3 Best Practices in B2B Content Marketing
B2B Content Marketing That Works!
B2B Content marketing is all about delivering value to prospective customers throughout their buying process. If you can anticipate the questions, concerns and obstacles your prospects will encounter as they go through their buying process , you have the opportunity to engage them, build credibility and position yourself as a finalist in their decision. A well designed and executed content marketing strategy can be a powerful lead generation tool.
“Sales says we need a whitepaper…”
The most common problem I see with B2B companies starting out in content marketing is that they skip directly to content creation before spending the time to identify who the content is designed for and what value it will need to deliver from a customer point of view. Even if you are under pressure to create a whitepaper, video or blog, it pays to spend some time developing the foundation for your content strategy.
Start by developing buyer personas
If the purpose of good content is to provide value to a prospective customer and influence their buying decision, it only stands to reason that you need to know some information about who your prospect is, what they care about and where they are likely to go when they need to find answers to their problems. For most companies, this is in the form of tribal knowledge. Putting together a simple buyer persona or profile doesn’t have to be a complicated ordeal, and can make a world of difference in the consistency and quality of your content. I’ve seen very functional buyer personas developed in as little as an hour with the help of a few of the better salespeople.
For example, if you sell components commonly used in machinery, your primary buyer might be a design engineer at a machine OEM. We will call this representative buyer “Don the Design Engineer”. Don is 32 years old and has a BS in Mechanical Engineering. He is responsible for designing machinery that meets specific performance requirements. Bob also has to support his designs through the manufacturing process and may even need to get involved if there are failures in the field. Don not only wants to find components for his designs quickly and easily, but he doesn’t want products that are difficult for manufacturing to install or that might cause failures in the field. For more on creating buyer personas, check out The Buyer Persona Institute.
Map your buyer’s journey
Mapping your buyer’s journey is simply identifying the steps your typical buyer goes through in identifying, comparing and selecting solutions to their problems. Once you have the basic steps outlined, think about the questions your buyer will need answered and the obstacles they will need to overcome to move to the next step. Content that answers these questions or helps them overcome obstacles creates value for your prospective customer and the more you are able to help them, the more likely they are to buy from you. An example buyer’s journey might look like this:
Buyers research potential solutions to their problem
Buyers compare solutions and narrow the field
Buyers evaluate finalist solutions
Buyers make final selection
Continuing with Don the Design Engineer, we have identified that Don is tech-wavy and likes to use search engines to search for solutions. Since we were able to get Don on to our website, our goal is to keep him there and engage his interest. During the “Compare” stage of his buying process, Don wants to quickly determine the “best” vendors to engage in more detailed discussions. We may provide content like quick selection guides or product comparison tools to help him here. If Don feels comfortable we probably have a suitable product, we might also create an online configuration and sizing tool to help Don choose the right product and give him confidence it will work in his application. When Don sees that he can easily download a CAD model of the product, he realizes he won’t have to spend time drawing up the product in his model. A big time saver.
Don’t forget other influencers
If your product or service cost more than $1,000, it is likely that your primary buyer won’t be making the purchase decision alone. Depending on the value, complexity and risk involved, most B2B buyers involve anywhere between 1 and 5 additional people before making a decision. Each of these influencers come with their own set of priorities and needs that you will need to address during the buying process. You may want to develop personas for some of these influencers and develop content that addresses their specific concerns during the buying process.
In our example, Bob may select a product and vendor, but Pat the purchasing Agent and Paul the Production Manager have some influence. Pat wants to make sure they are getting the best price they can for the product and Paul wants to make sure he can get the product in time to make his production schedule. Developing content that addresses these concerns will help minimize the hurdles that Don has to overcome to choose your product.
Content that is customer value driven, aligned to the buying process gets results
I tried to cover a lot of ground here, but hopefully you get a rough idea about some of the basic questions to ask yourself before engaging in content development. Knowing who you are targeting, what they care about and the questions or obstacles they need to answer or overcome in order to buy your product will help you prioritize and develop content with higher customer value. The easier you make it for prospects to buy from you, the more they will buy form you.