One of the sessions I was most looking forward to at Content Marketing World was one given by Ardath Albee @ardath421 CEO of Marketing Interactions (blog) and Author of eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale.
It’s one thing to create a content marketing strategy, it’s another thing to execute it in a way that works out the way you planned.
Buyer experience is important! 43.7% of buyers say they’re taking more time to research purchases. (DemandGen Report) Each person receives 5,000 messages each day (and that stat is 2 years old) imagine what it is today. The amount of information that confronts each person online every day is overwhelming, so people begin to shut down or become better filters of information.
66% of buyers say the vendor’s website influenced their purchase decision (DemandGen Report). However, a problem exists when people SEO their website content so much that it’s not a compelling or useful user experience. Being found doesn’t mean much if the content doesn’t engage prospects.
Content is marketing currency
Attention is a capacity to maintain selective or sustained concentration. Instead of chasing a quantity of fans, friends and followers, focus on creating the best match between brand and social connections. Look at metrics like time on site, return visits, CTR on calls to action vs only how many Twitter followers or Facebook fans there are.
- Cursory Attention: I might be interested
- Misleading Attention: Thinking of your content but also 10 other things
- Voluntary Attention: Every time I read their stuff I learn something useful. You need to cultivate these connections. They will not become buyers unless their attention becomes:
- Intentional Attention: This information will help me solve a problem I’m dealing with. I wonder what else they can help me with…
The only way to guide prospects through these levels of attention is if you connect your content marketing to guide them through the experience.
Most marketers focus on pre marketing qualified leads and do not nurture. Most prospects don’t contact vendors until they’ve formed their shortlist.
The buying cycle starts with interest and attention, but it’s no longer a proper funnel. Especially in the middle where other people from the buying committee are brought in. Then it narrows again as the shortlist is narrowed.
B2B Buying Process: Status Quo, Priority, Research, Options, Step Back, Validation, Choice
Buyer Experience Funnel: Interest, Attention, Value, Engagement, Buying Committee Involvement, Conversation, Purchase
Ardath is big on marketing automation. Software is critical for nurturing and handling scale.
A key question when developing a content marketing strategy is: “What could cause the prospect to kill the deal?” When the buyer committee members that have not been involved in the buying process come in and start asking questions. When executing our content strategy, we need to have answers to those questions and potential objections. We need to empower the buyer champion so they can provide confidence to their peers.
The secrets to a better buyer experience: Questions, Conversations & Stories
Questions initiate conversations. When prospects initiate their search for a solution, they often search. It’s essential to understand the overlay between Buyer Experience and Buying Stage. Anticipate corresponding Buyer Questions. Think of the questions your prospects will have in the varying stages of their experience and the stages they go through during the process.
Those questions will help you formulate meaningful content that stimulates conversations with prospects. Content can Simulate sales dialog, ask/answer questions and counter objections. Always remember what you want the prospect to do next.
The story companies tell:
Beginning: You need our products, we’re the leading provider
Middle: Look at our feeds and speeds. You looked – you want to buy?
End: FUD – You’ll perish without us. We can beat that price.
A lot of companies tell this story and nobody cares. Compare it to:
Beginning: We know the buyer. We educate the buyer that there’s a problem. Pain escalates.
Middle: The buyer seeks a resolution. They will encounter obstacles, so help them. They will seek to find expertise (hopefully yours).
End: Overcome challenges. Solve the problem. Buyer is the hero.
It’s not about your company. It’s about the buyer.
Content that builds a better buyer experience:
Education: Where, What, When, Why How (not about the product, about the problem that they’re solving)
Expertise: Industry Trends, Methodology, Strategic Insights, Futuristic. (Add your take on general trends – what does this mean to your customers and what they care about) Show that you have more to offer than the product. Are you a partner or a vendor? Give enough actionable information for prospects to implement and see an effect so they come back for the “rest of it”.
Evidence: Customer Stories, Analysts, Earned Media, Reputation, Credibility. Build trust – people buy from people they trust.
Mix up your format choices because it’s not so much the format, but the content.
Content Hubs Keep You On Track and help you get the most out of your content. Example: Webinar
- Registration page
- Email invites
- Press Release
- Email Archive Link
- Q & A Blog Post
- White Paper
- Article Series
Build in Momentum Accelerators
- Connected Content
- Follow-on Offers
- Calls to Action
- Conversational Takeaways
If you answer a question with your content, make sure there’s a takeaway. This is how you get your ideas in conversations where you’re not present. If you can do that, you can facilitate the sales process.
This session was rich with great ideas and I wish I’d been able to get a few of the process and content hub slides. However, I did capture a ton of information as you’ve read above. The practical approach and attention to approaching content from a customer needs perspective.