Your B2B content strategy has one goal, one question to answer: Why should another business use your product or service? And your approach to the answer must change depending on where your audience is in the buyer’s journey.
While who controls the B2B buyer’s journey has shifted recently — the prospect largely has the steering wheel now — the process is fundamentally the same, and the sales funnel is still very much intact. Only now, prospects can pick and choose how they move through it, including where, when and in which formats they get their information.
Awareness-stage initiatives are split between SEO, social media, influencer outreach, blogging and paid advertising, several more channels than online marketers had to deal with a decade ago. However, these core business goals remain the same:
- Get your organization out there so other businesses find you
- Demonstrate how your business can solve their problems
- Close the deal, deliver on your promises and delight customers
The B2B buying process has a lot of unique roadblocks that a well-designed content strategy can solve. For example, a longer decision process and more stakeholders mean more information needs to be referenced more often. Public-facing content is more convenient for all sides.
Here’s how to use content in each stage of the buyer’s journey to enable your sales team and improve marketing conversion rates.
1. Attraction Stage
Online marketing means you can reach all of your perfect customers at once, provided they know you exist. How do you bring them to your business and into your sales funnel?
The first step is knowing exactly who you need to reach, so your buyer personas should be specific.
Effective personas can make websites two to five times more effective, HubSpot reports. In addition to identifying the types of businesses that fit your ideal client, specify the exact roles and people involved in each stage of the decision. Again, B2B decisions can have lots of stakeholders.
This template from Buffer shows the information you should include in your personas:
Learning about such things as the challenges and values of those who you’re trying to attract helps you create content designed to be found by them during search. Likely, this means creating public content that drives website and social media traffic, such as blog posts, static pages, landing pages and social posts.
At this stage, prospects haven’t heard of your business or solutions, so you’ll want to target keywords and topics around a persona’s interests, challenges and responsibilities.
For example, Close.io is a CRM tool for sales teams. But if sales managers aren’t looking for that specifically, they can attract the readers anyway with content about general problems sales managers have, like onboarding new hires:
Think about the solution you solve for this business’s employees, and the other specific solutions they’re looking for on a day-to-day basis. Close.io’s blog post isn’t about onboarding, it’s about onboarding for sales teams.
These are the topics to create content about on your blog, social media and other channels that will be easily found by your ideal customer.
To connect with them and generate leads for your sales funnel, this content should also include ways to convert visitors into subscribers or followers. You’ll then be able to nurture them in the stage I discuss next.
2. Consideration Stage
Once your ideal persona has discovered your business, you need to convince them that:
- They have a problem that needs to be solved
- Your company’s solution is the best one for them
It takes time to do that — definitely more than one visit to your website.
But how do you get people to stick around and give you permission to contact them again?
Make sure all content includes a call to action. Website CTAs for the consideration stage should aim to capture emails or phone numbers, a way to move the relationship forward.
In exchange, you might offer more content, such as a whitepaper, ebook or demo. Here is how content marketing software Uberflip targets a specific persona – marketing automation users – in a post about Marketo integrations, something that the persona likely looks for information about:
These bonus offers and content pieces — along with their promotional content and landing pages — not only give you an “in” to contact prospects again, but they increase your digital footprint for search engines and other top-of-funnel activities. They also provide more opportunities to establish expertise and trust with prospects considering putting parts of their job or business in your hands.
3. Decision Stage
Once you’re contacting prospects, you want content to nurture them to the point they qualify as sales leads. At this stage of the buyer’s journey, email will likely be your marketing team’s best asset. In fact, for every dollar spent, email marketing returns $38, according to VentureBeat data reported on Campaign Monitor.
Once visitors convert to subscribers in the consideration stage, they’ve signaled to you “we’re interested in your business/what you do. But why is it the best choice for me?” Make sure your content answers this question.
This is another place where persona customization comes in. Using data such as where a subscriber opted into your email list or other info you collected in the email capture form, you can identify which persona a prospect most closely relates to.
Then you can send them the most relevant content for their needs and questions — educational info, product/service information, sales offers and more. Not only does this keep your business on your prospect’s mind (and fresh in their inbox), it’s also a subtle and effective way to push prospects toward a sale.
Take, for example, the cloud service Hightail. They show owners of creative businesses how they can benefit from their service by sending them an email (found here — search “hightail”) that details about how three similar businesses use the service:
4. ‘Delight’ Stage
Once a prospect has moved through the sales funnel and become a client, you want to keep them. And upsell them. And turn them into a brand advocate. Content can do all three of these things.
Create content that helps the customer have the best experience possible with your business. This might include customer success materials, case studies and other examples of ways to better work with your product. It can be public — on your website or blog — or delivered via email campaigns and other, more personal channels.
For example, FreshBooks accounting software is used by businesses to make such things as tax preparation easier. So their content increases the chance of the customer having a simple experience:
You also want to engage customers, because vocal customers make for perfect brand advocates. Create content that features them and user-generated content — pieces they’ll engage with and posts they’ll share.
To drive engagement and shares, you need to use content to have consistent conversations with your advocates. Email them new content and business updates. Continually ask for insight into what will drive them to advocate for you, since that’s different than what makes a customer buy.
Different pieces of content attracting people in different ways is key to capturing as many ideal leads as you can. This varied content library ensures you’ll have resources and processes published to attract the right personas and move them through their buying process at any time.
It’s a lot of moving parts, yes, but that’s where editorial calendars and content marketing software come in. Build organization into your content creation process from the beginning to create more content, reach more people, and generate more leads.
About The Author: Joe Griffin is the co-founder and CEO of ClearVoice. He has served in executive roles at Web.com and iCrossing, and has co-founded multiple companies including Submitawebsite.com, iAcquire, and most recently ClearVoice.
Joe has been featured in publications such as Entrepreneur, CMO.com, The Phoenix Business Journal, The Arizona Republic, VentureBeat, Search Engine Watch, Search Engine Land, Content Marketing Institute, Wells Fargo Small Business, Visibility Magazine, and Website Magazine. In 2013, Joe was named as one of Arizona’s top “35 Under 35″ entrepreneurs by The Arizona Republic.