Are you overwhelmed with the complexity of creating B2B marketing content that generates leads? A focus on two things can help it all fall in place.
The way people buy has changed dramatically. Studies show that 60% of the B2B sales cycle is over before a prospect first talks to a salesperson (Corporate Executive Board). Most every other study pegs that percentage even higher.
Salespeople used to be the information gatekeeper. Product information was once not so easily accessible to buyers who wanted it - they had to call a seller to get it. That’s why buyers used to contact the seller early in the buying process.
Now the customer has the power to get nearly all the information they want before finally speaking to a sales person. This sea change in how customers buy is why sales and marketing is going through a dramatic, wrenching transformation.
As marketing continues to evolve, the most successful marketers are keenly aware that the core restraints of marketing have shifted from space to attention.
For ages, marketing was constrained by space limitations (i.e. ad size, commercial length, trade show booth size, etc.). This space was normally rented from a gatekeeper who could control access and exposure. Or in the case of media relations, an editor had to be pitched (or begged) to gain exposure.
Because of the Internet, space is now almost limitless. Web pages can be added with minimal incremental cost. Video and podcast lengths can be as long as necessary. Companies can communicate directly with their audiences.
With unconstrained space, marketers now must fight for attention. To get attention, marketers need remarkable content to move their prospects through the traditional steps of awareness, interest, desire and action
Rebecca Lieb from Altimeter Group sums up the relationship of content to modern marketing: "Content is the atomic particle of all digital marketing."
For successful lead generation content, here’s what marketers need to keep in mind: Remarkable Content Is Solution, Not Product Based.
Just like at a cocktail party, if you only talk about yourself, others won’t find you very interesting. Companies who talk only about themselves and their products are largely ignored.
Instead, focus on the problems your prospects are facing and how you can help them. Pay attention to their core pain and how they feel. What is making it hard for them to do their jobs?
B2B Content Marketing: Easier Said Than Done?
According to the B2B Marketing Benchmarks Study by Content Management Institute and MarketingProfs, while 93% of B2B marketers use content only 42% say they’re effective at it.
While 93% of B2B marketers use content marketing...
...only 42% of B2B marketers say they are effective at content marketing.
For effective B2B content marketing that generates quality leads, there are a growing number of moving parts to master. So how do you get a handle on it? With a focus on the two things that matter most. The things that make everything else fall into place. The linchpins.
The two things you must nail for successful lead generation content are 1) deep insights into your buyer persona and 2) an understanding of the buyer’s journey. If you master most aspects of B2B content marketing but miss the mark on these two, you will be much less successful.
Alternatively, if you master these two aspects and screw up some others, you’ll still have a fighting chance at attracting more traffic to your site, converting visitors into leads and nurturing those leads into sales and happy customers.
1. Buyer Persona
Buyer personas are semi-fictional representations of your ideal customer based on real data and some select educated speculation about customer demographics, behavior patterns, motivations, and goals.
A focus on the buyer persona is the basis for all successful content marketing. You cannot create effective content without a deep understanding of your buyer persona.
Here are some questions about buyer personas to help guide your initial discovery:
One of the most important things to do in buyer persona research is to interview your ideal customers. Make sure to include people who are not your current customers. And if you can interview people who decided not to buy from you, the insights gained can be even richer.
- Who is your ideal customer? (It might not even be your current customer.)
- What problems does she face at her job?
- What questions are your sales and customer service people getting? This can provide insights into what’s keeping your buyer persona up at night.
- Who does your buyer persona report to at work?
- What function do they have at their job?
- How much budget control do they have?
- Who else is involved in purchase decisions for products like yours?
2. The Buyer’s Journey
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.”
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 exploiting their opportunity).
An example for this business owner with declining sales might be to hire a marketing person, reassign roles of existing staff, or outsource to a marketing agency
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.
Creating B2B content in a world where your prospect’s attention is scarce is complicated and seemingly impossible. However, armed with keen insights into your buyer persona and their buying journey, you’ll be surprised at how effective your lead generation efforts can be.
photo credit: HikingArtist.com via photopin cc // graphics credit: HubSpot, Corporate Executive Board, Content Marketing Institute