As a B2B organization, chances are you’re already doing plenty of digital marketing to attract prospective customers. An effective content strategy, however, means more than firing emails and webinars erratically into the void of cyberspace. Instead, one way to build an effective strategy is to align your content to audience needs in each stage of the sales funnel.
In the large majority of companies, sales and marketing function independently. While the leadership and focus of these departments are separated organizationally, they share a common goal around driving revenue through customer acquisition. In order to implement a successful content strategy to nurture prospects through the funnel, sales and marketing must work together. Unsurprisingly, brands with tightly-aligned marketing and sales teams achieve 24% faster three-year revenue growth.
The benefits of getting it right are clear: so let’s talk about how to nail your marketing messages and content strategy. We’ll dive into hitting all the right content types/digital channels for each stage of the sales funnel, messages and tone for each, and most importantly, the purpose for each type of content.
Wow – there it all is, in a nutshell. You can just screenshot the above and skip reading the rest of the article. Just kidding – keep going, even more valuable nuggets ahead.
Awareness: What’s Your Problem?
Fifty percent of content out there is aimed at the widest part of the sales funnel: the Awareness phase. Potential prospects in this phase are the 96% of your website traffic who are unaware of who you are, what you do, or why they should care about your business. In an online environment, you have mere seconds to grab these passing visitors’ attention, hold it, and teach them something new.
To start engaging your prospects, you will need to awaken their attention to their own needs and challenges. Often, these are issues that have lingered just below the surface of their consciousness. The ability to successfully nurture a prospect through the awareness phase hinges on your ability to explicitly connect prospects to a problem they want to solve. So how do you capture their attention and get them wanting to learn more?
Your content should say: “I know something unique, relevant, and important.”
The guiding principle behind your messages and content aimed at those in the Awareness stage should be establishing yourself as a thought leader. This industry buzzword is something we hear a lot but fail to truly understand and achieve. Thought leadership is more than stating your opinions on trending topics. Rather, think about how you are pushing an important conversation forward- you must change hearts and minds.
The key here is to teach the prospect to think differently about their needs and prime them with knowledge that establishes your credibility. How can you prove that you understand the situation they are in and can help them get to a better place?
Your purpose is to inform, engage, and prove yourself to be well-versed on the important issues. Be like the Most Interesting Man in the World: have a gripping story that impresses your prospects and inspires them to learn more. Be insightful in your blog posts, unexpected in your webinars, funny in your podcasts - anything to grab that precious, scarce resource - their attention - and hold onto it. Position the organization as a knowledge-provider that's consistent with your overall brand story. Whether it’s funny, or a tear-jerker, the content needs to stand out.
Consideration: How Do You Solve it?
Good news – your prospect has made their way to the consideration phase of the sales funnel now. While we like to believe we “nurtured” them along to this point, the truth is that sometimes you can’t create demand or need for your product. Instead, you can be ready when the prospect finds themselves looking for solutions.
Your prospect now understands they have a problem and they are weighing their potential options. This is the list they are likely considering:
- Do nothing
- Hire an intern
- Devote in-house resources (make a spreadsheet)
- Hire a firm
Of course, we want the prospect to recognize the value of looking outside of their organization to solve the problem that you helped them realize. So, how do you make that happen?
Your content should say: “I can help you.”
Position yourself as an enabler of the change the prospect wants to see in their business. Paint a picture of a brighter, easier future if the prospect uses your services. Your purpose here is to be the best option among all that is available to the prospect. Any data you use should inspire your reader to do more digging and move further down the sales funnel.
In order to move our prospects along we must be explicit about where they should go next. Yes, this means temporarily quieting the voice in your head that’s telling you “don’t be too pushy” and striking a balance between nuisance and convenience. Although many marketers worry about how to present their call to action in a manner that doesn’t appear overly assertive, that cautiousness frequently backfires. Your prospects will never move forward if they don’t know how to do business with you. This means clear and consistent calls to action are an absolute must.
Help your prospects forward, saying things like: “sign up here,” “schedule a call with me,” “learn more about the tool we have.” In your live webinars, engage your audience with polls or Q&A sessions. Add interactive features to your website, such as a like, comment, or share button. Last but never least, this is a great time to use your social media channels to engage your prospects in active conversation.
Action: When Can We Start?
Woo hoo! You’re so close to converting that prospect to a customer. Hopefully, you have been keeping close tabs on what content is working for your business (marketing) and collecting information about the prospect along their journey through the funnel (sales). Conversely, if your marketing teams are not closely aligned with your sales team, you may be among the companies that find out this lack of alignment costs about 7% in revenue.
The broadcast approach to marketing is whittling down tighter to one-to-one conversations. You might be thinking, what content do I need now?
Your content should say: “Let’s do this thing.”
While this is typically the stage at which sales has become involved, there’s still a place for content in the Action phase of the funnel. This is where specific and detailed storytelling should take place.
Here is where you get to tell your brand story in grand detail: What makes you stand out in a crowd? What are your competitive strengths? Why should the prospect choose you? Get down to brass tacks. Have answers prepared for potential questions the prospects may have. Use testimonials, case studies, customer success stories. Although the story you tell with your data is uniquely relevant in every phase, here is where your data must inspire action.
Wrapping it Up
Now that we’ve gone through the sales funnel, tailoring content to each phase, you might be counting up all the content channels mentioned above and worrying a bit. Here’s the good news – you can repurpose content! Ninety percent of marketers do it, and do so strategically.
The next time you sit down to construct a content strategy, you don’t have to start over at a blinking cursor every time. The insights we’ve discussed will position your brand in the right place at the right time and saying the right things to convert prospects into customers. Grounded in research and evidence, you can take these tips and tricks and trust that your content hits home and sends the right message.