Before the global pandemic, many B2B buyers performed research online for products and services they were interested in purchasing on behalf of their company. However, due to the pandemic and social distancing, buyers are turning to online research more and more prior to making a business purchase. A recent report by DemandGen found that “content has become an even more critical tool for B2B buyers to research new areas and find solutions to business challenges.”
Content is a critical piece of the sales journey and the quality of the content impacts whether a prospect goes with your company or with your competition. In this post, I take a look at how to not just create good content, but how to create great content that resonates, engages, and connects with your prospective buyer.
The fact is that prospects are searching for your company’s products or services online. In many cases, they do the majority of the research on the types of products or services you sell before they ever make contact with your sales team. Whether or not your sales team leverages content during the buying process, buyers are gathering information about your company from the content that is available to them — be it on your website, blog, social media, emails, digital guides, etc.
For this reason, it’s important to create content that enables your company to take control of the buying process and guide the prospect to a decision or to a point where they initiate contact. For many B2B buyers, they form opinions about your products and services before they talk with your sales team. Creating content that educates and informs prospects positions your company as a reliable resource and starts to build trust in your brand, your products or services, and your sales team.
Before your ever create a piece of content — be it a web page, blog post, or email — it’s absolutely critical to understand the needs AND emotions of your target market. We like to think of ourselves as logical beings that make rational decisions, but the truth is that even rational decisions have an element of emotion driving them. To ignore the needs and emotions of your target market is to ignore the most powerful factors influencing a decision to purchase.
I recommend starting with a general customer profile. This includes the basics like job title, education, job duties, role in the company, etc. The best customer profiles, however, really get into the nitty gritty and include things like salary ranges, family life, motivations, job challenges, and aspirations (like earning certifications or getting a promotion). This might sound like fluff, but it gives a good picture of who is behind the decision for purchasing your products or services.
Putting together a customer profile often provides interesting insights. You may discover that for many of your customers, the decision to purchase your product or service is driven by their need to impress their c-suite, or land a large client, or scale their business. A lot of their success, or failure, may ride on how our products or services impact their job and may therefore be a source of anxiety, or uncertainty, or even reluctance. By understanding what emotions are impacting their decision to buy and what need it will fulfill for them, you can start to understand what content will help them make the final decision.
So many companies think, “We need a pricing sheet” or “We need to publish a blog,” but don’t ask and answer the right questions before they create content. Regardless of what industry your company operates in, before you create content you need to ask:
Essentially, these questions help you put yourself in the target audience’s shoes. Content should only be created when it addresses a need of your prospect — whether they are educating themselves about the options out there, are starting to understand features/benefits, or are trying to make a case to an internal team to justify the budget.
If you take the time to understand the emotions of your audience and determine what content they need, you will start to establish a connection. If the content you create is useful and relevant, your prospects will start to trust that you understand them, even that you care about them. These feelings of trust and connection can’t be bought, they are earned.
The next step is to ensure that you continue to foster that trust and build up rapport with ongoing content that meets their changing needs as they continue on their buying journey. They great news is that when you provide a prospect with one engaging piece of content, they will often come back to you when they need new or additional information or further education. Continue leveraging content to bolster rapport and strengthen the connection with your B2B partner.
Map out a strategy that has a mix of content, everything from blog posts to social media posts to downloadable guides or whitepapers to client case studies and even pricing sheets. You can vary the level of accessibility for the content pieces based on their place in the buying process. For example, you want to provide a lot of education so blogs should not be gated. However, if you are sharing client information and part of your process in a case study, it’s reasonable to expect a prospect to fill out a form to access the case study. When determining what to gate and what to leave ungated, consider the value to your prospect and how familiar they are with you at that point in their research.
B2B marketing and content creation isn’t a science, it’s more of an art. For this reason, it can involve trial and error. In some industries, white papers are highly sought after and are crucial for buyers. In other industries, white papers provide no value to the end buyer because they are too busy to read them.
It may take time and several attempts before you are able to craft a piece of content that resonates with prospects. It’s critical to not only track, but to analyze how your content performs. Whether it’s weekly, bi-monthly, or monthly, take a look at audience metrics for your content. Look at things like how your audience discovers your content (Google search, social media, emails, etc.), if they engage with it (email opens, downloads, page views, etc.), and how they engage with it (time viewing, likes, comments, shares). You’ll often be surprised by what prospects find valuable and what you think they may find valuable.
Once you have feedback on your content, lean on it to create better, newer, more engaging content. These metrics are your prospects telling you what they like, want, and need more of to make their decision.
B2B content marketing isn’t a set it and forget it strategy. It’s a living, breathing, adapting strategy that is continually in flux. Certain events, like a pandemic, can shift the needs of your audience and it’s important that you adapt to meet those needs. Continually working to understand your audience enables you to craft content that matters to them, that appeals to them, that connects.
Jeremy Durant is business principal and co-founder of Bop Design, a B2B marketing and web design agency. He is passionate about creating content that helps buyers in their decision making journey.
Content Has Become a Critical Tool for B2B Buyers