In the discussion over content marketing, uppermost in many marketers’ minds is producing materials that really resonate, that engage, with prospects and customers. That’s completely understandable. Content that doesn’t have stopping power is worthless.
But what is “engaging” content anyway? Material that is spicy, well-developed, maybe even fun? Producing content qualities like that may make marketers feel they’ve delivered the goods, but does it really help prospects arrive at better decisions? Does it speak to them when they’re just beginning their research, or later when comparing competitor features, or finally when coming to a buying decision together with their colleagues?
The fact is, marketing content is a schizophrenic creature. It has to convey various messages that prompt actions by buyers where and when they are in the decision-making process. With a strategy intent on producing content tailored to the buyer’s journey, marketers will be more likely to drive prospects further toward those magical moments of conversion—a sale, incremental revenue, loyalty and cross-sell nirvana.
Whatever your marketing content choices might be—case studies, videos, e-newsletters, white papers, blog posts, webinars, surveys, you name it—they should be crafted to match as much as possible the buyer’s decision-making journey.
There’s a challenge to this, of course. According to statistics developed jointly by the Corporate Executive Board and Google, business buyers do not contact suppliers directly until 57% of their purchase process is complete. For a huge chunk of the buying process your customers are “out in the ether”: They’re forming opinions, learning technical specs, building requirement lists, and narrowing down options—all on their own without any input from you.
But that doesn’t mean you’ve lost influence during this time.
Prospects appreciate—no, they are desperate for—information that is appropriately informative to their own, self-actuated place in the buying process. Consider a plan to develop content that will appeal to buyers during that first 57% of the decision-making process. And think of other content that will resonate in the remaining time when buying decisions are forming up.
Consider this lineup to cultivate prospects where they are in their buying journey:
For tire-kickers: Build buzz through social media, the use of infographics and informative tweets. Events, webinars and speaking engagements help build awareness as well as your database, supported by paid and organic search. Unbiased (stress, unbiased)blog posts establish your company as an authority, addressing prospect pain points. Next …
For registrants, Web visitors and social “likers”: Be more assertive with how-to’s, perhaps developed as short videos, demonstrating how your company, its people and products help solve prospect objectives. Client case studies work well here, as do e-books offering fuller examinations of industry challenges. Consider a second series of webinars with deeper analysis, aimed at previous registrants. And lastly …
For warmed-up leads: Demonstrations and trials are golden here. Direct mail and/or email with key offers often are useful. And check-list comparisons with competitors—on price, features and support—can seal the deal. Importantly, coordinate all this with the sales team.
Sound easy? It’s not, mainly because marketing organizations are fragmented, with one team owning white papers, another producing webinars, a third blogging away like crazy, and maybe the video team busy filling up the corporate YouTube channel.
We’ll deal with integration later. For now, start with the buyer’s decision-making process. Develop five to seven pieces of content for each stage of it, based on buyer needs and where and when they’re likely to seek information addressing those needs.
Forget “engagement” (for now).
But don’t forget offering staged, useful value to your prospects. If you keep that in mind, you and your prospect will be closer to the mutual destination you both want to reach.
Adryanna Sutherland is the president of gyro Cincinnati.
Follow Adryanna @Adry99