Content has to be targeted and timely in order to generate qualified leads as part of your inbound sales strategy.
Inbound Marketing has breathed life into your sales funnel and is generating qualified leads with higher conversion rates. What happens though, when this bubble bursts and you realize you’re leaking leads throughout your funnel?
Content for content’s sake is like legacy sales’ cold calling where you aim for quantity over quality, hoping that one of those calls or pieces of content lands magically on target.
This is too costly a mistake to make given that most modern customers do their homework online and even reach decisions long before your sales team reaches out to them.
Simply bombarding people with content without stopping to think if it’s the right content at the right time is not in line with the principles of Inbound.
Content Mapping at the Heart of Your Content Marketing
Content, whatever its purpose, should always be timely, buyer-centric, improve your lead generation strategy and positively impact sales.
“Best-in-class companies are 81% more likely to align content to the stage of the buyer’s journey.” (Aberdeen)
So exactly how does one ensure content is relevant and well-timed?
Map out the 'Who' first
You can keep churning out content but it won’t make the slightest dent until you take the time to figure out who you want to reach with it. The more you know about your ‘Buyer personas’ - the people who are most likely to buy from you - the easier it will be to determine the tone and style of the content, and how and where it should be delivered.
Companies that utilize Inbound content platforms and offer buyer persona driven content see a 45% increase in the volume of Sales Accepted Leads. (Kapost)
Researching your buyer personas in depth helps you understand their buyer’s journey and how they consume content.
90% of consumers find custom content useful and 78% believe that organizations providing custom content are interested in building good relationships with them. (SmartBug Media)
The Buyer's Journey Tells you 'When'
Buyer personas consume content differently, and also have different questions and requirements at each point in their journey. It always pays off to give customers what they want, when they want it, so aim to satisfy their most pressing queries with the right information at the opportune time. This moves them closer to their goals and builds credibility and trust so you’re their vendor of choice when they actually make their purchase.
What Exactly do Buyer’s Look for at Each Stage?
Start with content that’s educational and as they become more aware of their problem’s ideal solution, create something more specific to influence their decision.
76% of buyers prefer different content at each stage of their research and that trend is on the rise
This is where the type of content, its substance matter and format come in. Some content types are more relevant than others at different stages of the sales cycle and this is a great place to start.
How do you know which stage they’re at?
As people go from identifying they have a problem (Awareness Stage) to researching possible solutions (Consideration Stage) to finalizing their choice (Decision Stage), their user behaviour and research patterns differ. This is evident in the keywords and relevant terms they search for. While prospects at the top of the funnel look for impartial, vendor-neutral content that isn’t salesy, those closer to a decision at the bottom of the funnel look for product and brand-specific information to compare and contrast.
All you need to do is map the questions they’re likely to ask at each stage so you know what content to put out when.
Focus: Customer pain points.
Goal: Help them discover they have a problem and provide them with educational, solution-oriented, vendor-neutral content.
Do: SEO is essential as buyers’ first stop is usually Google.
Don’t: Mention your product or brand.
Content formats: Informative blog posts, ebooks, ‘How-to’ guides, industry trends, whitepapers, research reports, infographics, checklists, templates, worksheets.
Content at this stage should build credibility, trust and cement a position of thought leadership in your industry.
Focus: Solutions to their problems and pain points.
Goal: Facilitate research and understanding of the solutions available.
Do: Compare and contrast. Spell out other solutions even if they’re not your product/software as this shows your advantage over competitors and helps to qualify them so you do not waste time on customers who aren’t a good fit for what you offer.
Don’t: Forget to speak the language of senior staff here, as in the case of B2B clients they are the ones who are the decision makers and approve budgets.
Content Formats: Comparison documents, expert guides, newsletters, webinars, podcasts, video content.
Content at this stage must continue to educate in order to strengthen the trust already gained. Nurture and engage to attract and qualify leads who are further along the funnel. It also helps to be visual, authoritative and attention grabbing at this stage.
Focus: Specific solution comparisons, product features and functionalities and assessment of the buyer’s return on investment.
Goal: Help them compare and contrast specific solutions, vendors and brands.
Do: Brand-specific content, which demonstrates the value added proposition over your competitors, simplified payment methods for prospects who are ready to buy.
Don’t: Forget to ‘show as well as tell’ as you should lay out your Unique Selling Proposition in a clear, hard-to-miss way and spell out in graphic detail to potential customers how you stand apart from competitors.
Content Formats: Case studies, RoI calculators, demos, customer testimonials, buyer’s guides, trial downloads, success kits, product literature, spec and pricing sheets, vendor comparisons, product reviews.
Content in this stage should have an action-oriented tone and work towards delivering sales qualified leads who are ready to buy.
'Where': Channels Matter
Last but not least, link the stages of the buyer’s journey to content distribution channels (email, website, social media, search etc.). Conduct your own research into your target audience and study where, when and how they digest content across these channels as this helps you further refine your strategy.
81% of modern B2B buyers now use communities and blogs to inform a purchase decision. 74% use Linkedin, and 42% use Twitter. (Marketing Think)
Map, Update and Repeat
Do you have a lot of content but haven’t yet mapped it out? Don’t fret! You don’t need to go back to the drawing board or scrap everything and start from scratch. Just review your existing content, identify which stage it belongs to, look for gaps (customer questions that exist at each stage that you don’t have answers for) and then fill them. Produce quality content with the goal of lead nurturing, and gaining the trust and respect of your customers.
Capitalize on marketing automation, and cloud software so that you can automate what content they receive according to their lead status in your CRM, the interactions they have already had with you and the content they have already downloaded.
The rules for mapping content to your buyer’s journey are fairly simple - match personas, stages, channels and repeat.