People don’t buy things they way they did 10 or 15 years ago. Whether it’s a hotel room, a house or a $200k software system, their search begins online. This means that your prospective customers need to find you online, and when they find you there needs to be enough compelling information (a.k.a. “content”) for them to choose you over a competitor. Creating demand for your products and services depends on creating the right kind of content for your potential customers, meeting their information needs as they move from being aware of a potential problem they want to solve through to selecting a particular solution and vendor. You put that content online on your website, on your blog and on third party sites and then take steps to ensure it’s easily found by your prospective customers. As your prospects access that information you interact with them, establishing your relevance and persuading them to choose you as their preferred solution provider.
In the last post I highlighted advice from the MarketingSherpa B2B Lead Generation Handbook on the ‘information need’ phases through which buyers move as they begin to consider a product purchase (from Awareness, through Consideration and then to Risk Avoidance/Decision). (We will come back to the question of modelling buyer behaviour in later posts, using a technique called Buyer Persona Analysis).
Once you understand the ‘information needs’ of your buyers at different stages in the buying cycle, you can start to match that up with corresponding types of content. The output will be a table or matrix that lists
- each of the buyer types who are involved in a typical purchase of your product or service,
- the phases they go through during the purchase cycle, and
- the specific types of content you should offer them at each point in that cycle.
Here’s a selection of some of the types of content MarketingSherpa suggests you should consider for your marketing programs:
- Research – people like to know what’s going on in their industry and specialisation. You can meet this need by publishing research and survey results – there are a host of online survey tools that can help, you can run in-person surveys at conferences, or you can commission an academic or research firm to carry out the research for you.
- Education – this means providing tutorials on specific topics, using multiple media ranging from .pdfs through webinars and online videos. The key here is not to make them overtly product-promotional i.e. provide information that is generally useful to a broad audience, rather than a spruced up user manual for your own product.
- Tours and overviews – an animated or video tour of your product or service could be the most effective way to communicate its differentiators and benefits. It also appeals to prospects who can’t make the time to read a white paper or product brochure.
- News – try to generate news that will be of genuine interest or value to prospective buyers. This could be a round-up of online blogs on a particular subject, or updates on recent industry analysis.
- Thought leadership – this is the creation of content that helps you develop a reputation as someone with real knowledge and insight in your particular sector. Developing thought leadership isn’t easy – there’s no easy way to fake it. You have to work at it yourself or else buy-in the insight. If you have clear views on your industry or speciality based on experience and reflection then it is worthwhile recording and sharing these . Alternatively you can hire someone to prepare a paper for you or else pay to re-use a paper from a research firm such as Gartner or Forrester
- Case studies and success stories – case studies help explain the application of your product or service clearly to your prospective buyers and they build your credibility as someone who can deliver a successful solution. With low cost web-video cameras it is worthwhile seeing if you can get customer to provide a video case study in addition to or in place of a written case study, as a ‘direct-to-camera’ interview is generally more compelling.
- Q&As – an easy type of content to create once you have someone willing to respond. Send an expert a list of your questions and publish the answers
- Company and product information – this is the kind of information needed when a prospect is seriously evaluating your product or service, and they want lots of it. Provide as much information as you can about the company and its products, including press releases, product fact sheets, technical implementation, buyers guide and competitor comparisons.
- How-to tips – short articles illustrating how to overcome a problem or achieve a particular result, illustrated with graphics or charts and augmented by video or audio where possible.
Over the coming months I’ll come back to the topic of how to plan the creation of content as part of your overall marketing and sales plans. I also want to look at how you can develop a better understanding of your target buyers and how to reflect that understanding in your online presence, through your web-site and blog and through the kind of content you make available to your audiences. And I’d also like to look at how you can reduce the effort in producing content – what are the easiest ways to generate content, to re-use it in different ways, to make the most use of what you have? You want to spread your content over the web, having it proliferate in as many places as possible to achieve maximum impact, so we’ll look at the tools that can help you do that, from Twitter to Slideshare.