In Don Draper’s three-martini-lunch universe on Mad Men, the only content needed was a quick, catchy tagline. Don could come up with something like “Pass the Heinz” or “How do you say ‘hamburger’ in Farsi?” and check the content strategy portion of the campaign off his to do list. In our digital, remote, always-on world, the right content strategy isn’t nearly that simple — especially in B2B marketing.
Don had to convince one individual buyer to take action, and it’s a fairly simple ask. They either buy the ketchup or they don’t. They either stay at a Hilton or they don’t. Today’s B2C marketers have a taller task, but it’s still not nearly as complex as the B2B world.
The average B2B buying process includes six to ten decision makers, according to Gartner. From what I’ve seen with clients over the years, those decision makers can span a variety of departments, job functions, seniority levels, and areas of expertise. That doesn’t even include the influencers, who may not have a direct say on the final purchase decision but are counted on for their two cents along the way. Making things more complicated, everyone is researching and evaluating simultaneously, which means you need content that satisfies each person’s particular need at the particularly right moment.
The data confirms that:
- 90% of B2B tech buyers say it’s important for vendors to provide relevant content at each stage of the buying process.
- 41% of B2B buyers read three to five pieces of content before contacting a salesperson.
- 51% of C-suite executives say they spend more time consuming thought leadership content now than they did before the pandemic.
- 83% of B2B purchasing decisions happen before directly engaging with a provider.
And that’s why full-funnel content strategies are so vital.
Let’s think about the journey each B2B buyer takes. First, she has to learn who you are. Then, she has to evaluate what you do, how you do it, and how you make her life easier. After that, she needs enough information to decide that your solution is better than your competitors’. Finally, she needs to be able to validate her choice with her boss, the C-suite, her company’s board, etc.
When you look at it that way, it’s obvious that none of these steps can be skipped. They’re all equal in importance too. Think of them like rungs on the monkey bars — if one is missing, it’s impossible to make it all the way to the other side.
Here’s a high-level overview of how your content should guide people from start to finish:
- Define the problem and highlight your expertise by showing how to solve it
- Show how your specific product/service solves the problem
- Nurture prospective buyers to build a meaningful relationship
- Position your solution as superior
Unfortunately, though, I’ve seen countless clients skip over portions of this process. Or, they focus so much attention on filling the top of the funnel that they haven’t created a strategy to guide anyone through it.
To be successful, you need to remember the purpose of each stage in the marketing funnel:
- Top of the funnel, which is where you generate attention
- Middle of the funnel, which is where you generate leads
- Bottom of the funnel, which is where you generate revenue
Here at SalientMG, we approach content marketing strategies with more precision and actually break the funnel up into six stages:
- Customer Activation
- Customer Retention and Upsell
- Customer Advocacy and Evangelism
Each of these stages comes with its own best practices, key performance indicators, benchmarks, and ongoing optimization processes. Each stage also requires different types of content. For example, the world’s most compelling case study doesn’t mean anything if people don’t know your company exists. At the other end, a snappy tagline in a LinkedIn ad isn’t meaty enough to help a B2B buyer validate their decision to their boss. It may sound cliche when marketers say “Right person, right message, right time,” but it couldn’t be more true.
In marketing, there is so much talk about sales enablement — the content we create for sales to make their jobs more efficient and effective. However, there’s not nearly enough talk about buyer enablement. What will make someone’s job as a buyer more efficient and effective? That’s what your content strategy should focus on.