If you own a B2B business, chances are you’ve realized that prospects don’t always come looking for you. Lead generation is a crucial part of maintaining your business and it can often be challenging.
Image Credit: IMDb
In today’s over-saturated world, your potential customers have access to a vast amount of information and countless websites just like yours, which all demand their attention. The desire for instant gratification means your potential customers don’t watch commercials, don’t click on banner ads and won’t be opening your mail. In fact, they don’t really want to be marketed to at all. So how do you reach this busy, capricious group of prospects and convert them into leads? A B2B content marketing strategy may be the answer you’re looking for. Here are five ways deploying a strategy that provides valuable content to potential customers at the time they need it can transform how your business generates leads:
Your company will be easier to find
By following the content marketing methodology of drawing potential customers in to your website by delivering valuable content, you are simultaneously optimizing your website for search engines to find you. The major search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.) are constantly evolving to offer the best results for their users. By regularly posting valuable content and strategically including keywords, your website will rank higher and closer to that coveted first page of search results.
Qualified leads will come to you
The content marketing methodology is a unique approach in that you are trying to please your audience as opposed to pleasing a robot. Outbound or more traditional marketing tactics aside, solely relying on a PPC keyword campaign or manipulating SEO can’t buy you success. It has become more apparent to content marketing experts that these “hacks” aren’t enough to keep up with Google’s ever-changing algorithm. Creating impactful content that makes your prospects happy puts you in Google’s good graces, slowly working your way to the first page. Eventually, by being helpful, thoughtful and easy to find, these ideal customers will start coming directly to you.
A longer play for a longer sales cycle
In a way, it’s this long-term approach that makes a content marketing strategy so suitable for B2B selling. Whereas typical sales cycles for B2C products and services are short, a B2B sales cycle can last weeks, months or even years in extreme cases. B2B companies generally sell higher-priced items, products or services that are carefully researched, compared and evaluated by potential buyers over an extended period of time. Business customers want to ensure that you have a reputation for high-quality products or services, prompt delivery and great customer service.
In the past, the most B2B customers could do was talk to sales representatives from each potential supplier to determine the best fit. On occasion, they might have attended an industry event or tradeshow to get a recommendation from a trusted peer. This personal recommendation was the ultimate seal of approval, but not always available. Today, prospects have all the information they need at their fingertips. If people are engaging with your brand’s products or discussing how you treat customers online (and they will), these discussions will appear in search results, giving your prospects easy access to what others are saying about your brand. A positive recommendation or personal damnation can instantly make or break your sale, and eventually promote or damage your brand.
B2B businesses might approach content marketing with a great deal of skepticism. It’s a relatively new approach, and not at all the Mad Men or Glengarry Glen Ross style – but get the approach, mindset and culture right and that skepticism will soon be dispelled. Content marketing experts will tell you it takes time to build a compelling website with a positive experience that provides users with all the information they’re seeking. It takes time and effort to develop and deliver regular and frequent content, like blog posts for your website and videos for your YouTube channel, which help to establish your brand as an industry expert. It takes time and patience to engage with customers and prospects via social media, to show you value their experience in dealing with your company and its products, to right wrongs and exceed expectations. Yet, all of these tasks serve to build your reputation as the go-to resource for B2B customers when they are in need of a product or service in your space.
You provide value
Imagine, instead of simply telling your prospects your brand is the best, you offer them a valuable asset to help build trust and allow them to come to that conclusion on their own. Potential customers are more likely to respond positively when your business offers them value or provides solutions to their pain points. Put yourself in the shoes of your customer, if you are considering a business to hire, would you rather work with one that provides you with an abundance of helpful information and materials, or one that asks for your money without providing anything of value upfront? Work with a content marketing firm to develop valuable content for your audience, then share a useful tool, e-book, webinar or free consultation to build positive brand perception. As you provide value and problem-solving solutions, you build a relationship with prospects and they see you as a trusted source.
B2B purchases are often part of a longer sales cycle and customers think about potential implications in ways that B2C customers often do not. These major purchases may affect entire organizations and can cost millions of dollars. Content marketing works with this longer sales cycle. With the B2B sales cycle, signing a new customer is a major commitment that is a bit like trying to find and marry your one true love. Let’s compare the romantic/marrying “sales cycle” with the lead-based sales cycle (This is probably why I didn’t have many girlfriends in high school).
Here is the content marketing methodology broken down by B2B sales cycle and romance:
Romance: The first time you meet a person you wouldn’t immediately say, “Let’s get married,” right? You would probably ask them out on a date where you will (attempt to) provide a valuable and fun time. You are just looking for a small commitment.
Content marketing: The first time a visitor comes to your site, you probably shouldn’t ask them to immediately sign a contract. You should provide valuable and insightful blogs that show your company’s character. Even a simple “contact us” page can be scary – visitors don’t know what will happen when they contact you. Will they get an email? Will an annoying sales guy with slicked back hair call them and refer to them as “chief” the whole time?
Romance: You go on a couple of dates and on each one you show your real personality and provide quality company. You are building your relationship, and you both invest time in getting to know one another. At some point you are ready to go in for the kiss.
Content marketing: Your potential customer continues to come to the site and reads the blog, which provides valuable insight. They read more about your company and the services you provide. At some point they click on a call-to-action, ready to “go steady” or download your webinar (this is where they become a lead).
Romance: The dates went well and you’ve built a strong relationship with this person. Once you are feeling great about this relationship at some point you ask “Will you marry me?” After all of the time you’ve invested in each other and the great experiences you’ve shared, they feel the same and say yes!
Content marketing: The e-books are great and the webinar went really well. At some point the customer has received so much value that they ask “Will you be my service provider?” After all of the relationship building, your company is ready for this commitment.
This longer “sales cycle” seems to work for both content marketing as well as romance. There are far too many sites that just say, “Sign Up Now!” Where is the romance in that?
The implementation of a content marketing strategy can work wonders for a B2B business looking to increase leads and grow its client base. While it may sound like a lot of work, and it is, B2B organizations can win long-term customers that become the life blood of their organization by providing value and building trust.
Still feel like your business needs a little help? Download our free B2B email templates to jumpstart your relationship building! Our templates will walk you through the entire lead nurturing process, from initial outreach to closing customers and requesting referrals. With a little help, you can be the smooth talker we always knew you were.