We recently participated in a conference for users of the Pardot Marketing Automation platform (which ZUZA also uses). The conference was as much about the new rules of marketing as it was about using the tool itself. The expert speakers at this conference reaffirmed the sea change in B2B marketing that we must adjust to. This isn’t your parents’ marketing. Here are the key takeaways.
The buyer owns the buying process.
Remember the good old days? You placed ads and sent post cards to mailing lists. Potential buyers saw your ads and post cards and became aware of your awesome products and services. Buyers then either called in to learn more, or your salespeople reached out to them to start the buying process. From almost the beginning, the salesperson owned the relationship with the buyer and controlled the buying process all the way up to the final purchase.
Today, the model is completely flipped. The buyer is now in charge. Thanks to the deluge of good information on the internet and the peer-to-peer referral sharing made possible by social networks, the buyer can (and will) avoid talking to a salesperson until the final stages in the buying process, when the buyer is just about ready to choose a vendor and pull out a credit card. This leaves very little opportunity for salespeople to build a relationship with buyers.
Now, marketers must build and own much of the relationship with buyers. How? By giving buyers what they want: access to useful information that helps them solve their problems. Buyers want good content. That’s why Content Marketing is so important now (see our blog post on Content Marketing » ). Giving buyers good content establishes that a) you care about the buyer’s needs, and b) you are an expert in your field that provides credible, relatively unbiased information. This thought leadership will make buyers seek you out for education and help build your brand as a trusted resource. This in turn will highly influence the buyer when he/she is finally ready to talk to one of your salespeople.
There are four keys to making a Content Marketing strategy work.
- Understanding your buyers, their buying process, and their respective content needs
- Creating enough content to keep buyers engaged at all stages of their buying process
- Nurturing buyers with content throughout the buying process, a.k.a. “lead nurturing”
- Use Marketing Automation to enable effective lead nurturing
Let’s look at each in turn:
1. Understanding your buyers and their respective content needs
Odds are, you have more than one type of buyer. Each buyer type has different attitudes, opinions, needs, pain points, motivations and methods of getting information. Each also has certain content needs based on their stage in the buying process. The stages can be outlined this way (from inboundsales.net ):
Awareness (from status quo to priority shift) » Evaluation (research, options) » Decision (validation, choice)
As we mentioned earlier, the buyer won’t be ready to talk to a salesperson until the Decision stage. Until then, it’s up to Marketing to build a relationship with buyers using content during the Awareness and Evaluation stages. In order to truly understand the buyer types and their needs for content, we must build buyer personas. To learn more about how to do this, please see our blog post on Buyer Personas » .
2. Creating enough content to keep buyers engaged
Creating good content takes time and dedication. Many marketing departments find it difficult to dedicate this time. Fortunately, there are ways to make content generation much easier for you. Here are some great tips that were offered at the Pardot conference:
- Recycle: Turn one piece of content into many pieces of content. For instance, here’s how you can turn one white paper into six more pieces of content: 1) turn the executive summary into a stand-alone fact sheet; 2) turn the sales messages on the back of the white paper into a “Why to buy” sales sheet; 3) take a checklist from the white paper and make it a stand-alone piece; 4) take facts and statistics and turn them into an infographic (learn more about how to create one here » ); 5) convert the white paper into a short video conveying the same information; and 6) turn it into a podcast.
- Conduct surveys: once a quarter, conduct a small survey (30 or more participants) of your customers, prospects or other folks with opinions relevant to things your customers care about, and publish the results. You can also put out a press release about the survey results, turn the results into an infographic, and create a white paper from it.
- Milk your webinars: When you host a live webinar, record it for future viewing. Turn it into a video and also a podcast. Upload it to video channels. Share it in social media. Post the slides on SlideShare.
- Newsjacking: Be on the alert for breaking stories relevant to your industry and your customers’ interests. Be one of the first to post online with your expert opinion on the subject. Google will index this quickly, letting your post rise to the top of searches. You’ll be published even before posts from many journalists, because they have to go through a process of researching, vetting and citing sources before they submit their stories. And, your post will likely be one of the sources journalists use and cite. Share your post on Twitter — multiple times. You can’t over-share on Twitter, because people check Twitter at different times of the day. The odds of the same person seeing your post duplicated is practically zero. How can you keep on top of breaking news stories? Take some time once or twice a day to scan your Google Alerts (set them up here » ). You should also use Twitter to follow relevant industry sources, and have RSS feeds from these too. Finally, post appropriately. It would be inappropriate to publish a self-promotional post related to news, as Kenneth Cole did during the riots in Cairo last year (see our post on Epic Twitter Fails about this one » ). Also, don’t spam by having your posts link to your product page — instead, always make these posts news only.
3. Nurture buyers through the process with Lead Nurturing
As customers discover your company through online searches for content, you can set them up on a “drip program.” Much like drip irrigation of crops, this process slowly “drips” relevant content to buyers based on what they’ve accessed previously, catering to buyers’ interests and needs. In essence, you are nurturing the buyer with content that slowly builds his/her trust in your company as an advisor and supplier. As the buyer goes through the buying process stages, you can supply content more specifically focused on helping that person make a buying choice (with your own offering ranking favorably, we hope). When the relationship is solid and the buyer has moved far enough along the process, you can drip a suggestion to start a conversation with a salesperson about meeting that buyer’s needs. See our blog post on Lead Nurturing to learn more » .
4. Use Marketing Automation
To effectively conduct lead nurturing, you really need to invest in a Marketing Automation platform. Serving the content needs of all the buyers in your prospect database is just too time consuming and complex for a marketing team to effectively handle manually. Learn more from our post on Marketing Automation » .
The key takeaway here is to flip the traditional sales model on its head. Marketing has to play a much larger and longer role in building relationships with buyers for them to convert to being sales-ready. This requires you to understand your buyers and their content needs, give them the content they want, and nurture them with this content. These are the new rules of B2B marketing. And by the way, while this post has focused on B2B, the basic principles here apply to B2C also. You’ll just be dealing with different buyer personas and supplying different content to meet their needs.
To get you started on the path to new marketing awesomeness, here’s a recap of great resources from the ZUZA Marketer’s Blog Library:
Here’s to the Marketing Champion in all of us. See you in the next post.