It’s puzzling to me that B2B Marketers will often deploy a plethora of campaigns and produce an endless stream of content or social media updates without the very basic minimum, well-produced content library that every prospect is seeking when researching their next partner, product, provider, or service. The base of your content must directly feed your buyers’ journey.
Years ago, copywriter Bob Bly provided a list of reasons why marketing to businesses is very different from consumers:
- The business buyer wants to buy.
- The business buyer is sophisticated.
- The business buyer will read a lot of copy.
- The business buyer has a multi-step buying process.
- The business buyer has multiple buying influences.
- Business products are more complex.
- The business buyer buys for their company’s benefit as well as their own.
If you’re not developing content for your B2B prospect… and your competitors do… you’re going to miss your opportunity to establish your business as the appropriate solution.
With each B2B client that I assist, I always see a demonstrable impact on their inbound marketing performance when we clearly and concisely provide these key pieces of content.
Prospects want to better understand the problem that they’re seeking a solution for before EVEN looking for a solution. Establishing yourself as an authority that thoroughly understands the problem and its impact on the customer is a powerful way to build awareness for your brand at the earliest stage of the B2B Buying Journey.
- Define the problem – Provide a basic overview, analogies, diagrams, etc. that help explain the challenge in its entirety.
- Establish value – Help prospects comprehend the cost of that problem to their business as well as the opportunity cost to their business once the problem is corrected.
- Research – Are there secondary research resources that have fully documented this issue and provided statistics and standard definitions of the problem? Adding this data and these resources ensures the potential buyer that you are a knowledgeable resource. Primary research is fantastic as well… it’s often shared and can build awareness for your brand as buyers research a problem.
Example: Digital Transformation is the process whereby companies integrate digital solutions into every aspect of their business to capture the benefits of digital trends and keep ahead of competitors. Internally, there are savings in automation, improved data accuracy for better and faster decision-making, a thorough understanding of the customer, employee frustrations are reduced, and improved reporting to understand how each aspect of the business is impacting overall business health. Externally, there is an opportunity to drive retention, customer value, and overall sales with the ability to research and optimize the customer experience in new and innovative ways. McKinsey has provided detailed analysis that points to 21 best practices across leadership, capability building, empowering workers, upgrading tools, and communication that drive successful digital transformations.
Prospects may be unaware of all of the solutions available to them and may not fully comprehend why investing in an external platform or service would benefit them. An honest, detailed list of solutions is critical to inform prospective buyers with a thorough understanding of their options and the pros, cons, and investment required for each. Again, this establishes you early in the decision-making process and helps the prospect realize that you understand all of the options.
- Do-It-Yourself – Detailing how a client can do the work themselves isn’t pushing them away from your solution, it provides them with a clear picture of the resources and timeline necessary to accomplish the work themselves. It can help them uncover gaps in talent, expectations, budget, timeline, etc… and help actually push them towards your product or service as the alternative. Include trusted third-party resources that can assist them.
- Products – Technologies that can assist the organization and complement your products and services should be fully detailed. You need not point them to a competitor, but you can generally speak about how each product assists in correcting the problem you defined in the problem identification content. One absolute here is that you should fully define the pros and cons of each product, including your own. This will help your prospect in the next stage, requirements building.
- Services – Stating that you can do the work isn’t enough. Providing a detailed overview of the approach and process that you provide that is time-tested and is fully detailed is a must.
- Differentiation – This is an opportune time to differentiate your business from your competitors! If your competitors have a differentiator that you’re losing to, this is a great time to diminish the impact of that advantage they may have.
- Results – Providing user stories or case studies to fully illustrate the process and success rates of these solutions is essential. Primary and secondary research on success rates, expected results, and return on investment are helpful here.
Example: Companies often implement solutions with the hopes to digitally transform, but digital transformation requires much more effort within an organization. Leadership must have a clear vision of how their company will operate and how their customers will be able to interact once the company has attained a level of digital transformation.
Unfortunately, McKinsey provides data that less than 30% of all companies are successful at transforming their business digitally. Your company can inject talent to help in the process, inject consultants to assist, or rely on the platforms that you’re developing. Injecting talent requires a level of maturity that most businesses struggle with since there’s a natural resistance to change internally. Consultants who continuously assist businesses in their digital transformation fully understand the risks, how to build buy-in, how to envision the future, how to motivate and build employee satisfaction, and prioritize a digital transformation for success. Platforms are sometimes helpful, but their expertise and focus aren’t always in sync with your industry, your workforce, or your stage of maturity.
