Do You Coordinate Your Content Marketing With Your B2B Sales Cycle?

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Surprising as it may seem, there are still countless B2B companies that are skeptical of the impact of content marketing.

In some cases, it’s because they have posted a few blogs, they’ve written white papers, they may even have tried their hand at video – and they aren’t seeing meaningful results.

This may be because their content is lousy, but let’s say for the sake of argument that it’s solid.

Quite possibly, their content hasn’t been thoughtfully mapped to their sales cycle, which means that targets aren’t seeing the right content at the right time.

In fact, we see this all the time.

We work with our clients to create a strategic editorial calendar that addresses their target customer’s needs across the spectrum of the sales cycle, taking into consideration the unique messaging that each stage requires.

And guess what…?

You’re in luck, because I’m going to share some of those strategies today.

Early stage leads – impression is everything

At this stage of the game, your prospective customers are really just searching for information.

Some research suggests that more than 75% of all B2B buyers have conducted comprehensive online research before a vendor is even approached.

So don’t kid yourself – the decision makers are scouring Google, searching for information, reading up about your competition and deciding what brand resonates best. And if you want to be on your target’s radar, you better make sure that you have an optimized, dynamic and meaningful online presence.

So, this early stage is all about search. And to optimize your search, you want to be feeding your website and social media channels with meaningful, dynamic and engaging content that addresses your target customer’s pain points.

Show them how you  can solve their problems and establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry with:

  • Blog posts
  • White papers
  • Press releases
  • Your website

Mid stage leads – prove your capabilities

At this stage, you’ve already been discovered. You’re on the radar. Your blog posts have been read.

But now your prospective client is looking for some confirmation of your capabilities – some proof that there will be a return on their investment.

This is when you want to share content in the form of:

  • Client success stories or case studies
  • Customer testimonials (in video format…even better!)
  • Data sheets that detail the impact of your products and services

These materials demonstrate your track record and reassure the prospective customer that you can deliver!

Late stage leads – seal the deal

You’re almost at the finish line, but not quite.

The customer may have narrowed down the vendor selection to you and possibly one or two other candidates.

So you want to leverage your content, at this stage, to really underscore your value proposition and your differentiating features.

You probably want to address the competition’s shortcomings and limitations (compared to your offering) and highlight these messages through:

  • Demonstrations
  • Customized and targeted email campaigns
  • Comparison sheets
  • Webinars

You have the content…what now?

Half the battle in a content marketing campaign is understanding how to push out your ‘gold’ through the appropriate channels.

Understanding the sales cycle is critical, but then you need to push that message to your targets at the right time.

So when you create your editorial calendar, make sure you consider:

  • The static content on your site (and that it is optimized for search)
  • Opt in opportunities (for white papers and data sheets)
  • Your email distribution channels
  • The content on your social media platforms
  • Conferences and face-to-face engagements
  • Print distribution channels
  • Video messaging
  • Traditional PR resources
  • Scheduled webinars, training programs and presentations

All of these opportunities can be coordinated with your content marketing efforts to ensure that you approach your sales cycle thoughtfully and strategically.

Your turn

So, do you map your content marketing efforts to your sales cycle? Do you have materials that address your target customers’ needs at all stages? Do you disagree with this approach?

Share your thoughts and reactions in the comment section below, and if you found this post useful, we’d be every so grateful if you’d share it on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. :-).

 

 

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21 Comments

  •    Reply

    Sounds like a winning strategy to me.

    I’m still trying to get my arms around how it would apply to Lanier specifically. We do try to brand ourselves and we are different than most brokers who just want to ‘quote’ the insurance. However, the product we sell is something somebody has already bought. Typically, if you hire us you are firing someone else.

    And on the large commercial accounts, I don’t see those people in social as I Google alert them to keep an eye on where they are and what they are doing.

    I’m not saying it couldn’t work for us but we would have to do a good job of driving them to our site, before it would have any impact I believe.

    •    Reply

      Bill, you would have to spend some time really determining Lanier’s value proposition, especially as it compares to the competition.

      Is it your exemplary customer service?
      Is it your knowledge of a specific type of product or industry?
      Is it the experience of your brokers?
      Is it your corporate culture?

      The large commercial accounts might not be on social, but I can pretty much guarantee that someone, in some department is spending some time on search narrowing down the possible field of prospective insurance companies that they want to use. And to that end, social plays a role in search. As does blogging. As do case studies. As do white papers. Social might not be your primary content marketing strategy; it might just serve to push out some of your other communication materials.

      Thanks for your comment!

  •    Reply

    What a solid plan Ruth and who better to share this with us then the content marketing queen herself.

