By John Kennedy on 2016-09-05 08:44
The buyer’s journey across all industries and segments has evolved over recent years with the proliferation of the Internet. According to Google research, Business-to-Business (B2B) researchers conduct an average of 12 searches before they engage with a specific brand’s website. There can be between 7 – 12 touch points with a seller before a contact turns into a qualified lead, according to research from Walker Sands. All of which means that companies have to try to be in front of the buyer over a lengthy sales cycle.
If you add to this environment multiple new communication channels, an increasing number of mobile devices and the rising influence of a new generation of consumers, it’s no wonder that as businesses do not know where to start. Most companies are in a crowded marketplace, and need to assess how they can stand out.
Whether you are a start-up, giving up, or ripe for change, all businesses can benefit from a better understanding of their customers and an appreciation of where and how they should be present during the different stages of the buying process.
If you want to upgrade your company’s ability to get found, get leads and close sales, consider combining your content marketing efforts with the knowledge of how buyers behave in the sales funnel into a comprehensive inbound marketing programme.
We all know trying to lead an uncertain customer through the sales funnel, usually ends up with failure in either a delayed or defeated selling process. Prematurely presenting a solution to a customer who does not identify with the problem is a recipe for disaster.
The idea of the funnel is that the number of leads grows smaller as they move down the funnel. At the top of the funnel (TOFU), there are many people who you will want to make aware of your brand. The middle of the funnel (MOFU) is smaller, as there are less people who would actually consider buying from you, and the bottom of the funnel (BOFU) is even smaller, as you narrow down the number of people who are in a position to buy from you.
In a recent survey, 74% of business buyers told Forrester they conduct more than half of their research online before making an offline purchase.
There are typically a number of obstacles to closing a sale:
- The decision challenge – does the buyer have a full and robust decision-making process in place to know how to evaluate what you are offering?
- Switching process – it is common to have customers that do not buy because they are unsure about the change process of switching suppliers, the potential extra time, costs, resources, new technology, etc.
- The final challenge is value – is the buyer able to measure the impact of your solution, the added value that it drives?
Overall, buyers in general are more likely to trust information from their peers and other credible third parties more than anything that they hear directly from the vendors’ themselves.
To build up trust and credibility content marketing will help you nurture your leads and shorten the sales cycle - here are 7 ways to use your content:
- Engage earlier in the sales process by providing useful information
- Build trust by providing value rather than always selling
- Be visible and proactive online when businesses are searching - using your content to attract them
- Think about your offering as a solution to a problem
- Give thought to the language that a lead would use to search on a particular problem
- Align your marketing messages with the buyers journey
- Try to remain “top of mind” when businesses are at the decision making stage by establishing a role as “thought leader” in your sector or business segment
Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing content that is educational, relevant and consistent to attract and retain a particular target audience. It can help you drive traffic and then engage with those leads as your nurture them through the sales funnel.
Content can come in many shapes and sizes:
Content marketing is an on-going process to attract and retain customers, to help you grow as a business organically.
The following chart is from Econsultancy and gives a detailed view of the key elements of content marketing and a step by step guide:
To succeed with your content marketing follow these steps:
1. Make sure you have written a strategy and laid down a plan
2. Research which content formats work most effectively for your buyer personas
3. Develop your theme or content type for the format you are producing
4. Share your content across you social networks
5. Get a grip on the metrics
6. Understand and utilise the triggers for sharing
Let me recap the considerations for combining content marketing and the sales funnel:
- Do I really know who my customers are?
- What is the customers path-to-purchase (Buyer's Journey)?
- How will the customer interact with your business at each stage of the Sales Funnel?
- And ask yourself: what is it really like to be a customer of yours?
I am interested in learning about your content marketing and sales funnel efforts. How have these two supported each other, in your marketing efforts?