The B2B marketing world can be pretty repetitive. You know where your customers are, who they are, and the process they go through to determine whether or not to buy from you. Because B2B companies get so wrapped up in their own insular world, many have been slow to adopt content marketing as part of their overall outreach plan.
But content marketing can help you reach new customers and can help move prospects through your sales cycle. It can be used to supplement the efforts of your sales force, and when done correctly, can even ease some of the pressure your salespeople feel when moving a client through the funnel.
In part one of this series, we will look at the homework you as a marketer need to do in order to be able to lay out a solid content marketing strategy. This involves not only knowing your products and services, but understanding what moves and motivates your clients through the sales process to signing a contract with you.
Know Why Your Customers Buy From You
The first step in developing a content strategy for your B2B company is to understand why customers buy from you. You can guess at this all you want, but in order to get an accurate gauge, you’re going to have to ask them. Customer surveys can be a great source when developing your content strategy for the year. Flat out ask your happy clients what the most important factor was when they chose to sign on with you. You’ll notice patterns, and this can be a clue about what to focus your content efforts on.
Know Your Sales Cycle
The sales cycle is often biggest disconnect between the sales force and the marketing departments of B2B companies. Marketers really don’t get what sales people go through in order to sign a new client. Before adopting an in-depth content marketing plan, you’ll need to educate yourself on the sales cycle. How long does it take to go from first contact to final contract? In the B2B world, it’s usually a pretty long time. Sit with your sales people and learn the process they go through with their potential clients. Learn where the “sticky” points are and get a real understanding of the objections they face. All of this can help you to plan content that will support your sales team in the field and help overcome prospect objections.
Understand Your Customers Biggest Problems
What are the top three reasons customers seek you out? What are the biggest problems your prospects and clients face in their business? If you can’t answer without speculating, then you don’t know. Customer surveys, input from sales people and customer service reps can be extremely helpful in pinning down this type of information. If you know what the biggest and most common issues of your clients, you can create content that will address their issues and your company can become the solution to their most pressing problems.
Know How People Are Using Your Website
Your current website can be a wealth of information for content planning. Dig into your analytics information and see what queries people are typing in the most in order to find you. Study the pages that visitors land on most often, and know which pages they spend the most time browsing. On the flip side, it can be helpful to know which pages they are ignoring, so that you can either strengthen them or ditch them all together.
Where Is Your Audience Hanging Out Online?
You’re going to want to know what the most popular blogs and websites are in your industry so that you can get a feel for why their content attracts so many visitors. For blogs, visit alltop.com. Type your industry into the search bar to discover the top blogs in that niche. Study the blog and look specifically for the most popular posts. Many blogs provide this information right in the sidebar. What topics are getting the most traction? Make notes.
You can also Google some of your ideal keywords and see who is ranking well. Check out their websites to get a feel for their content marketing strategy. It’s entirely possible that many of your competitors aren’t doing any aggressive content marketing, which is good for you. Notice what is lacking in the marketplace and you can fill a need.
Up Next: Create Your Plan
Take plenty of time to investigate this. You’ll want to not only speak to sales and customer service managers, but also the reps and associates in the field who deal directly with clients. Managers know what “should be” but the people in the trenches know what “is.” Don’t guess at any of the answers to these questions. Do your homework and dig for real answers. The more time you spend in the early stages of content planning, the more time and money you will save in the long run.
In the next portion of this series, we’ll talk about what to do with the information you gathered here, and how to hammer out an actionable content marketing strategy.
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