With decades of experience, our digital transformation process has been refined with distinct phases to drive your digital transformation – including discovery, strategy, professional development, implementation, migration, execution, and optimization. We recently transformed a national charity organization, fully migrated and implemented an enterprise solution, developed their staff, and they were able to progress under budget and ahead of schedule, fully realizing their return on investment.
As a small firm, your company will always be a priority to our partners. The leaders you will meet in the sales cycle are the same people that will be driving your successful digital transformation.
If you can help your prospects and customers write their requirements, you can get ahead of your competition by highlighting the strengths and additional benefits of working with your organization.
- People – provide a clear understanding of the talent, experience, and/or qualifications necessary to correct the problem. Aside from who is needed, also include the effort necessary to fix the problem. Companies don’t often overstaff to handle implementations, so setting expectations on the level of effort and how your product or service(s) can alleviate that demand on the organization will help.
- Plan – Walk your prospect through the process that you developed in the solutions phase to ensure that they can envision a timeline along with the human and technological resources needed throughout. Help them prioritize the implementation to achieve the greatest return on investment first while progressing to the long-term goals of correcting the problem.
- Risk – Service Level Agreements, regulatory compliance, licensing, security, back-ups, redundancy plans… companies often build requirements specific to the problem but gloss over issues that can derail their efforts in implementing a solution.
- Differentiation – If you have a definitive advantage versus your competitors, it should absolutely be included in these requirements so that it’s prioritized by your prospect. Companies often lose or win an opportunity based on a single issue.
Wherever people are seeking a solution, your business must be present. If that’s search results for specific keywords, you must be ranked. If that’s industry publications, you must have a presence. If people research and find solutions through an influencer, that influencer should be aware of your capabilities. And… if people research your reputation online, there must be a trail of recommendations, reviews, and resources that provide those prospects that you’re the best option they have.
- Authority – Are you present across all paid, earned, shared, and owned media? Whether it’s a search on YouTube of the problem, an analyst report on your industry, or an ad running on an industry publication… are you present?
- Recognition – Have you been recognized by third parties for certifications, awards, thought leadership articles, etc? All industry recognition provides potential buyers with confidence and trust as they evaluate suppliers.
- Reputation – Are you actively monitoring and responding to social mentions, ratings, and reviews of your products and services online? If you’re not and your competitors are, their organization appears much more responsive… even if the review is negative!
- Personalization – Personalized and segmented case studies and customer testimonials are essential to supplier selection. B2B buyers want to feel confident that you have assisted customers just like them – with the same challenges they have. Content targeted to specific personas will resonate with that potential buyer.
No example to show here… this is a comprehensive audit of the mediums and channels to ensure you’re viewed as an ideal B2B company to work with.
Solution Validation and Consensus Creation
B2B buyers are often committee-driven. It’s essential that you help communicate why you’re the right product or service beyond the person researching into the team that ultimately makes the decision to purchase.
- Nurturing – Companies don’t always have the budget or timeline to immediately invest in your products or services. And they don’t want to always contact your sales team where they open themselves to solicitations. Offering whitepapers, downloads, emails, webinars, podcasts, or other means for your prospect to continue to get touched and influenced without being sold is critical as prospects continue to self-guide their buying journey.
- Assistance – Companies don’t want to be sold, they want service. Does your content drive people to a sale, or to a resource that can help them? Your forms, chatbots, click-to-call, schedule a demo, etc. should all be geared toward providing them with valuable assistance… not hardcore sales. The business that provides the most help in educating the prospect is often the business that wins the opportunity.
- Solutions – Can you personalize a product demonstration that’s specific to the organization that you’re seeking to sell to? Customizing an interface or branding a solution can help a team visualize the solution that you’re bringing to the table. Even better, offering a trial or an introductory offer may accelerate the adoption of your product or service.
- Establish a Return on Investment – Helping your prospect understand the value when defining the problem, walking them through the solution, and ultimately providing your product or services as the appropriate solution now requires that you help them understand the investment and its return. This may even include the ability to configure, price, and quote in a self-service methodology online.
At this point, your content should wrap it all together and your prospective buyer should fully understand whether or not your solution is appropriate for them. Businesses are often afraid of disqualifying any prospect in the hopes that their salespeople get up to bat with the buyer. That’s an enormous burden and should be avoided. Your brand will build more credibility by pointing prospects to the right solution, not by trying to sell your product or service to everyone!
When you assist buyers like this, you narrow the gap between marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) and sales-qualified leads (SQLs), giving your sales team the opportunity to get the right buyer across the finish line quickly.