the buying decision. Especially when the buying decision is complex, your ideal prospect needs to regularly be reminded of your product’s value and how you are the best choice among the competition. Sales enablement content, nurture emails, and remarketing are key.

    Solution: Build An Effective Demand Generation Flywheel

    Most marketing teams run individual marketing campaigns, yet they rarely work together to serve the prospect at each step of the buyer journey.

    For example, you might have an SEO-driven blog post that addresses a specific pain point, but where do you send that reader next? If it’s just a CTA to schedule a demo, yet they aren’t ready for a demo just yet, you’ll simply lose that lead.

    A more effective solution is to build a holistic demand generation program that addresses the entire buying cycle. With this approach, each marketing campaign is designed to serve a specific purpose within the broader customer journey.

    As a result, you’ll close the gaps in the customer journey, which will help you move customers through the funnel in less time.

    In addition, serving customers at each step of the buying cycle prevents them from turning to a competitor for an answer to a question. So you’ll see lower acquisition costs as you won’t have to remarket to those customers to bring them back to your brand, and you’ll have better lead retention rates.

    Here’s an overview of how to build a demand generation program that attracts, retains, and converts leads at a lower cost.

    This is the exact demand generation strategy we execute for clients, so if you’d rather have a team of seasoned experts implement this proven process for you, reach out to our team today.

    Step 1: Align Buyer Personas

    Many buyer personas only address one person or a few people involved in the purchase.

    However, there are often many people involved in the purchase decision for enterprise products, and the critical people who first discover the product may not be part of the buying committee that ultimately signs the check.

    Each of these people have slightly different pain points and objectives, so understanding who we’re talking to at each stage of the buying cycle is essential for crafting accurate messaging – from the person who initially discovers your brand to the final check signer.

    Another key mistake many marketers make is assuming they know how buyers move through the journey and then constructing a funnel based on those assumptions. Yet if that assumption is inaccurate, buyers won’t conform to the funnel you’ve constructed. They’ll simply leave and go to a competitor for the information they want.

    to protect against this, we’ll use our client’s customer insights to understand how they moved through the buying process, and why they chose your brand over other competitors.

    This information is the foundation we use to begin mapping out the buyer journey, and it informs how we craft messaging for each step of the process. This data is also critical to setting up account based marketing campaigns, which are highly effective for enterprise sales.

    And of course, competitive analysis is critical to understand what’s working for your competitors and use that data to inform the best marketing channels to reach our target audience.

    Step 2: Attract The Right-Fit Visitors And Nurture MQLs

    Now that you know who you’re targeting, how they experience the buying process, and their pain points, the next step is to build a holistic demand generation program to attract and nurture marketing qualified leads.

    To attract MQLs, you can use a combination of SEO, PPC, and content. Below is a breakdown of how you can strategically position each channel within the buyer journey.


    Google ads is primarily a bottom of funnel marketing campaign, so be strategic with your media spend to target prospective customers that already know, like, and trust you and are ready to buy.

    It’s still important to show up in the search results, as there likely are still solution aware potential customers searching for your solution, and you don’t want to be surpassed by your competitors.

    To reach every stage of the buying journey, allocate budget to paid social campaigns on channels where your ideal customer is most active. For example, it’s highly likely that the enterprise stakeholders you want to reach are on LinkedIn (but not a guarantee so validate first!). Social channels keep your brand top of mind and help you lead prospects from one stage in the buyer cycle to the next.

    You can also use account based marketing campaigns to target specific members of the buying committee with appropriate messaging.

    Another way to use your paid media more effectively is to remarket to prospects who have already visited your website or interacted with specific content.

    Remarketing also makes your other marketing channels more effective because it helps you retain a larger percentage of the audience you attracted.

    SEO & Content Marketing

    SEO and content marketing are great opportunities to improve the robustness of your buying cycle, because your efforts will compound over time.

    The first step is to map out the buyer journey and then create content to answer questions and objections at each stage of the buyer process.

    Creating relevant content can strengthen the buyer journey and help you retain a larger percentage of marketing qualified leads as prospects can quickly get the answers they need to proceed.

    We use the buyer awareness matrix to create a content strategy, as it outlines the different types of content that are relevant at different stages of the buyer journey.

    buyer awareness

    At the first level of the buyer awareness matrix (problem unaware), the content is largely educational and consists of content like blog posts and quizzes. As you move further up the buyer awareness matrix, you can offer lead magnets like checklists and templates where you can ask for an email address in exchange for the content.

