Content marketing isn’t new to B2B marketers. In fact, it’s one of the most invested-in marketing strategies. And it’s not hard to see why. Aside from dramatically boosting website traffic (yup Google loves content!), it more importantly drives sales. Because producing informative and useful content not only brings your potential customers closer, but it builds trust. Through:
- well narrated emotive stories
- hard-hitting compelling research and
- creative and original viewpoints
your prospects warm up to the idea that you know what you’re talking about. So not only are you now on their radar, but they also believe you’re worth talking to.
Keeping your tech buyers engaged throughout the whole cycle
And this is hugely helpful particularly in tech sales where the sales cycle could be anything from 12 months upwards. That’s a long time to keep prospects engaged. Particularly as there will be multiple buyers in the cycle – for most B2B sales there are between 1 and 6 people in the purchasing process and many companies have formal buying groups.
That’s where a smooth content flow for each persona (decision-makers and influencers) is absolutely essential. Whether you’ve adopted a simple marketing funnel such as Hubspot’s ‘Attract, Convert, Close, Delight’, or a non-linear funnel such as Forrester’s maze, or a more modern lifecycle model – the challenge is the same, you need to keep buyers engaged all the way through the buying cycle.
According to Forrester: “Buyers consistently say they’re less interested in engaging with sellers than they are with peers and digital content.” We know that around 94% of buying journeys start online; and 70%+ of the buying decision is done before a phone or face-to-face interaction. This means your prospects are forming an opinion of you long before you get to speak to them. And the way you can dramatically influence this opinion is through the content you produce.
Ten steps to creating effective content
So why aren’t more marketers getting more bang for their buck with their content marketing? Is the content not persuasive, is it aimed at the wrong persona? Is it overly promotional, or poorly packaged? Or are marketers just not measuring the right thing … where’s it all going wrong? For content marketing to deliver ROI it needs to:
- Be eye-catching – whether it’s a chunky thought leadership piece or a creative infographic, it needs to capture your audience’s attention and imagination – both from a copy and design perspective.
- Be relevant – the content hook needs to resonate with your audience. It needs to speak to the individual problem they’re facing. They need to feel you really get them, and you’re one of them – in essence, marketing to a segment of one.
- Be digestible – the format has to easily consumable – if your audience is made up of dominant decision-makers, don’t produce lengthy whitepapers – they just won’t read them.
- Be timely – your audience will click on or download your content because the headline and theme matter to them at that exact point. Research your audience so well that you know what matters to them that month, that day.
- Be novel – to stand out in a sea of sameness, you’ve got to focus on new angles. We’re all overwhelmed with people trying to sell to us – what we need is people trying to help us with original ideas.
- Be memorable – you want to not only engage your audience but create a (positive) lasting impression. The only way to do this is to trigger an emotive response – your audience will always remember how you made them feel.
- Be informative – for the 1, 5 or 10 minutes you’re asking your audience to give up and digest your viewpoints, they need to feel it’s time well spent. Work hard to teach them something new, but make sure it’s authentic and credible.
- Be interactive – polls, quizzes and ROI calculators – we all love content we can manipulate and control. As consumers we’re choosy, expectant and demanding – and visually wired. B2B content needs to work hard to give us that stimulation and hyper-personalised experience.
- Be consistent – from the look and feel to the tone and topics you talk about – you need to show up consistently. Readers need to know what they can expect from your brand – commit time and resources to establish strong governance.
- Be measurable – content needs to fit within your wider marketing strategy. Be clear on the objectives and how you’re going to measure success. Look back and look forward when reviewing the metrics.
Why you need to stop creating one-off pieces of content
We’re all trying to either teach our audience something new, or answer a question. Good content allows you to do both – and offers a persuasive viewpoint. But this only works if we’re fully invested in the process – and have a well-thought-through approach. Blogs written for SEO purposes only, or tip sheets that aren’t informative just won’t work.
Tech marketers will be familiar with those crunch moments – when they’re challenged on their low lead volume that month or a weak pipeline that quarter. The instinct is to jump on short-term tactics such as creating a new piece of content to engage the buyer. There’ll be a flurry of activity as resources are diverted, and then a sinking feeling as the new asset doesn’t quite hit home. One-off pieces seldom do.
That’s because your buyers are on a journey. You may not know what stage of the cycle they are on and that’s why a library of thoughtful assets is needed. Blogs, videos and podcasts for the awareness stage; webinars, whitepapers and interactive infographics for the evaluation stage; and case studies, demos and product comparisons for the decision stage.
Content you can be proud of
A lot of marketers aren’t proud of their content. But you can be. Take a step back and view your assets through the lens of a prospect – someone you’re trying to win over. Is your content beautiful and effective, is it readable and meaningful, is it engaging and persuasive? Does it clearly speak to the buyer?
By assessing your content library – using the above 10 steps as a guide – you’ll be able to transform your assets. Content marketing can significantly deliver ROI: now’s the time to not only engage but also excite prospects.