When I purchased my first new car, I visited lots of garages, got all of the glossy brochures and spent hours at home studying them. Today, my approach is very different; I search the web and look for stories, opinions and reviews on different cars. When I finally go to a dealership, I have pretty much made up my mind which make, model and trim I want.
There are two very important conclusions from this. First, today I am far more advanced through my buying process by the time I engage with a sales person. Second, it is the content that influences my purchasing decision. Content is king.
What is influencing all about?
Influencing can take many forms. It can be guiding someone to recognise and address an issue they have. Or it can be shaping the way that someone thinks about a problem and potential solutions. Alternatively, it can be giving advice on how they should evaluate different solutions.
The role of the marketer is to influence – to engage with potential buyers early in their buying cycle and to guide them through their process. The marketer must influence them along the way and ensure that when they are ready to purchase, they have a positive bias towards your products and/or services.
Influencing the influencer
Many companies get blinded by the big lights and believe that the only way to gain success is to engage directly and exclusively with the CXO level. The question here is: who influences the CXO? Is it you or your competitors? Or is it actually the team of people that work for the CXO?
I am not saying that we should ignore the CXO level, but what I strongly believe in is that you need to influence the influencers. That covers a wide range of people within the organisation that will have a say and will be listened to. It is worth remembering the Google stats: whereas 64% of the C-suite have final sign-off on a purchase, 81% of non-C-suite have a say and influence purchasing decisions.
What is the role of content?
At every stage of the buying cycle those who make decisions and those who influence decisions have an immense appetite to learn – a need for information that will help guide them. It is an opportunity that is far too good to be missed by marketers.
The secret is to recognise the need for different content at each stage of the buying cycle.
At the discovery stage they are looking for thought leadership content that helps them to understand the challenges they face and points them in the direction of potential solutions. At the evaluation stage, they are looking for guidance on what options are available and help in breaking through traditional vendor jargon to get to the facts. At the selection stage they are looking for help on how to select a vendor or service provider, how to prepare a tender and how to build a business case. At the decision stage they are looking for reassurance that what they are about to purchase will work – with examples from similar organisations.
So how do you make content really influence your market?
The first step is to stop thinking in terms of what you want to tell the market and focus on what potential buyers are looking for. I am sure that your product is the best thing since sliced bread and that feature X is so amazingly WOW. But if a buyer has an employee engagement issue or an order fulfilment bottleneck, they are not looking for wow features. They are looking for guidance on how they address these issues.
The next step is to understand their buying cycle and to map your content to it. This creates your customer/prospect journey and you should start creating content that will engage and progress the buyer along this journey.
Some Golden Rules
To deliver great content that influences, there are some golden rules that you need to follow:
- Don’t expect someone to read a 20 page White Paper. They won’t unless they are well down the sales process. In the early stages of the buying cycle, deliver up concise content that gets to the point. Here, visual is often best.
- Advise, don’t sell. We have all read the piece of content that is so overwhelmingly salesy that even if it has great content, we get quickly turned off and disengage.
- Tell a story; that is what people like and how our brains work. What you are trying to say will work a lot better if it is put into perspective and has a conclusion.
- Be as relevant as possible. One size does not fit all so if you try and your content becomes too generic, you will miss every audience. If someone can relate to your content, they are more likely to engage with it.
- Measure the effectiveness of your content. Use tools like Marketing Automation to track content engagement and understand which pieces are most effective at progressing prospects through the buying process.
I strongly believe that great content is the secret ingredient to great marketing and most certainly a way that organisations can out-market the competition.
Need a hand?
If you need to ‘be more dog’ with your marketing and would like to find out how, please don’t hesitate to contact us for a chat. As an experienced B2B content marketing agency we can help take your content to the next level.