In the past, we've discussed why you should define your ideal client/prospect – and how to do it! We called this creating your buyer persona(s). Have you described your ideal (or best) clients and written up their professional and personal characteristics? Great! Now you’re ready to delight them with compelling content, i.e., present your company to your ideal buyers as a trusted expert within your market space.
Let's pretend you work for a B2B company that supplies specialty metal alloys. Your buyer personas include Engineer Ernie, a project manager who works at a medium-sized manufacturing company in the Midwest, and Buyer Barney, a specialty metal alloy buyer at the same company. How do we reach the Engineer Ernies and Buyer Barneys of the world?
One tried and true method is outbound marketing. Most of us think of cold calling, which can be time-consuming, but when done well it can be quite effective.
Email marketing is another proven outbound tactic. In fact, 79% of B2B manufacturing marketers credit email as the most effective distribution channel for demand generation efforts.
In recent years, inbound and content marketing have given outbound a run for its money (though we’d argue a thoughtful combination of the two is ideal). Content is all about your online presence via your website, social media, and search rankings. And we can all agree that our prospects use search engines (like Google) and social media (like Twitter or LinkedIn). They also use the internet to read blogs, ebooks, and technical papers, and use supplier portals.
But what does that have to do with sales prospecting? A lot actually because B2B buying behavior mimics that of B2C in a couple of important ways. Imagine you’re shopping for a new TV or car. You probably start your research online looking at products and reviews. Then you might share the info you find with members of your household who are invested in the purchase, like a spouse or roommate.
Those behaviors carry over into buying behavior at work and you’re wise to anticipate that in your content marketing strategy. 60% of today’s B2B buyers prefer not to interact with a sales rep as the primary source of information, and 68 percent prefer to research on their own, online. What’s more, buying teams, as opposed to individuals making purchasing decisions, are becoming the norm. As a result, much product education and evaluation is done collaboratively, and content like blogs, whitepapers, videos, and infographics are easy for teams to share as they do product research. So, if you’re not ‘in the game’ then you are missing out on potential client engagements. If a prospect is in research mode on the internet, and you aren’t there, you won’t be found!
Because your awesome content “lives” in many places (we mentioned your website, blog, ebooks, and social media), Ernie found you. He also found you because he did a search with an Internet search engine, such as Google. Incorporating search engine optimization, or SEO, into your content improves your odds of being found. Google’s search algorithms pick up on content formatted for SEO and provides relevant results. And the algorithms are getting better at processing natural language in blogs and web pages, which helps determine a user’s “search intent” and find more relevant content. It also means your content can have the critical SEO elements, such as keywords and page structure, while also being readable and engaging.
Let’s get back to Engineer Ernie and Buyer Barney to see how this plays out. They work for a mythical company called Walter’s Widget Workshop (WWW). We know that WWW is a good target because they fit your ideal client description (medium-sized manufacturing company in the US). WWW’s Engineer Ernie is looking for a special steel alloy to be used in their latest widget design. When he searches “steel alloys for use in high temperature,” there’s your blog! It’s not about your company – it’s about specialty steel alloys. When he finishes reading your blog, he sees an offer to download more information, say, a white paper. It’s not a sales pitch, but it mentions your product in a research summary. Ernie likes the information he sees. Suddenly HE is subscribing to your blog, or maybe even emailing YOU with questions! Your content put you out there as an expert!
Even if Ernie’s not ready to buy, and may in fact be months from making a purchase, he trusts your company - and now you have his email address! Keep nurturing him by serving up content to his inbox and social media feeds that is important to him as an engineer. As Ernie goes through the design and qualification cycle, your stuff reminds him that you are a valuable asset, even if he does nothing other than read your email blasts or blog.
Eventually, Ernie completes his research and turns his designs over to WWW’s Buyer Barney. Barney’s task is to secure a vendor for a certain alloy with specific properties. Ernie tells Barney to check out your website. Lo-and-behold, Barney goes to your site and finds a paper on “cost effective alloys used in high temperature.” Barney cares about money (saving it, that is) and you have content that is compelling to his persona. He downloads the paper and leaves his email address, and you begin serving up great information that he as a buyer is interested in. Next thing you know, you receive an inquiry for this potential project. It may be months after Ernie’s initial contact, but you’ve been there reminding him of your company’s value all through his process!
As you can see, content marketing is a powerful tool if used correctly and strategically. According to the most recent Hubspot State of Content Marketing data, 66% of marketers say content marketing is extremely or very effective for their brand. But content that drives traffic is not necessarily helpful for driving revenue. Be sure your content gives readers things they need like emerging trends, your take on survey or research results, and credible data and insights. And don’t forget you can breathe new life into your old or outdated posts periodically by updating them.
And even if Ernie or Barney don’t reach out to you directly, you can use tech tools like marketing automation platforms follow their engagement in your content so you can reach out with a targeted email or even a phone call. Tools like these, such as HubSpot, make writing blogs, distributing content, structuring your website effectively, and tracking visitors and email opens a breeze. They can also help you make better decisions about content by managing your publication schedule, nurturing your most engaged visitors, and analyzing KPIs all in one place.
Contact us to learn how to put content to work for your business.
Editor’s note: This blog was originally published in 2014. It has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.