There was a time when B2B salespeople wielded an immense amount of influence. Not only was Sales the gracious host, wining and dining prospects, they were the gatekeepers of information. They knew which companies in the industry built the best products(sometimes not their own), their unique sales proposition, drawbacks, product applications and latest news. It was simply Marketing’s job to feed Sales cold leads.
With the advent of the internet, the role of B2B Sales has done a 180. The technical barriers to distributing information have been eliminated. Any interested B2B buyer with an internet connection can search for answers to their growth roadblocks. According to a Study done by Google, B2B consumers are already 57% decided on a solution before ever contacting a company. With prospects more than half way convinced on their purchase direction before contacting a company, the battlelines have moved. The frontline of B2B customer acquisition is no longer a sales phone call. It’s digital content creation.
Digital content can be broken up into 4 main categories of buyer intent: Awareness, Education, Selection/Sales Enablement, and Training.
This is the first stage that Marketers think about when developing content. It’s mainly created for website visitors and basic leads. Awareness content should get prospective buyers’ attention. Customer behavior patterns are a great source building new content. For example, an email service provider has lots of rich information on what times their customers send emails, templates used(text vs photos), open rates, click through rates. Mining this data could provide some useful insights that no other competitor has released. You could put this study on a blog, post on social media and distribute through press releases.
One danger to lookout for is investing too heavily in top of the funnel attention. Awareness content can be more fun than any other content to produce. However, beware of shiny objects. It has a minimal effect in converting prospects into customers. Once you’ve reached a sufficient threshold of marketing qualified leads you’ll need to transition to the next content
Educational Content is the most ubiquitous type of content. It touches every aspect of a buyer journey: website visitors, prospects, activated users, and customers. For that reason, educational content is the safest of all strategies. If you’re ever in doubt of where to start content marketing, start with an educational focus.
Educational content should focus on solving a prospect’s issues at their job. However, it doesn’t mean you should pitch your products as the solution. At least not at this stage.
As an example, Hubspot put out an E-book on expert SEO best practices. Hubspot doesn’t sell anything SEO related. However, they do sell marketing automation software. They know that marketers buy their software. And they also know that marketers would find some value in expert SEO advice.
Educational content doesn’t have to exclusively come in the form of E-Books though. It can be a whitepaper, webinar, industry research or an interviews.
Selection/Sales Enablement Content
Selection content is where you start positioning your products and services as a solution to your qualified lead’s needs. It’s basically Marketing’s handoff to Sales.
With sales enablement content, you want to show how your product works, what problems it solves, competitors to your product, and your product’s advantage over competing products.
Common examples of selection content are sales presentations, product specs sheets, product demos and case studies.
This type of content has the strongest influence in moving a qualified lead to close. In the SaaS realm, selection content will target your Prospects, Activated Users, and Customers. Because it touches middle of the funnel prospects, you’ll need to secure assistance from the Sales and Customer Service department. These two departments can contribute to a selection content in ways that Marketing can’t. As an example, Sales will have insights on customer objections, pain points, and ways to overcome them that Marketing wouldn’t ever discover.
Training content is the last block in your B2B content strategy. It touches activated users and current customers. It can convert a Sales Qualified Lead to a customer. It can also reduce churn and increase up-sells for current customers.
Training content is deep dive of how your product or service functions. It can consist of workshops, product webinars, product manuals and FAQ pages. This is another of those content types that Marketing needs assistance with. Sales, Customer Success and Sales Engineers should all have a hand with training content.
As an example, the Customer Success department will repeatedly get the same questions over and over again about your product. Rather than forcing customers to contact Customer Success, you could put the most popular questions on your FAQ pages. Better user experiences lead to increased customer loyalty.
Content creation for B2B is the new Sales. However, it requires the assistance of everyone in the organization, Sales, Evangelists, CXO, and Marketing, to succeed. As a first step in your content creation journey, I encourage you to start talking to other departments. Discover what gold nuggets of insight they have about customers you can leverage for success.
If you want to learn more about content marketing acquisition download our E-Book on Account Based Marketing.
This post was inspired by Myk’s article on How To Track Customer Acquisitions