Before the global pandemic, many B2B buyers researched online for products and services they wanted to buy on behalf of their business. However, due to the pandemic and social distancing, buyers are turning more and more to researching online before making a business purchase. A recent report by DemandGen found that “content has become an even more important tool for B2B buyers to explore new areas and find solutions to business challenges.”
By: Jeremy Durant
Content is a crucial part of the sales journey and the quality of the content influences whether a potential customer fits your company or your competition. In this post, I’ll take a look at how to not only create great content, but also create great content that will engage, engage, and connect with your potential buyer.
Content is critical to sales
The fact is, potential customers are looking for your company’s products or services online. In many cases, they do the bulk of the research on the types of products or services you sell before ever contacting your sales team. Whether or not your sales team uses content during the buying process, buyers collect information about your business from the content available to them – be it on your website, blog, social media, email, digital guides, etc.
Because of this, it’s important to create content that allows your business to take control of the buying process and guide the prospect to a decision or to a point where they can get in touch. For many B2B buyers, they form an opinion about your products and services before speaking to your sales team. Creating content that educates and informs potential customers positions your company as a reliable resource and builds trust in your brand, product or service, and your sales team.
Understand the needs and emotions of the target market
Before ever creating any content – be it a website, blog post, or email – it is absolutely important to understand the needs AND emotions of your target market. We like to think of ourselves as logical beings who make rational decisions, but the truth is that even rational decisions have an emotional element that drives them. Ignoring the needs and emotions of your target market means ignoring the most powerful factors that influence a buying decision.
I recommend starting with a general customer profile. This includes the basics like job title, education, duties, role in the company, etc. However, the best customer profiles really get into the details and include things like salary range, family life, motivations, professional challenges and ambitions (like getting certifications or a promotion). That might sound like nonsense, but it does give a good picture of who is behind the purchase decision for your product or service.
The compilation of a customer profile often provides interesting insights. You may find that the decision to buy your product or service for many of your customers depends on the need to impress their C-suite, attract a great customer, or grow their business. Much of their success or failure may depend on how our products or services affect their work and therefore can be a source of fear, uncertainty, or even reluctance. By understanding what emotions are influencing their buying decision and what needs they meet, you can understand what content will help them make the final decision.
Ask the right questions before creating any content
Many companies think “we need a price sheet” or “we need to blog” but don’t ask or answer the right questions before creating content. Regardless of what industry your company is in, before creating any content, you need to ask yourself the following questions:
- Who needs this content? Who is reading this blog / guide / white paper / case study?
- What part of the buying process are you in? (Awareness, consideration, justification, purchase)
- Why does my prospect need this content?
- What does the interested party get from this content?
Essentially, these questions will help you put yourself in the shoes of the target group. Content should only be created when it meets a need of your prospect – whether they’re looking at the options available, starting to understand the features / benefits, or trying to bring a case to an in-house team to justify the budget.
Create content for all stages of the purchase
If you take the time to understand your audience’s emotions and what content they need, you will build a connection. If the content you create is useful and relevant, your prospects will trust you to understand them, even that they are important to you. These feelings of trust and solidarity cannot be bought, they are earned.
The next step is to make sure you keep building that trust and building a relationship with ongoing content that meets the changing needs of customers on their further buying journey. The good news is that when you provide engaging content to a prospect, they’ll often come back to you when they need new or additional information or training. Keep using content to strengthen the relationship and strengthen the connection with your B2B partner.
Design a strategy with a mix of content, from blog posts to social media posts to downloadable guides or whitepapers, customer case studies, and even price lists. You can vary the level of accessibility for the content pieces based on their place in the buying process. For example, you might want to do a lot of educational work so blogs shouldn’t be tagged. However, if you are sharing customer information and part of your process in a case study, it is reasonable to expect a prospect to fill out a form to access the case study. When deciding what to gate and what to leave uncoupled, consider the value to your prospect and how familiar they are with you at this point in their research.
Track and analyze B2B content performance
B2B marketing and content creation is not a science, but rather an art. Because of this, it can be trial and error. Whitepapers are in high demand in some industries and are crucial for buyers. In other industries, whitepapers are of no value to the end customer because they are too busy to read.
It can take time and several tries before you are able to create content that will resonate with prospects. It’s important not just to track your content’s performance, but to analyze it. Whether weekly, bi-monthly or monthly, take a look at the target group metrics for your content. See how your audience is discovering your content (Google search, social media, emails, etc.), whether they are interacting with it (opening emails, downloads, pageviews, etc.), and how they are interacting with it (time display) , Likes, comments, shares). You will often be surprised at what potential customers find valuable and what you think they find valuable.
Once you have feedback on your content, you can rely on it to create better, newer, more engaging content. These metrics are your prospects telling you what they like, want, and need more to help make their decision.
Keep looking for a connection
B2B content marketing is not a set-it-and-forget-it strategy. It is a living, breathing, adapting strategy that is always in flux. Certain events, like a pandemic, can change the needs of your audience and it is important that you adapt to those needs. By continuously working to understand your audience, you can create content that is important to them, that engages them, and that connects them.
Jeremy Durant is the director and co-founder of Bop Design, a B2B marketing and web design agency. He is passionate about creating content that helps buyers make their decision.