    I do map out my strategies but I don’t have everything you mentioned here on my list. Yeah, still not doing a lot of webinars so I still have room for improvement.

    I’ve yet to get testimonials up but have my list of people I intend to email and ask them if they will share one with me. Guess who is on that list? Oh yeah… It’s coming girl.

    Great layout of what not only B2B companies can be doing to improve their marketing strategies but all of us as well.

    Thanks for sharing this with us as always.

    Enjoy your week.

    ~Adrienne

    •    Reply

      As long as these steps are all on your radar Adrienne then I have no doubt you will get to all of them. We haven’t completed our strategy either, and in some ways, it’s better if it’s a work in progress since that ensures your content is dynamic and fresh.

      You know that I am always too happy to provide a testimonial! Your video series was what catapulted me into the blogosphere!

  •    Reply

    What you’ve described Ruth is an awesome strategy. I have been working with many companies already, and I have to spend a lot of time to convince them to start focusing on content. And, I have also told them to not expect big results in a short amount of time. This type of work takes time.

    What I have been having some issues with is how to track results. When I’m talking to people they’re always asking me about the results. One way to look at it is how many visitors they get to their website, and how many people who are subscribing to their newsletter or following them on twitter/facebook, or the conversations in social media etc.. but what they want from me are increased sales. And that’s what they are asking me about, how do we track the sales from what we’re doing with the content?

    I’d love your thoughts on this :)

    •    Reply

      It’s all about conversions Jens, and it’s really difficult to measure the impact of marketing on conversion rates.

      We build Calls to Action into all of our online strategies, and we are very careful to track the analytics of those CTA’s.

      So rather than just measuring visitors, we are counting opt-ins or measuring click throughs. Those might not be direct sales, but they are definitely considered ‘leads’, especially in B2B relationships. The more that you can drill down your analytics into meaningful ‘conversions’ the better sense of your marketing impact. Especially across the sales cycle.

      So, for early stage leads, a blog subscription might count as a conversion. Mid stage conversions might be data sheet downloads. And a late stage lead could be a webinar sign up.

      Does that make sense?

  • Jeevan Jacob John October 10, 2012 at 2:11 pm
       Reply

    That’s really comprehensive ;)

    I have never done any business online, so not much I can say about that, but I think it is a great strategy (I can relate back to this strategy though because attracting traffic to the blog is about the same thing – well, they are the same thing in some cases).

    I think the hardest part is maintaining the traffic (in the case of business, mid and later stages). Attracting traffic or prospective customers is kind of easy compared to maintaining them (in the case of traffic, returning visitors). Don’t you think?

    This all makes much more sense when I think about your last blog post on Samsung’s advertising tricks to convince iPhone buyers ;)

    •    Reply

      On the one hand, it’s tough to move visitors and prospects to the latter stages of your sales cycle. On the other hand, those candidates that remain are much more engaged and invested in your brand. So they are highly qualified and ready to seal the deal – which means that if you tailor your strategy correctly, and lead them down that path, there is tremendous opportunity.

      Thanks for your comment Jeevan!

  •    Reply

    I have always been driven by strategies that will help me develop relevant and solution-oriented content and re-purposing existing materials this way I know that I’m staying true to my commitment of communicating with my prospects. Thanks for sharing

    •    Reply

      Thanks Joy – repurposing content, throughout the entire sales cycle – is a great way to be effective without breaking the bank. Kudos to you and thanks for stopping by!

  •    Reply

    I think that it’s a brilliant idea to map out our strategies every now and then to manage sales opportunities and to determine at what stage my customers are in the sales funnel. Thanks for the engrossing read!

    •    Reply

      Glad you enjoyed it Kristine and thanks for visiting. Having a roadmap keeps us accountable, especially in the midst of chaos (which we all encounter)! And acknowledging that not every prospect will be engaged by the same material at the same time allows us to be flexible and proactive in our approach!

  •    Reply

    I have never been introduced to this kind of strategy. Now I know how to interlink my B2B sales cycle with content marketing. Hopefully, I’ll fare pretty well with this kind of set up! Thanks for this great post.

  •    Reply

    Wow, you formulated a strong technique. Hope it pans out well! Your thoughts amaze me, dear!

  •    Reply

    Wow, you sure have a great plan! I really hope that you would be able to achieve what you desire with that kind of strategy! This post gave new ideas!

  •    Reply

    I still believe that having excellent content would take you a long way. This sounds to me as a foolproof plan.

  •    Reply

    I am hoping your plan works out fine. Looks solid to me. Good job sharing this to us!

  •    Reply

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