This is part six of our series Marketing in the Service of Sales – about how marketing professionals can demonstrate to their sales counterparts and the rest of their organization that they bring real value to the table as an equal partner in the marketing-sales relationship.
If you’re wondering what type of content is best for the B2B buyer’s journey, think about your own experiences.
If you’re researching possible home improvement projects, you don’t want to be bombarded with a bunch of ads and product-focused content. Chances are you’d prefer articles that help you figure out the potential benefits of a new deck or patio, new windows, etc. without much of a sales pitch.
That’s why sales leaders need to work with their marketing colleagues to create a content strategy, instead of just relying on the product-focused messaging in the latest sales brochure.
It’s not that product-focused content isn’t important – it is. Just make sure you’re giving your potential customers what they need, when they need it. When you help them, they’ll be more receptive to your sales pitch.
Here are a few questions you might have about content and the buyer’s journey:
What is value-add content?
It’s just like it sounds – you’re creating and offering something of value for a current or potential customer.
While embracing this type of approach might seem like you’re ignoring the most important parts of your product or service, realize this is just like a sales conversation. If you’re talking to people who know they need your product, it’s easy – you can go straight to the specifics of what it will do for them. But if they don’t know why they need it, that’s a different situation. You need to convince them why they do.
That’s where value-add content comes in. You’re meeting the prospects where they are – focusing on their challenges and problems, as well as goals and dreams.
If you have a product that’s like no other, how would your prospective customers – and, if they’re business customers, their customers – know they need it?
Here’s a B2B2C example for the building products category:
You’re launching an environmentally-sustainable product in a category that’s never been known for that, so you need to...
Now they’re curious, right? You’ve got them interested because they never knew a product existed that could address this stubborn sustainability issue for their customers. You also discuss how strong it is, how it can withstand as much as – or more than – the competitors’ products can.
Then they want to talk specifics. That’s when they learn it’s reasonably priced and supported by a warranty and nationwide customer representatives.
How can I plan content across the buyer’s journey?
Sales and marketing teams need to work together on this, because information is power when you’re planning and creating content.
The first step is making sure the personas you’ve developed for your key audiences are up-to-date. The marketing team can gut-check with sales to make sure all the assumptions about buyer behavior are still valid.
The next step is figuring out what type of information your prospects need during each consideration stage. For example:
You’ll also want to conduct research to back up your assumptions. Analysis of data from your website, social media and/or email conversations should provide valuable insights.
How do I find and organize topics?
This is the fun part.
A brainstorming session with the sales and marketing teams could be the best way to start the content process. List all the topics your audiences are most likely interested in, and come up with storylines for each. The goal is to help them solve their problems and fuel their business growth.
Now the marketing team can take it from here, assuming the team understands how and where the key audiences prefer to consume content. There will be some degree of test and learn here, but generally marketers should know whether their current and prospective customers would be most interested in written, video and/or audio content, and where they would access it.
A strong integrated content plan will:
This is a long-term commitment, not a creative burst. But you’ll see the benefits of your new approach fairly quickly, especially if you have a fully functioning CRM system that operates at its best when there is a constant flow of fresh and relevant content.
We all want companies to talk with us, understand our needs and help solve our problems, not just sell to us. With a strong partnership between your sales and marketing teams and an integrated content strategy that relies on value-add storytelling, you can make this new approach a reality for your company.
Part 3: Developing Customer Personas
Part 5: Programmatic Media Buying
Part 9: ABM—Focus and Pursue to Win
Part 10: 3 Ways PR Influences Sales