So when it comes to growing your business, there’s no reason a similar approach can’t help you.
And the way to grow your business is by selling a lot of something. Sales can really take off when you have the ability to generate your own, quality leads.
But generating leads has changed quite a bit in recent years because the way people buy has changed. In the not-too-distant past when a buyer was researching a purchase they had to contact the seller early on in order to learn about their options.
At that point, the salesperson could guide (or strong arm) the buyer along their sales process, using the information the buyer sought as leverage. Buyers never really liked that but there weren’t many other options. The seller held most of the information cards.
Thanks to the Internet, buyers can now do extensive research before they engage with the seller. In fact, studies show that in a B2B sale, buyers are now 60% to 90% through their buying journey before they first contact a seller.
And at that point the buyer is most interested in price because they already have most everything else they need to know.
That’s driving many old school marketers and salespeople to drink. Or create content.
You see, if you don’t want to wait for your buyers to contact you after they have done their research, you need to get found while the buyer is researching.
And the way to do that is to publish helpful content online that is aligned with the buyer (and their search terms) as they go through the buyer’s journey.
Notice I said “helpful.” That doesn’t mean creating content exclusively about your company, its products and services. Your buyer is not interested in that. Not at first anyway. Once you show you’re interested in your customer and their problems, only then will they become interested in you.
The journey the B2B buyer takes is not linear. In fact it can be pretty erratic.
From first realizing that they have a problem (or some other trigger event that starts their research), to determining what their problem is, to selecting a solution, it can look like a whirlwind.
Forrester illustrated the chaos of the buyer’s journey in this image.
So should you have content for every single one of those steps in the buyer’s journey? In a perfect world that would be nice. But to get started, try to break the buyer’s journey down into just three sections: Awareness, Consideration and Decision.
Awareness – This is where a buyer is expressing the symptoms of a problem (or an opportunity). The buyer isn’t sure what his problem is. He is looking for more educational research to understand the problem. The buyer tends to be looking for educational, third party, vendor-neutral content related to identifying problems or symptoms. Examples of helpful content at this stage includes eBooks, white papers, editorial content and research reports.
Consideration – Once the buyer has given a name to his problem, he then starts to consider all the available approaches/methods to solving it. At this point he is interested in things like comparison white papers, expert guides, webcasts, podcasts and videos.
OK, so you have three “stages” of your buyer’s journey, but how do you know what the heck the content should be about for each one?
Go to a bar with three other people and order three martinis. Make sure the drinks are served with cocktail napkins. That’s real important.
Now, you can’t go to the bar with just anyone. If you’re a marketer, you need to bring your head of sales and your CEO (or whoever sales and marketing reports to). And most importantly, bring one of your customers.
Notice that there are three drinks served and four of you at the bar. You are not actually going to do any drinking. (As an aside, my years working at ad agencies on New York’s Madison Avenue taught me the benefits of the three martini lunch. The trick is to let everyone else do the drinking.)
Then, once the juices are flowing, start by asking your customer the following question from Adele Revella’s book, "Buyer Personas:"
“Take me back to the day when you first decided to evaluate a new … [whatever category of solution your product fits into] and tell me what happened.”
Listen to their answers and try as best you can to probe for “The Five Rings of Insight™” described in "Buyer Personas" (but don’t ask these specific questions):
Priority Initiative – What was it that got them to reject the status quo and decide to finally do something about the problem or make a change?
Success Factors – What, personally and emotionally, did your customer expect from purchasing a solution like yours? What was keeping them up at night related to this?
Perceived Barriers – What resistance did they encounter or expect to encounter from considering your solution? The resistance could have been internal or based on a bad experience with a similar solution to yours.
Buyer’s Journey – What was the process they went through to evaluate options, eliminate contenders, and settle on their final choice?
Decision Criteria – What were your specific product attributes that they evaluated as they compared their options?
Now take the first napkin and write the word “awareness” at the top. Write down what the customer’s key questions were when they were first looking to solve their problem – before they had heard of or considered your company. Use the customer's terms and expressions, not your industry terminology. These questions can serve as the genesis of your awareness stage content.
Next, take the second napkin and write the word “consideration” at the top. Write on the napkin the questions that the customer had after they had determined what the solution to their problem could be. Who offers this kind of solution? Ongoing costs? Implementation? This will become the basis of your consideration stage content.
Finally, on the third napkin, write the word “decision” across the top. Write down what questions the customer had before they decided to pick your firm. What did they need to see or hear in order to make a decision? A demo? References? Guarantees? The answers to the questions on this napkin will direct the type of content you should prepare for the typical buyer’s decision stage.
Many companies are intimidated by a content-based approach to lead generation. One reason is because it’s new and different. But another reason is because they just don’t know how to get started. The three-martini approach to B2B lead generation content planning is intended to begin what should be a more detailed approach to mapping and producing content that will increase site traffic, generate leads and nurture them toward a sale.