How Content Drives Prospects Deeper into the Sales Funnel
Using Content to Influence the B2B Buyer’s Journey
The Buyer’s Journey is an important framework in any business-to-business (B2B) marketing campaign. It includes the steps a prospect takes before becoming a customer. These commonly include awareness, consideration, evaluation and purchase.
Too often, marketers develop plans that focus exclusively on one phase of the journey: awareness. While this is a critical element of the B2B buyer’s journey, it is important to consider each stage and develop content that influences prospects as they progress through the sales funnel.
It is also important to identify the optimal channels to reach your customers and prospects at every step of the journey. By doing so, your organization can more effectively drive prospects from awareness to purchase – and grow your business.
Key Phases of the Buyer’s Journey
At the beginning of the buyer’s journey, your prospects are generally unaware of your product or service. During this phase, a customer may not even know that he or she needs you. Therefore, it is important to not only make the customer aware of who you are, what you offer and why you are unique, but to establish the need for your product or service to create demand.
During the awareness phase, you should create and promote content that positions your brand as a leader – not content that just sells your product or service. This could include thought leadership content, such as blogs or bylined articles placed in relevant trade media that positions your organization as an expert on important industry issues. The media coverage can be amplified on your business’s social media profiles and shared by sales team members via their LinkedIn networks. Or perhaps it is an infographic series that relates a timely and relevant industry trend to your organization. The infographics could be promoted via social media, direct campaigns and given to the sales team as collateral. Placing news items in industry trade media about your business via traditional PR tactics such as press releases is another great way to build awareness and position your business as an expert.
Now that a prospect is aware of your business and has progressed to the consideration phase, it is important to cultivate your relationship as they consider whether to evaluate and ultimately purchase your product or service. In the consideration phase, you should not only continue to build credibility and trust, but also promote your value proposition.
For example, you could launch an e-newsletter program that helps prospects get to know, like and trust your business. Each e-newsletter should include valuable information that helps your customers achieve success. It should also include a product promotion and strong call-to-action, but this should be secondary. Ultimately, the e-newsletter recipient should feel that you want to improve their business and make their lives easier. A webinar series is another great way to build trust during the consideration phase and drive prospects deeper into the sales funnel. Similarly, webinars should provide valuable information related to the issues your business solves but can end with a brief promotion.
Once a customer has decided they will evaluate your product or service, it is important to give them compelling reasons to choose you over the competition. Creating content like case studies that illustrate the value of your product or service in the voice of your customer can be powerful.
Case studies could be hosted on your website and promoted via social media, pitched to industry trade media and given to sales team members to share directly with prospects. Other content used to influence prospects during the evaluation phase includes product videos, video testimonials, side by side comparison graphics, before and after images and other content that clearly conveys your value proposition.
Reaching Your Customers
Each piece of content should be created with purpose as part of a broader B2B communications strategy. To begin, host a strategy planning session with key internal stakeholders to define the content program’s goals and to gather insights from across the business. This will help to ensure content is addressing the issues, topics, products and other items important to your business.
A good way to execute a content program is through the development of a content calendar. The calendar could include the following for each piece of content to be created: topic, objective, audience, buyer’s journey phase, communications channel, owner and status. Other columns could be added to align with internal priorities, such as industry, business unit, product line, etc. By understanding the goal, audience, phase of the buyer’s journey and communications channel of every piece of content before it is developed, each piece will have the greatest impact.
By creating content with the buyer’s journey in mind, you can ensure that everything developed achieves the greatest ROI. It will not only help you define the topic and tone of the content, but it will also inform the format and communications channel. As they say in sales, its about making the right offer at the right time at the right place. A strategic content program that drives customers through the buyer’s journey does just this to help businesses grow their brands.
Matt Serra is the CEO of Mulberry Marketing Communications, an award-winning full-service B2B communications agency based in Chicago, London and Australia. He has 20+ years of experience overseeing global and regional B2B campaigns.