Tech B2B content marketing professionals will agree on one thing: prospects rarely get in touch with a sales person early on in the sales cycle. This is especially true of complex products in the tech / telecoms B2B space. According to the CEB, B2B buyers are typically 57% of the way to a buying decision before actively engaging with sales.
In today’s cluttered marketing landscape, audiences are very aware that they are information rich. They and prefer to learn as much as they can about their problems, the solution and various approaches to solve them on their own. Sirius Decisions estimates that 67% of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally.
The feeling seems to be that they would rather make up their own minds about what approach to use to address the problem, before engaging with a sales person. And in fact, they push back from being nudged into that sales funnel too early. This underscores the importance for content marketing to be there at every step of the journey for consumers to learn about and engage with your brand.
B2B content marketing really comes into its own as a sales enabler. CMO Council statistics indicate that 9 out of 10 B2B buyers say online content has a moderate to major effect on purchasing decisions.
Content for each stage of the sales cycle
Marketers must think about what stage of the research cycle they want to engage with prospects, and tailor the content accordingly: if it is very early on in the sales cycle content must be educational – very simple, and presented through graphics, multimedia and short-form content.
For audiences in the early stages of the process, companies need to provide content that educates and informs. It’s important that this content should not go for the hard sell: it should provide value and context instead. Focussing on providing insights into the problem, its root causes, and an overview of the approach and solution. Educational content is the most effective at this stage – very simple language and presented through graphics, multimedia and short-form content.
Be warned: the hardest part of content development at this stage is getting buy-in from technical people and product management: as one engineer once told me: ‘Anybody who is experienced in the industry will think we are stupid.’ 🙂 But persevere. Remember that not all audiences are experts and if they want more advanced information they can always look at the next layer of content.
Moving further into the cycle, content can become more technical and detailed. From ‘what is the problem and what is the solution’? To ‘how does the solution work’ and ‘how does it achieve results’. Slightly more detailed content like white papers, case studies and research is helpful here.
And finally, offers, ‘how it works’, testimonials and other incentives to engage that will ensure that audiences click that ‘Yes, contact me!’ button. Then the baton passes to sales, to nurture the lead and demonstrate the customer service, responsiveness and all-round good partnership that the company provides.
Time to start thinking about content as an integral part of the sales cycle, rather than a marketing add-on!
To learn more about how Isoline Communications can help you create and propagate content for sales enablement, get in touch!