Understanding Content’s Role in the B2B Sales Process
These days, content is a huge part of the B2B sales process. Companies used to only utilize outbound marketing and advertising, but now the paradigm has shifted, and many prefer inbound marketing instead to attract leads.
Content marketing is currently dominating the B2B industry. According to Curata, 80% of B2B marketers have a content marketing strategy in place. In 2016, 51% of B2B buyers relied more on content to research their buying decisions than a year prior. Additionally, 47% of B2B decision makers will engage with three to five pieces of content before they talk to a salesperson.
Providing stellar content is important throughout the sales funnel. Depending on where your leads are – whether they’re at the top of the funnel, or they’re marketing or sales-qualified – you need to create different types of content to appeal to them during the sales process.
The B2B sales funnel
Top Of The Funnel Content
When you’re seeking out leads to get started in your funnel at the beginning of the sales process, you can create content and promote it on the various platforms your leads are on.
Some of these platforms include:
- LinkedIn, which is the number one social media site for B2B professionals. According to LinkedIn itself, 93% of B2B marketers report that social media is their number one tactic when it comes to content production and distribution. Additionally, 79% of B2B marketers say that going on LinkedIn is an effective way to generate B2B leads.
- This social media platform has proven to be extremely valuable for B2B marketers. Eighty-seven percent of B2B marketers utilize the site to distribute content, and about 13% of all social media leads come from Twitter. Also, B2B marketers who use Twitter generate twice as many leads as those who do not, and B2B marketers report that Twitter is the second most effective social media site.
- Your company blog. Your blog will bring more traffic to your website and increase your search engine optimization rankings. According to Neil Patel, 76% of B2B marketers blog, and according to Curata, blogging is one of the top B2B content marketing tactics.
- Industry blogs. B2B marketers target industry blogs for thought leader guest posts. Getting published on these blogs leads to a higher search engine ranking because it gives marketers an opportunity to include backlinks to their own content and websites.
- Industry forums. Industry forums are essential for connecting with leads and other professionals as well as promoting blog content. It is where B2B marketers demonstrate their expertise and show that they are leaders within their niches.
- B2B blog posts and webinars are often accompanied by SlideShare presentations. According to DMR, 41% of B2B marketers in North America use SlideShare to distribute content, and 17% utilize SlideShare for product launches.
- YouTube is the biggest video platform, and B2B marketers have fully embraced it. According to HubSpot, 96% of B2B organizations utilize video in their marketing campaigns and 73% of these organizations say they’ve seen a positive ROI from their efforts.
After you determine which platforms you’re going to use, you can then create content specifically for said platforms, or simply promote your content on them.
For top of the funnel content at the start of the sales process, you want to aim to spread awareness, educate your leads, and provide valuable insights and opinions.
You can take the following ideas into consideration:
- Write a whitepaper for your website that highlights industry pain points and how to solve them or educates the reader on how to perform a certain task. For example, take a look at Directive Consulting’s whitepaper, “Integrate Organic Traffic with Paid Search for Multi Channel Success.” Ask your readers for their email addresses so you can get them started in the sales funnel by sending them more helpful content and marketing messages.
- Make a shareable infographic that includes your company information at the bottom. Make sure to insert original insights and data points within your infographic, like the infographic, “The State of Digital Marketing 2016” by Smart Insights.
- Produce a how-to video for YouTube that teaches your leads something valuable they can use in their own campaigns. A good example of this is Coach David Brown Lee’s video, “4 Essentials On How To Market Your Company.” Include links to your company website and contact in the information box below your video so leads can learn more and get in touch.
A whitepaper sign-up page from Directive Consulting.
Now that you’ve figured out what kinds of content to create and the platforms you want to use, it’s time to determine how to take your leads to the middle of the funnel and one step closer to converting.
Middle Of The Funnel Content
At this point in the sales process, your leads are aware of your brand and want to learn more. The middle of the funnel stage is where they evaluate whether or not they want to work with your company.
You can use the same platforms as before, along with direct emails and messages if your leads have provided their contact information to you.
The different types of content you should be producing in the middle of the funnel sales process are:
- Case studies. At the top of the funnel, you’ve offered general, essential industry information and education. Now, you want to prove to the potential B2B buyers why they should choose you over your competitors. Demonstrating your expertise with case studies that produced excellent results for your customers is going to push them to the next stage of the funnel. For an example, take a look at Canvas’, “Home Builders Heaven: How Streamlining Inspections Increased Sales by $1M in 12 Months.”
- Demo videos. B2B buyers don’t want to necessarily read about how great your products are. They want to see them in action. Make sure your demo videos are scripted, tell a story, and have a high production value. They should clearly demonstrate your product’s worth and how it can improve the lives of your buyers by making certain processes easier. Look at Gobza’s demo video for an example.
- Data sheets. These are written pieces of content that buyers can read to learn all about your products and services. Again, you should highlight exactly how you can help them out at this stage in the sales process. One example of an excellent data sheet is from B2B data exchange company Informatica.
A case study from Canvas
Up next in the sales process is the point at which you take your marketing-qualified leads and transform them into sales-qualified leads through bottom of the funnel content.
Bottom Of The Funnel Content
Utilizing all the aforementioned platforms, you can now generate bottom of the funnel content that will convince your leads to convert. At this stage, you want to come out with content that is going to give the buyers a solid reason to try out your product. The messaging will be specifically targeted to these leads and more personal than previous content.
Some of the bottom of the funnel content for this step in the sales process includes:
- A free trial. Give your sales-qualified leads limited or full access to your products. Let them try it out for a determined period of time, and then follow up with them during this period to make sure they are using their trials. You can send content to them such as how-to guides for the trial and FAQ about the trials/products just to guarantee that they have all the information they need to succeed. Check out the Oracle Cloud free trial page for ideas on how to structure your products’ free trials.
- A live product demonstration. Your sales-qualified leads may not be ready to purchase your product because they want to see a live demonstration of it from someone at your company. During this live demo, your leads should be able to send in questions about the products and have them answered. When the demo ends, you can follow up and ensure that leads have all the information they need before trying out your product. For a great example, look at one of Marketo’s live demos.
- A live, one-on-one consultation. Your leads want to know that your company is going to provide support if they use your products. During this final step of the sales process, you can show this by letting them sign up for live, one-on-one video consultations with one of your sales representatives. This is where your salespeople will shine and take the leads to the ends of their journeys.
A free trial page from Oracle
Getting Started With Your B2B Content
Content marketing is crucial to the success of your B2B company. Now that you know which kind of content you’re going to create for your various promotional platforms, you can go out into the world, find your leads, and take customers to the end of the sales funnel and beyond.