    This is essential for retaining prospects with an effective nurture email campaign and remarketing to them later on.

    After creating a content roadmap, we first tackle low hanging fruit by updating old content that is relevant to the buyer journey, yet has declined in the rankings. Then, we create new content to fill in the rest of the buyer journey.

    Content marketing makes your brand omnipresent and it improves the efficacy of your other marketing channels by answering objections so that prospects move seamlessly through the buyer journey.

    Another benefit of content marketing is that, unlike paid media, it will continue to generate an ROI months after publishing. Therefore, content marketing is also a great long term investment that can help you reduce future marketing costs and shorten your buyer cycle.

    Nurture Emails

    Your marketing costs will decrease if you convert a higher percentage of the audience you attract through PPC, SEO, and content marketing campaigns, and an easy way to convert a higher percentage of that audience at minimal additional cost is to engage them through email.

    To improve the conversion rates of your nurture emails, segment your audience and only send content relevant to the subject the prospect was researching when they provided their email address.

    For example, if one of our prospects provided their email address to download a checklist about reducing PPC costs, an appropriate nurture sequence to send them would be related to improving the ROI of PPC campaigns.

    The most important part of this stage in the process is to focus on nurturing MQLs through the buyer journey so that it’s easier for them to become SQLs when the time is right.

    Even if right now is not the right time for prospects to convert, it’s important to keep your brand top of mind so that you’re the first solution prospects consider when they’re ready to buy.

    If you wait until the latter stages, such as when an RFP is issued to develop a relationship with prospects, your brand may not have enough time to earn their trust and show the value of your product. This will hurt your conversion rates and ultimately increase marketing costs.

    Doubling down on bottom of the funnel channels to capture and convert prospects at the end of their buying journey seems like a logical solution to shorten the buying. Yet this plan usually increases marketing costs as prospects at the end of their journey are more likely to select a competitor that’s already built a relationship with them earlier in the funnel.

    As a result, your marketing dollars will generate a lower return than if you put them towards developing meaningful relationships with prospects earlier in the buyer journey.

    How To Take The Next Steps To Improve Your B2B Enterprise SaaS Marketing Strategy

    Once your team and stakeholders are on the same page, create a marketing strategy that focuses on long-term growth.

    Adjust your KPIs from closing more sales to moving prospects to the next stage of the buying journey.

    For example, look at the buying cycle from the past several sales you’ve closed and analyze how long each of those prospects spent at each stage in the buying cycle.

    Then, shift your goal to getting more visitors to turn into MQLs or more MQLs to turn into SQLs. The sales will come when the buyers are ready, but you can’t expect to transform the buyer journey from years into a matter of weeks or months.

    To strengthen your case, ask the sales team for data on SQL to closed-won percentages and then calculate the total revenue generated.

    Then you can work backward and put a dollar value to your MQLs, which can help you win buy-in.

    For example, let’s say you get about 30 MQLs per month and about three of them turn into sales (10% of MQLs became closed deals).

    If you want to turn those three SQLs into five SQLs, you’ll need to generate 50 MQLs per month.

    Finally, zoom out and consider the long-term ROI of a closed deal.

    For example, if you know that a closed deal is worth $1 million and the average client stays with your company for five years, then the real LTV of a closed deal could be $5 million. Therefore, it might make sense to spend a little more on marketing to earn even just one additional closed deal.

    This is an important concept to communicate to your finance team and stakeholders.

    Accelerate Your Demand Generation Strategy Now

    The longer you wait to get started on your demand generation strategy, the harder it will be to achieve your goals.

    If you want some help kickstarting your demand generation strategy, reach out to our team today for your Free Marketing Plan. We can analyze your current strategy, identify the low hanging fruit and help you craft a realistic marketing plan that will enable you to reach your goals.

    What you should do now

    Whenever you’re ready…here are 4 ways we can help you grow your B2B software or technology business:

    1. Claim your Free Marketing Plan. If you’d like to work with us to turn your website into your best demo and trial acquisition platform, claim your FREE Marketing Plan. One of our growth experts will understand your current demand generation situation, and then suggest practical digital marketing strategies to hit your pipeline targets with certainty and predictability.
    2. If you’d like to learn the exact demand strategies we use for free, go to our blog or visit our resources section, where you can download guides, calculators, and templates we use for our most successful clients.
    3. If you’d like to work with other experts on our team or learn why we have off the charts team member satisfaction score, then see our Careers page.
    4. If you know another marketer who’d enjoy reading this page, share it with them via email, Linkedin, Twitter, or Facebook.