In Part One of The Buyer’s Journey, I talked about the importance of aligning your content not with the sales cycle, but with your unique buyers and their buyer’s journey. Here, in part two, I’ll cover the later stages of the B2B buyer’s journey, including Trial, Social Vetting, Building Internal Support for your specific solution, Negotiation & Commitment, Onboarding and Implementation, Community and Referral/Upsell.
Sometimes expanded into a proof of concept, the trial stage is one of the most important stages in the buyer’s journey. Often, this is the stage where a winner emerges. Obviously, winning requires a quality product and support, but many companies overlook the importance of content at this stage.
Content relevant for this stage might include:
- Trial guides
- Feature comparisons
- Case studies (highlighting particular capabilities that should be evaluated)
Numerous studies, including Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising study, indicate that buyer’s trust recommendations from other users, whether known to them or not, much more than they trust advertising or vendor claims. Social vetting can happen at almost any stage in the buyer’s journey, but it is most likely to take place after the buyer has come to a preliminary decision about which vendor to choose. According to this recent study, word of mouth is the most prevalent form of social vetting, followed by web searches and online community sites. Somewhat surprisingly, traditional social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter were not found as useful.
While managing this stage of the buyer’s journey will fall mainly under reputation management and word of mouth marketing, content marketing can help by providing the following kinds of content:
- Email messages with content worth passing on
- Content syndicated to community sites
Building Internal Support
Many B2B salespeople have experienced the frustration of winning the trial, only to have the business delayed or even slip away, because the solution never gets sold internally. Don’t assume because you’ve won the trial you’ve won the business. The solution will often need to be justified to financial overseers (the CFO or his surrogate), and may get de-railed by the objections of nay sayers who oppose whatever change your solution represents.
Content that can help your sales team and your internal sponsor navigate this stage of the buyer’s journey include:
- ROI/IRR calculators
- Implementation guides
- Case studies
Negotiation & Commitment
While this stage is primarily the responsibility of the sales staff, marketing can assist by providing content focused on the total cost (as opposed to price) of the solution and focused on value. These might include:
- Financially-oriented case studies
- Total Cost of Ownership studies
- “Hero” case studies (appealing to the heart, not just the head)
Onboarding and Implementation
While many marketing departments have learned the value of nurturing leads with content during the pre-sales process, they may be missing an opportunity if they don’t apply those same automated techniques to nurture new customers through the onboarding and early days of implementation.
Content useful at this stage might include:
- Implementation guides
- Getting Started guides
- Tips and tricks
Your user community is a great source of content marketing ideas. Look through the kinds of questions that they are asking, and provide content that answers those questions. That will benefit not only your community of existing customers, making them happier and more satisfied customers, but also help answer questions from prospects. Community is also a great source for word of mouth marketing, and of course is the primary source for your case study program.
Here are some ideas for content that may be useful to your community:
- Case studies
- Guest articles or blog posts celebrating your customers
- Pinterest boards with images of your customers using your product or service
Donna Papacosta wrote an excellent article about the importance of content marketing for businesses that drive most of their business through referrals. Her main points, which I agree with, are:
- Content Marketing increases authority or trust for someone referred to your business on their first visit to your site
- Content Marketing increases engagement, and engaged readers are more likely to recommend your business, even if they aren’t buyers
- Content Marketing keeps your buyers engaged and favorable to your brand, making them more likely to refer you to someone else or buy from you again.
These were two long articles, but I feel that the topic is important enough to justify the length. What do you think? How do you structure your content, and is it around the sales cycle or the buyer’s journey?