If you’re only developing content with consumption in mind, you’re missing a huge opportunity to keep momentum going as prospective buyers move through the buying cycle.
Think about what happens after a businessperson reads a white paper or e-book, attends a webinar, or watches one of your video customer testimonials. You’re probably hoping your thought-provoking ideas inspire the person to spark up a conversation with colleagues and peers. According to Ardath Albee, B2B Marketing Strategist and author of eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale, that’s exactly what happens when your content hits the mark.
During her session at the MarketingProfs B2B Forum 2012, Ardath said a key goal of your content should be to transform interactions from dialogues to conversations. She defines dialogue as an exchange of information (only requires one person) and a conversation as an interchange of thought, information actively shared among people (requires 2 or more people). (For more on these definitions, check out Ardath’s blog post on this topic.)
You can help this transformation along by using your content as a Trojan horse to get your ideas into the conversations your buyers are having when you’re not in the room. But this only works if you think of your content as part of a continuum, where you tell a continuous story over time that accompanies the buyer from beginning to end of the buyer’s journey. When do this effectively, you can become part of all kinds of conversations, including…
- Corridor conversations. When those companies lower down the food chain are trying to get buy-in for your solution, they often gather in hallways to exchange their thoughts on the boss’ support for the initiative. You can extend a helping hand by providing content that helps them make the business case to the head honcho.
- Buying committee conversations. Though an entire committee can be involved in a B2B purchase decision, Ardath says only the person with primary responsibility for the purchase is invested in committee meetings—until a solution is proposed. That’s when others on the committee often speak up to question the decision, throw up roadblocks, and generally take measures that cause the initiative to lose momentum. Your content has to address the committee’s objections to get your solution on the shortlist.
- Inside sales conversations. In this case, you provide inside sales reps with conversational briefs so they understand relevant content they can offer prospective buyers as they’re qualifying them. During the ensuing discussion between inside sales and your leads, your company is likely to uncover additional profile information because buyers are more open to sharing their information when they’re being offered informative content.
- Sales conversations. Your sales reps can’t step into the buying process without understanding what the prospect knows and what content she has consumed. Ardath advocates giving them the CliffNotes version that provides this overview, and also guides the reps as to what content they should offer next to keep the conversation going.
- Customer conversations. Many marketers only think about developing content that helps bring a customer on board. But you can influence customer loyalty and follow-on sales by developing content that helps customers understand how to get more value from your solution once they’ve made the purchase.
- End-user conversations. By developing customer-focused content aimed specifically at end users, you can encourage adoption of your solution, which helps pave the way for contract renewal and further penetration into the account.
Ardath ended her session with three shifts and a challenge.
- Shift from talking to listening. Find out what your buyers are saying by following their conversations online, conducting keyword research, finding out what communities they participate in, analyzing your data, and interviewing a handful of sales reps quarterly.
- Shift from packaged campaigns to tuning on the fly. When you create content, think about producing short-form content instead of just longer pieces, and immediately find ways to repackage and repurpose it. Then monitor the response to your content and adjust as needed.
- Move from one-off blasts to serial storytelling. Make sure your content answers buyers’ questions at each stage in the buying process.
- Multichannel challenge. The ultimate question you need to ask yourself about your content marketing strategy is “will it blend?” In other words, as buyers consume your content across different channels (e.g., your blog, YouTube channel, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.), will they see consistency and a story that hangs together? Remember, your job is to connect the dots for buyers and you do that by orchestrating content and conversations, even as they occur across channels.
So, can you really say you’re part of the conversation?