Sure you’re smart. You’re part of the 91% of B2B marketers that do content marketing, right? You understand that content is a must for engaging buyers before they’re ready to buy, and building brand trust for when your sales team starts reaching out to them. And chances are good you've been doing content marketing for a while now -- so to quote Dr. Phil: “How’s that working out for you?”
If you’re like many B2B marketers we talk to, then you may be getting frustrated with how much time you’re putting into content marketing … compared with the trickle of results you’re getting out. What’s up with the tepid results?
Simply put, everyone (91% remember?) is now doing content marketing. That means you need to be smarter with your approach, if you want to break through the sea of content now drowning your target audience.
Start boosting your content marketing results.
Here are three things that will help you start boosting your content marketing results:
1. Create Content with a Specific Audience in Mind
Most B2B marketers should focus on three audiences when creating content: users, decision makers and influencers. And guess what? Each cares about different things when it comes to what your company delivers, as follows:
Users are the folks that actually experience your product or services. In other words, they’re the ones with the actual “pain” your product solves. So content that educates them on how to deal with that pain will grab their attention. But don't forget, they also want to feel smarter, do their job better and look awesome to the boss (don’t we all?). Keep this in mind when creating content for users.
Decision makers are the people with the signing authority and budget. They focus on the big picture and strategic issues. Create content for decision makers that makes it clear as day how your product or service will help them get a leg up on the competition, position their company for the future or drive big wins for their business.
What about Influencers? Well, this can be a pretty diverse group, but it usually starts with the finance crew (your services aren't free are they?) who care most about cost savings and ROI, and the IT or business operations people who want to know the impact that your solution will have on the software, services and infrastructure already in place. Create content that makes it easy for influencers to grease the skids … not shut down your buying process.
2. Know Which Stage of the Buying Cycle You’re Crafting Content For
Are you crafting content for the different stages of the B2B buying cycle? You should be. Otherwise you’re leaving a big hole in the bridge your content is building to take someone from being a prospect to becoming a qualified lead.
With that in mind, here are the buying cycle stages and how you should think about each of them:
- Awareness stage: The goal here is to get your brand, product or service noticed by your target audience. No selling, just awareness. Someone can only buy your offering if they know about it, right? And one of the best ways to generate awareness these days is with educational content such as: blog posts, white papers, guides, webinars and how-to videos. Think teacher at this stage.
- Consideration stage: Next, you need buyers to realize your company can actually solve their pain and that it merits consideration. Being viewed as an industry leader, plus showing that you’ve helped others like them will help big time. Content such as thought-leadership blog posts, customer testimonials, press releases, media mentions and analyst reports can do the heavy lifting here.
- Evaluation stage: It’s time to convince prospects your company belongs on the short list worth investigating further. How do you do that? Show how your product works and prove it delivers results. Now we’re talking product videos, case studies, data sheets, ROI examples, and FAQs.
- Purchase stage: Finally the moment you've been waiting for: qualified prospects are finally ready to kick the tires of your business! Make it easy for them by offering free trials, live demos, no obligation quotes and consultations, and pricing discounts.
3. Use Call-to-Actions to Move Prospects through the Buying Cycle Stages
It’s simple. Just remember that each piece of content you create should include a call-to-action (CTA) that further engages and qualifies your prospects. Blog post, white paper, infographic, press release -- it doesn't matter! Now the question is: what should the call-to-action be for a given piece of content? Well, that depends on what the next logical action you’d like your prospects to take (besides, placing an order that is).
A good rule of thumb is to have the CTA be a piece of content from the next stage of the buying cycle. For example, use a thought-leadership blog post or recent favorable analyst report as the call-to-action at the end of an educational white paper. If your prospect bites, then chances are they may be further along in the buying process than you originally thought. And don’t forget to change up the CTA from time to time to see what gets the best results.
Putting the Pieces Together with an Editorial Plan
How to put it all together? Create an editorial plan (spreadsheet) that lists the different buyer stages on one axis and specific audiences on the other axis. Now it’s time to fill in the boxes. For example, what content do you have for users in the awareness stage or decision makers in the purchase stage? Which call to actions are you using? And where are the gaps in your editorial plan? You get the idea!
Generally speaking, focus your content on users during the awareness and consideration stages of the buying cycle; and then expand to include decision makers and influencers during the evaluation and purchase stages (when they typically get involved). And don’t forget to use the right call-to-actions to help herd prospects through the buying process.
Now it’s your turn.
What ways are you finding work best to boost your content marketing results? Feel free to share!
Image courtesy of Ivelin Radkof (Shutterstock)
Editor's Note: To read more of Carter's content marketing advice, check out Struggling with Content Marketing? Here's What to Do Now