The cookies taste good. The scanners can accurately detail the conditions of an oil refinery, power plant, automobile assembly line and much more.
It’s true, the chocolate chip cookie market is crowded. The list of competitors is lengthy: Pepperidge Farm, Keebler, Nabisco, Entenmann’s, Famous Amos and more. The marketing challenge is to gain massive exposure that leads to awareness and trial. Add in a recipe that ensures addiction and competitive pricing, and the cookies are on their way to success.
That’s not true of our 3D laser scanner and many other complex business to business (B2B) products, services and solutions. B2B marketers face many obstacles on the way to the sale.
But today, your marketing issues are simpler to solve. That’s because the Internet has made it easier than ever to use content to market your offering. Content marketing involves creating and distributing content that is relevant and valuable to your target market. This process helps you to attract, educate, engage and convert them into customers.
Why is content marketing ideal for B2B companies? Let’s review the problems and solutions.
B2B Marketing Problem 1: B2B Products Are Complicated
B2B products are often complex and loaded with features and benefits. Also, due to their numerous, varied applications in multiple industries, they become a marketer’s Rubik’s Cube.
Let’s look at those 3D laser scanners. Like many B2B niche products, you may never have heard of them. Naturally, they need an explanation. After all, we’re not talking about 3D printing. Nothing like that. This is a piece of equipment that can measure and document any scene more rapidly, accurately, safely and comprehensively than a whole team of surveyors.
Where can you use it? The automobile, oil, power generation, building and construction industries and more. And in each industry, the applications vary. Use it to collect data to retool your production line, retrofit a power plant or rehab a historic building.
The bottom line for B2B marketers?
When it’s a new concept that’s sophisticated and versatile, potential clients need education, not a sales pitch. They want to learn how your product or solution can help solve their problem in their industry. They want educational materials that are geared to their level of understanding, whether they’re just learning or expert product champions.
The Solution: Content That Educates
There’s good news. In the past, salespeople had to do all the teaching about these complex solutions one-on-one with prospects. But it turns out that these potential clients are happy to educate themselves with readily available online information.
Online content marketing is an ideal solution because your target audience can learn at their own pace, whenever they want. Also, if you offer content in multiple content formats—blog posts, e-books, videos, infographics, research studies, case studies—prospects can consume educational materials in the way that best suits their learning style.
B2B Marketing Problem 2: A Horde of Decision Makers
In the case of the chocolate chip cookies, there are likely only one or two decision makers. Perhaps a child is an influencer, pointing out the cookies on the supermarket shelf, and Mom or Dad makes the final determination.
Let’s look at a B2B situation.
Mary, the Manager of Risk Management, wants to buy software that will help reduce the risk of fraud in accepting online credit card transactions. But the software will cost thousands of dollars a year. The high price tag means she needs to get the chief financial officer (CFO) and chief executive officer (CEO) involved. Plus, a few changes will be required in the way customer service handles transactions, so she needs to consult with the Director of Customer Relations.
There are multiple people involved in the buying decision. All have varied levels of influence and look at the solution from their own perspectives. They learn about it at different times, and it impacts them each in distinct ways. Also, many times, the person who wants the product the most, doesn’t have the final say.
The Solution: Content That Speaks to Different Audiences
When it comes to content, one size doesn’t fit all.
While Mary wants to learn how the software can cut fraud, the CFO and CEO want to understand the bottom line impact. They need to know how to crunch the numbers. Perhaps, they would like to look at case studies that show the ROI experienced by other companies. Finally, the Director of Customer Relations needs step-by-step guidance on what her team has to do differently. She has to assess the impact process changes might have on customers and inside sales associates.
To handle the varied content needs of the individuals involved in the buying decision, you need to develop buyer personas, one for each of the stakeholders. These personas describe exactly how buying influencers and decision makers make their judgments and the content required to move them from initial awareness to conversion.
B2B Marketing Problem 3: Long Buying Cycles
Buying a bag of chocolate chip cookies may be an impulse decision. However, buying a piece of heavy equipment for manufacturing likely requires in-depth research, analysis and approvals for funding.
That’s why most sales cycles for B2B products take more than four months. And, according to Marketing Sherpa, one in ten takes more than a year. In addition to having multiple decision makers, other issues contribute to the long sales cycle.
First, you have a typically high price point, perhaps even climbing to six or seven figures. Not surprisingly, the Marketing Sherpa report reveals that the larger the deal is, the longer the sales cycle.
Also, the risks are higher for B2B buyers. If you buy fraud mitigation software and it doesn’t do the job, fraudulent attacks could shut down your company. Due diligence is required.
The Solution: Content for Every Phase of the Buying Marathon
A long buying cycle includes several mileposts along the way — awareness, interest, consideration, decision and loyalty. You need to serve up content that attracts your audience and then keeps them moving from one milepost to the next.
Perhaps you’ll gain their attention with blog posts, infographics and e-books. Then, when they seriously start to consider your offering, you might invite them to a webinar. Perhaps the next stage is a free trial, demo or one-on-one consultation.
Whatever you offer, it has to be tailored to your buyers and their role in the decision-making process. It has to meet them where they are in the buying cycle and speak specifically to their industry or market segment.
B2B Marketing Problem 4: The Customer Base Is Limited
You’re selling to a small number of companies and individuals. I mean, who wouldn’t want a chocolate chip cookie? But how many people are interested in, for example, industrial weighing devices?
That means every potential client counts. Each can have a substantial impact on your sales results.
The Solution: Just Do It
As you’ve been reading through this article, you may have been thinking “that sounds like a lot of work.” It is, but when you only have a limited pool of prospects, it’s worth spending the time to create content that will speak to them in a personal way and bring them into your fold.
So, when it comes to content marketing, just do it.
B2B Marketing Problem 5: Sales People Are Expensive
Except for the Girl Scouts, who park themselves outside the supermarkets once a year to sell their cookies, you rarely see a sales pitch for cookies.
But in B2B sales, personal relationships between the salesperson and the customer are still important. That’s whether it’s an inside sales person or a sales rep who sits down face-to-face with the client.
Sales people are expensive. You don’t want to waste their time. And, it turns out, neither do they. They have no interest in getting involved with leads early in the buying cycle and would prefer to work with prospects who are educated. After all, informed prospects can turn into customers more rapidly and have an immediate impact on a sales person’s commission.
The Solution: Increase Sales Productivity with Content
By using content to attract the right people, educate them and build their trust in your organization, you’ll empower your sales people to be more productive. They can call on prospects when they’re ready to buy, help them in a consultative way and move them over the finish line to close the sale.
Ready to learn more? Get your free e-book: ‘The 38 “Let’s Do It” Content Marketing Templates for Lead Generation Workbook.’