Solving B2B Marketing Challenges with Content
Any successful marketing campaign has to ensure that all the individual elements are working as a cohesive unit toward the ultimate goal of making sales. This article explores the ways in which B2B campaigns (particularly large accounts) can benefit from a coordinated Content Marketing program.
The chocolate bars taste really good. The scanners are complex – they can show hidden detail and condition of a nuclear power plant, car assembly line and a wide range of critical infrastructure utilities. Compared to the humble chocolate bar the scanner is much more expensive.
Of course, the chocolate bar market is crowded. The list of competitors is lengthy: Dove Bar, Drifter, Crispy Crunch and many more. The marketing challenge is to achieve substantial exposure leading to awareness and consumption. Include a recipe that ensures addiction and competitive pricing, and the chocolate bars are well on their way to enjoying success in the market place.
The need to educate or explain is small regarding a chocolate bar. It is uncomplicated and the experience speaks for itself. The chocolate bars are simply delicious. Enjoy eating them, then come back and buy some more.
The same cannot be said of a 3D laser scanner and most other complex business to business (B2B) products, services and solutions. B2B marketers face a huge range of obstacles along the way to making the sale, especially when pitching expensive or complex B2B products or services.
In the current day and age, marketing issues have become simpler to solve because connectivity, programmatic distribution and the Internet in general has made it easier than ever to use content to market your offering. Content Marketing involves creating and distributing content that is relevant, informative and valuable to your target market. This process helps you to attract, educate, engage and ultimately convert your potentials into customers.
B2B Marketing Problem 1: B2B Products Are Complicated
B2B products are usually quite complex and contain many features, functions and benefits. Due to their numerous, varied applications across a wide range of industries, the products become something like a Rubik’s Cube for marketers.
Like many B2B niche products, you may never have heard of a 3D laser scanner. Naturally, the scanner needs an explanation. This is a piece of high tech equipment that can measure and document any scene more rapidly, accurately, safely and comprehensively than a whole team of surveyors ever could.
The scanner can be used in the automobile, oil, power generation, building and construction industries and many more. In each industry, the applications vary. The scanner can be used to collect data to retool your production line, retrofit a power plant or reconstruct an historic building.
If a product is a new concept that’s sophisticated and versatile, potential clients will need education, not a simple sales pitch. They need to learn how a new product or solution can help solve their problems in their industry. They want educational materials that are geared to their level of understanding, whether they’re just learning or expert product champions.
The Solution is Content That Educates. In the past, salespeople had to do all the teaching about these complex solutions one-on-one with prospects. However, potential clients are usually happy to educate themselves with readily available online information.
Online content marketing is an ideal solution because your target audience can learn at their own pace, whenever they want. Also, if you offer content in multiple content formats—blog posts, e-books, videos, infographics, research studies, case studies—prospects can consume educational materials in the way that best suits their learning style.
B2B Marketing Problem 2: A Multitude of Decision Makers
In the case of the chocolate bars, there are likely only one or two decision makers. Perhaps a child is the influencer, pointing out the cookies on the supermarket shelf, and Mom or Dad makes the final decision.
The B2B situation is very different due to complexity and high purchase price.
Sarah, the Director of Risk Management in her company, wants to buy software that will help reduce the risk of fraud in accepting online credit card transactions. But the software will cost thousands of dollars a year. The high price tag means she needs to get the chief executive officer (CEO) chief financial officer (CFO) and involved. In addition, some changes will be required in the way customer service handles transactions, so Sarah also needs to seek advice from the Director of Customer Relations.
In this situation, there are numerous people involved in the buying decision. They all have varied levels of influence and look at the solution from their own perspectives. They learn about it at different times, and it impacts each of them in different ways. In many situations, the person who wants to purchase the product the most doesn’t have the final say.
The Solution is to provide content that speaks to different audiences – when it comes to content, one size does not fit all.
While Sarah wants to understand how the software can cut potential fraud, the CFO and CEO want to be aware of the bottom line impact. They need to know how to crunch the numbers. Perhaps, they would like to look at case studies that show the ROI experienced by other companies. Finally, the Director of Customer Relations needs step-by-step guidance on what her team has to do differently. She has to review the impact of process changes might have on customers and inside sales associates.
To handle the varied content needs of the individuals involved in the buying decision, you need to develop buyer personas, one for each of the stakeholders. These personas describe exactly how buying influencers and decision makers make their judgments and the content required to move them from initial awareness to conversion.
B2B Marketing Problem 3: Long Buying Cycles
Buying a chocolate bar is usually an impulse decision. However, buying a piece of heavy equipment for manufacturing likely requires in-depth research, analysis and approvals for funding.
Sales cycles for B2B products often take more than four months. Marketing research indicates that one in ten B2B sales cycles takes more than a year. In addition to having multiple decision makers, other issues contribute to the long sales cycle.
By the very nature of complex B2B products, you have a typically high price point, perhaps even climbing to six or seven figures. Not surprisingly, the larger the deal is, the longer the sales cycle.
The inherent risks are higher for B2B buyers. If you buy fraud mitigation software and it fails to do the job correctly, fraudulent attacks could shut down your company. Much due diligence is required.
The Solution is to provide relevant content for every phase of the sales cycle. A long buying cycle includes several mileposts along the way — awareness, interest, consideration, decision and loyalty. You need to serve up content that attracts your audience and then keeps them moving from one milepost to the next.
Perchance you’ll gain their interest with blog posts, infographics and e-books. Once they seriously start to consider your offering, you might invite them to a webinar. Perhaps the next stage is a free trial, demo or one-on-one consultation.
Whatever you offer, it has to be tailored to your buyers and their role in the decision-making process. It has to meet them where they are in the buying cycle and speak specifically to their industry or market segment.
B2B Marketing Problem 4: The Customer Base Is Limited
Generally you are selling to a small number of companies and individuals. Who wouldn’t want a chocolate bar snack? But how many people are interested in, for example, industrial weighing devices or a 3D laser scanner?
This means every single potential client counts. Each and every one of them can have a substantial impact on your sales results.
The Solution is to simply go ahead and do it. Reading through this article, you probably have been thinking “that sounds like a lot of work.” True it is, but when you only have a limited pool of prospects, it has to be worth spending the time to create content that will speak to them in a personal way and bring them into your fold. So, when it comes to content marketing, just do it.
B2B Marketing Problem 5: Sales People Are Expensive
In B2B sales, personal relationships between the salesperson and the customer are still vital; whether that be as an inside salesperson or a sales rep who sits down face-to-face with the client.
Salespeople are mostly expensive; you don’t want to waste their time; unsurprisingly, neither do they want to waste their own time. Salespeople have no interest in getting involved with leads at an early stage in the buying cycle; they prefer to work with prospects that are educated. Informed prospects can turn into customers more rapidly and have an immediate impact on a salesperson’s commission.
The Solution is to increase sales productivity with content. By using content to attract and engage the right people, educate them and build their trust in your organization, you’ll empower your sales people to be more productive. They can call on prospects when they’re ready to buy, help them in a consultative way and move them over the finish line to close the sale.