Here’s the path B2B technology buyers take towards—and beyond—the sale, along with a set of guidelines to help you create content that will engage customers in all stages of the buying process.
It’s no secret that creating engaging content is the key to top-performing B2B marketers’ success.
Research shows that 49 percent of B2B buyers rely more heavily on content to research their purchase decisions than they did last year, and 87 percent of B2B companies will create digital content in 2019.
But not all content is created equal, and yours won’t increase brand awareness, generate leads, or turn customers into longtime fans if it’s not engaging.
At the heart of engagement is knowing your audience: By understanding their interests, concerns, wishes, and pain points, you can create content that builds trust and deepens relationships.
After you gain this understanding, you must align your content with where each member of your target audience is within the sales cycle. When you focus on these two things, you will provide buyers with the information that they need exactly when they need it.
According to a recent technology content marketing report, 78 percent of top-performing marketers said that “providing the right content to the right person at the right time” is their priority.
Whether they call it the sales cycle, the marketing funnel, or the buyer’s journey, B2B marketers agree that their customers pass through distinct stages on the way to making a purchase decision.
Their needs and interests change as they move through the cycle, and this process is neither neat nor linear. Customers might enter or leave at any stage, and they might move up or down, forwards or backwards.
This is why you need to make sure your content addresses the needs of buyers at every stage in the cycle. That way, you’ll be able to meet them where they’re at, no matter when they find you.
Here are the key stages in the B2B tech buying cycle, along with what content customers are likely to consume during every stage:
At this stage, prospects are researching their problems and may not be aware that a solution exists, let alone that you can help them. Your goal at this stage is to educate them about their challenges and position yourself as a trusted advisor.
72 percent of buyers will turn to Google as their primary research tool during this stage, and the search terms they use are usually generic. They’ll ask questions about their own pain points, not the specific features or functionalities of your product.
For instance, technology buyers may be interested in greater business process efficiency, hardware or energy cost savings, or reducing their security risks.
You can begin to answer their general questions by providing content that discusses industry best practices, common mistakes, or frequently asked questions.
Content types that work well to build awareness include:
By the time buyers reach the consideration phase, they will have some awareness about your product or service. However, they will need more convincing around how it can solve their problems or alleviate their pain.
Buyers in the consideration stage often look for third-party proof that your products or services deliver results. In fact, 64 percent of buyers report that they pay more attention to sources they perceive to be objective such as customer and analyst reviews. Your prospects want to read stories about customers who have applied your technology in the real world.
Content that answers “how does it work?” questions also resonate with this audience.
The most valuable content types in the consideration stage include:
This is the last phase in the sales cycle. It’s when prospects take that all-important final step: converting into customers. Your content is often what gives them the “extra push” they need to make the decision to buy.
During the decision phase, your content’s job is to reaffirm your audience’s growing trust in your brand and product. B2B technology buyers often look for pricing information, configuration options, technical specifications, and more in-depth product detail by this point in the sales cycle.
At this stage, your audience may need reminders about the value of your offering or reassurance that now is indeed the best time to buy.
Here are content types that work well during the decision stage:
Your content’s work is never done! Once your prospects have converted into paying customers, it’s time to educate them to ensure that they’re getting the most value from your services, or becoming savvy, knowledgeable users of your product.
The retention stage is the “honeymoon phase” in the sales cycle, and it’s when your content can help you turn paying customers into loyal fans.
Content types that work well in this stage include:
If your content isn’t performing as well as it should be, you may have gaps in your funnels.
For example, your content may focus too much on a particular audience or stage of the sales cycle, leaving out the others. This creates a “gap” where you are failing to nurture prospects and causing them to leak out of your funnel.
Completing a content audit is the best way to gain a true understanding of your current assets and where you have gaps. Your goal is to ensure that you’re not neglecting certain market segments or stages in the sales cycle.
A content audit includes inventory and analysis. Start by cataloguing all of your content assets. If your content dates back years, this process can be intimidating. You can see quick wins by focusing on pieces that you’ve published within the past year or two. Once you have this list, map each piece of content to your buyers’ journey to make sure that you haven’t left out any stages or customers.
Here are six steps that will help you align your content with where buyers are in your sales cycle:
Performing a content audit is a key step in improving the quality and performance of your marketing. The results of your audit will help you get clear on your gaps so that you can focus on creating content that gets prospects to take the next step.