In B2B marketing it’s often said that “Content is king, but context is queen.”
In other words, while you might have great content, if it doesn’t get to the right person at the right time, it’s not likely to be very helpful in closing sales.
This is particularly relevant after you’ve attracted a prospect to your website and want to convert them into a lead and then nurture them toward a sale. For this content marketing-assisted sales approach to work effectively, however, the content needs to synch up with where the buyer is in their research or “buyer’s journey.”
General (USMC, Retired) James Mattis said, “The most important six inches on the battlefield is between your ears.” This can apply to content developed for your buyers. The more your content is able to address what’s going on in your buyers’ heads at the different stages of their journey, the more effective the content will be at helping to close sales.
The buyer’s journey is not the same thing as the sales funnel. A sales funnel, according to HubSpot is “a predictive analytics model used by businesses as a marketing or sales pipeline predictor and tracking mechanism.”
So while sales and marketing people might refer to where a prospect is in the funnel (top, middle, bottom), a buyer doesn’t think that way. Ever.
The buyer’s journey consists of three broad stages:
This is where a buyer is expressing the symptoms of a problem or an opportunity. The problem doesn’t have a name yet and they aren’t sure what their problem is. They probably need more educational research to get their arms around the problem.
An example would be a company owner with declining sales and a gnawing feeling that their company’s marketing efforts are not generating the number and quality of leads it once did. They might start to research things like “improving sales lead quality” or “modern lead generation methods.”
The type of information that is most helpful at this stage is vendor-neutral information that helps identify problems or symptoms. Examples would be analyst reports, research reports, eBooks, editorial content, educational content, etc.
What he doesn’t want at this point is lots of information about the company that is providing the content (e.g. pricing, testimonials, case studies, etc.). The prospect doesn’t even know what options exist to solve their problem and they probably don’t understand how the content producer could help. Slow down!
Once the buyer has given a name to their problem or opportunity, they then start to consider all the available approaches/methods to solving their problem (or opportunity).
An example for this business owner with declining sales might be to hire a marketing person, re-assign roles of existing staff, or outsource to a marketing agency or consultant.
Content that is most relevant to the buyer at this stage would help him weigh his options such as comparison white papers, expert guides, webinars, videos, etc.
The buyer has reached this stage when they have defined their solution strategy, method, or approach. They are starting to compile a list of available vendors and products within their solution strategy. Here, they will need supporting documentation, data, benchmarks or endorsements in order to make or recommend a final decision.
The right content for this stage includes vendor (or product) comparisons, case studies, trial download, a live demo, product literature, etc.
Tip: Before producing any marketing content, determine which of the three buyer journey stages it supports. That way you’ll be better able to determine if the content will work hard (and smart).
photo credit: DonkeyHotey via photopin cc // stages graphic: HubSpot