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How Content Marketing Supports the B2B Sales Process

salesContent marketing is an ideal companion to a B2B sales team. Why? Two reasons:

1) The B2B sales process inherent nature (a longer sales cycle, smaller potential client pool, higher priced purchases and multiple decision makers) requires multiple touch points with a prospective client.

2) The traditional B2B “sales funnel” is evolving from a predictable linear model to a much more diverse and jumbled path—requiring marketers to consistently remind prospective clients of a B2B brand through relevant, new content on an infinite number of platforms.

In this article, we’ll outline steps in the B2B sales process and corresponding content marketing tactics that can help guide a client from discovery to decision.

Discovery

Attracting web visitors and transforming them into qualified prospects is the first step in a B2B sales process. These customers are conducting a web search, gathering preliminary information and sourcing referrals from trusted sources. Most importantly, they’re trying to find a business they can trust, meaning helpful content that addresses their need will nurture the relationship much more than pushy, fluffy sales talk.

Content to engage the discovery stage includes:

  • Tip lists
  • Curated articles relevant to the industry
  • Free downloads such as guides and white papers
  • Portfolio gallery
  • Customer testimonials

The most critical component to creating this content is also having a call to action to guide them to the next stage. Your discovery content can feature any of the following:

  • Comment on a blog post
  • Share content across social media
  • Follow business on social media
  • Subscribe to a newsletter

Consideration

During the consideration phase, a qualified lead recognizes a B2B brand as potential suitor and understands the firm’s unique value proposition. They’re most likely comparing a firm to competitors and have a clearer picture of their project needs. Recycling the same content from the discovery phase is a bad idea. These qualified leads want to engage with a B2B firm and in return receive personalized answers and attention.

Content for the consideration phase include:

  • Case studies about similar B2B firms
  • Long-form content such as eBooks
  • Demo videos
  • Webinars
  • Newsletters
  • Service guides
  • Competition comparison and analysis reports

Calls to action within this content include stronger “consideration content” (e.g. registering for other webinars, downloading similar resources). Consider any action that pushes a prospect closer to the decision stage such as requesting a free consultation or trial.

Decision

Finally, a percentage of prospects from the discovery stage have made it to the decision stage. Remember that even if a lead is ready to buy, a B2B firm should build a case of credibility through content before moving to a proposal.

Content that helps the decision making process, not hinders it, includes:

  • Phone call with a representative
  • Special offers
  • In person events
  • Comparison to competition (experience, process, pricing, etc.)
  • In-depth how-to and service delivery articles
  • Pricing information

In the decision phase, calls to action that draw a prospect in, instead of pushing them away include some of the following:

  • Claim a special offer/discount
  • Contact your business (either by email, phone or a signup form)
  • Register for an event
  • Time sensitive offer
  • Order today

Advocacy

You didn’t think it all stopped once they became a buyer, did you? Think again. B2B content should be providing repeat value to a current client, reaffirming the quality of a brand and its brand promise: its service delivery.

Here is content to keep current clients engage and become long-term advocates:

  • Feedback surveys
  • Contests and giveaways
  • Specialized newsletters
  • Product podcasts
  • Ongoing in-depth training
  • Special offers for current clients

These calls to action should be mutually beneficial, such as sharing your content with other potential leads, participating in future webinars as a co-presenter or offering a customer testimonial.

Take Away

Content marketing is an effective strategy for the B2B sales process. What makes it successful is when it’s customized for every stage—with consideration to the lead’s questions, concerns and needs along the way.

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