Part 3 in a 3-Part Series on Content Marketing for the B2B Buyer’s Journey
I discussed in Part 1: Awareness stage challenges and in Part2: 6 Tips for Conquering Consideration Stage Challenges. In Part 3 of this 3-Part series, I’ll discuss the Decision stage of the buyer’s journey and provide tips for overcoming the top B2B content marketing challenges in the Decision stage.
Decision stage buyer activities
The buyer moves into the Decision stage once they know the best type of solution for solving their problem or opportunity for improvement. They are ready to buy, but haven’t decided exactly which vendor to use, but your company made their short list. During the Decision stage the buyer is typically researching their short list vendors online. They want to understand which vendor’s specific products, services, and capabilities are the best fit for their needs. They are looking for content that helps them:
- compare vendors and pricing
- sell the solution internally to upper management (return on investment, ROI calculators)
- purchase and implement the solution
The content marketer’s goal during the Decision stage is convincing the buyer your solution is the best fit.
Content marketing in the Decision stage
For most B2B companies, the Decision stage is where others such as purchasing and upper management become active participants in the buying decision. So it’s important to arm active prospective buyers with whom you’ve built a trusting relationship, such as the technical or user buyer, with content they can use to sell your solution internally to the decision maker persona, usually their boss. Content needs to focus on justifying the expenditure. For example, show how your solution increases revenues, reduces costs, and delivers ROI to the company. And since buyers are typically engaging with the sales team during this stage, make sure your sales team is also armed with your content.
Time for branding, but keep it useful
After gaining approval from upper management, the buyer is ready to select a vendor and make a purchase. Content should give the B2B buying team a clear picture of how to make the purchase, plan for implementation, and use your product or service.
Provide branded content, but it still shouldn’t be all about you. Your branded content must help the buyer understand how to prepare for, implement and/or integrate your solution. The content should answer questions about timing, delivery, and costs. They also need to know about ongoing maintenance, total cost of ownership (can be powerful for competitor comparison), training, warranty, spare parts, and other customer support services. I’ve found most companies have this information readily available. However, it’s often not “packaged” for sales and marketing use. Sometimes the writing doesn’t fit your brand voice or wasn’t written for prospective buyers.
Content such as success stories, case studies and customer testimonials, from customers similar to your prospective buyer, proves you’ve successfully delivered results to others like them. This significantly increases their confidence in your capabilities.
Top 2 challenges in the Decision stage
The Decision stage is where sales and marketing misalignment becomes evident. Why is this so? Because this stage is where sales and marketing really need to be on the same page helping each other to close the sale. Sales and marketing misalignment is a much broader topic. Here I’ll touch on the top two challenges this misalignment creates for B2B content marketers in the Decision stage.
- Getting sales to use your content – How many times does sales ask you for content, when in fact that content was created months or years ago — “they ought to know where to find it”! I’ve had this experience working with both large (135) and small (5 – 40) sales teams. There are several likely problems at play. First, many companies don’t have an easy-to-access and central location for all of their content. Second, marketing doesn’t provide effective sales onboarding training and/or ongoing communications to the sales team.
Get organized! Create a central and user friendly content hub. This might be in your CRM system, intranet/extranet, or other easily accessed location for the sales team. In most B2B companies a dispersed sales team, in regional offices or even home offices, is the norm. So think about file sizes. Smaller files with lower resolution than needed for print are much better for downloading and emailing to prospects.
Make sure marketing is involved in onboarding new sales people to make them aware of available content and where to get it. And then don’t assume they’ll remember! Ask to speak during sales meetings. Create an ongoing communications campaign to remind the sales team about existing and new content, content being developed, and how to access and use it with prospects. Share real examples of how their peers successfully used content to help close a sale.
- Creating a library of customer case studies and testimonials – Of all the content needed for the Decision stage, customer success stories and testimonials are often the hardest to develop for two reasons. First, marketing doesn’t know which customers would provide a compelling story. Second, it can be difficult to find customers willing to let you talk about their success. This is especially the case for B2B firms because customers gain competitive advantage using your product or service. So of course they don’t want competitors to know. And sometimes it’s just the lawyers getting involved.
Work closely with your sales team to uncover customers whose stories are compelling. Periodically review recent sales and call the sales person to ask about it. If it seems like a good possibility, wait until the customer has experience using your solution before approaching them. After all, the customer needs to be able to talk about using your solution. For most B2B products and services that takes at least a year, especially if you want quantifiable results.
Typically, the larger the company, the more likely you’ll have trouble getting case study approval (more lawyers in larger firms). So focus on medium and smaller size companies. You may be able to get larger companies on board by offering not to use their name. And for every customer, always make it clear and give them final approval before you publish anything.
From decision to retention
In the Decision stage the B2B content marketer’s goal is convincing the buyer (and buying team) your company’s product/service is the best fit. You can successfully convert more buyers by creating a content hub for sales, providing sales onboarding and ongoing communications to the sales team. In addition, work with sales to uncover customer case success stories and testimonials and focus on case studies from medium to smaller companies first. To learn more about how to retain customers see my posts, B2B Retention Marketing: The First Thing You Must Do and Customer Retention: From Sticky Relationships to LTV.
In case you missed the earlier posts in this series, Content Marketing for the B2B Buyer’s Journey, read them now: Part 1: Tips for Conquering the Top 2 Challenges in the Awareness Stage and Part 2: Challenges in the Consideration Stage: 6 Tips for Conquering.