Most business-to-business buying processes are complex and involve multiple individuals. They invest many hours researching potential solutions to their challenges, developing requirements and vetting potential vendors. By acting as a trusted source of knowledge and advice, savvy marketers can generate more qualified sales leads, accelerate the buying process and win more business.
According to a growing body of research, B2B buying processes involve more people and more steps than ever. Research from DemandGen reveals that nearly one-third of buyers (31%) say the length of their B2B purchase cycle has increased significantly compared to a year ago. In addition, 45% of buyers say they’re spending more time researching purchases compared to last year.
Today’s B2B customers have access to a growing quantity of high-quality, trustworthy information. That would seem to make their lives easier, but it actually complicates them, according to Gartner:
“88% of surveyed B2B customers report that the information they encountered during a recent successful purchase decision was high quality. While this might seem to empower customers, it actually overwhelms them.
Customers sift through and assess a mountain of seemingly high-quality information, prioritize relevant sources and make sense of data from different sources. This leads to customers spending a full 15% of the buying cycle time deconflicting information.”
How can your content help to deliver a better buying experience? By utilizing a strategic framework that clearly defines the typical customer’s business objectives, the problems they need to solve, their process for identifying and selecting solutions to them, and the content and messaging needed to support and accelerate their buying process, each step of the way.
This framework must also be more granular than anything you’ve ever done before: It must deliver content that meets the needs of each member of the buying committee. A CFO, for example, will focus on concepts like return on investment and total cost of ownership, while a vice-president of operations may be looking for ways to streamline his manufacturing processes and reduce downtime.
It also needs to recognize that the type of content they need evolves as they move through the buying process. In the earliest stage, consideration, their needs tend to be more educational. They tend to ask questions like, “How can I increase the quality of the widgets I produce?” or “How can I prevent equipment downtime?” Types of content that meet these basic informational needs include blog posts, infographics, how-to videos and tip sheets.
As they move from consideration to evaluation, their needs start to get more specific: “Of the three types of solutions we’ve identified from our research, which one is best?” Types of content that work well here include eGuides, webinars and checklists.
At the final stage of the buying process, evaluation, prospects are trying to narrow down their list of prospective vendors, validate their claims and make a final selection. A key question they’re likely to ask at this stage is “Why should I buy from your company?” Types of content that are most useful to prospects during the evaluation stage are case studies, comparison reports, white papers and specification sheets.
Doesn’t this strategy require a lot of content to implement? Yes, it does, because prospective customers need to be nurtured through each step of their buying process via multiple communication channels. You need a process or framework that clearly defines the sequence and timing of these messages, so they can be deployed using marketing automation and improved using engagement data.
But the challenge isn’t just more content. Marketers must commit to creating higher quality, more targeted and authoritative content that creates more impact for your target audience. That’s a tall order, which is why so few companies are doing it today – and why it can become a competitive advantage for you and your firm.
At the end of September, we will be releasing a new eGuide to help you strategically connect your content to your customers' buying process. When you do this, your customers will convert faster!