We're pleased to present this guest post by Craig Rosenberg, aka The Funnelholic. Read on for Craig's insights into what it's like to be a B2B buyer.
Author's note: I write this blog post with the sole purpose of becoming an honorary “savvy sister.”
The most amazing thing happened to me recently. After years of furiously creating content for Focus.com, I consumed content. That’s not to say I don’t read other people’s content, because I still do that all the time. Usually, in the time I allot for self-education, I get as much in as possible: I speed-read 50 blog posts and read new conversations on Focus.com, all while an on-demand webinar runs in the background.
In this case, I was doing buyer research for myself and I had to get something more from the content than just being impressed. It was a great experience because it generated some valuable ideas for content, which I share below.
1. Always leave your audience with at least one thing they can do right now.
I once watched a webinar with my colleague Chris Jablonski. When we regrouped afterward, I told him, “I'm not sure I know what to do after that.” He agreed: “There needs to be a law that I will leave a webinar with at least one tangible thing I can go do right away.” What a great rule!
I realized how often content, including my own, can lack a tangible “to do.” Even when content creators provide “five tips,” oftentimes the tips are conceptual and not things you can act on immediately. Example of a conceptual tip: “Ensure data center uptime.” Example of a doable tip: “Monitor your data centers.” Step one: “Install software on all mission-critical servers in your data center.” Step two: “Assign monitoring responsibility to an IT team member.” Step three: “Request the team member to deliver daily status reports on data center availability.” Step four: “Take necessary action when availability falls below stated SLA.”
2. Recruit your customers to write or create the content.
During my buying process, I found myself longing for data from “real” people, aka, my peers. I was reading white papers and watching webinars from vendors, but I really hungered for “real” information. I'm not talking necessarily about glossy case studies. I learned more and got much more valuable information talking with real buyers who I found via social media. In some cases, they had taken part in discussions online, and in others, I was able to reach out to them. What I learned is that there is a big content opportunity.
Instead of you, your product manager or your copywriter creating content, curate content from your customers — real people to whom prospects and other customers can relate. Here are some ideas you can try: crowdsource a tips document where customers only have to submit 250 words, or have an “ask the customer” webinar or teleseminar. You'll find that your customers are invested in your success and that they'll enjoy these types of efforts as long as you don’t ask for too much. Here's a specific example. If you were a marketing automation company, you could ask customers to contribute what they learned to “Tips for Choosing a Marketing Automation System.” I've attended a number of customer conferences run by marketing automation vendors and their customers love to share their knowledge.
3. Create content the buyer cares about.
You might think this is obvious, but it’s not. I was searching endlessly for what I needed, hoping that one place or one vendor would have it all. I wanted a vendor to offer content that helps me make decisions at each point in the buying cycle.
Sticking with the data center theme, here’s an example: If you are a storage company marketing to data center professionals, get your subject matter experts to write something like, “10 Factors to Consider before Consolidating your Data Center” for buyers early in the purchase process. For those with projects well on their way, you can offer, “How Company XYZ Saved $300,000 Annually through Data Center Consolidation.” And for those nearing a decision, provide “Comparing Data Center Consolidation to Alternatives in the Cloud.”
This to me smells like an opportunity for the progressive content organization. Everyone is telling you to create buyer-centric content instead of vendor-centric content, and with good reason – I experienced the pain of searching hard for the information I needed.
4. Be a buyer again and you will realize how much it sucks.
The B2B buying process still sucks. It just does. You don’t realize it until you enter into the process as a buyer instead of a seller. The content is typically overly salesy. If it's unbiased, it usually lacks meat -- that is if you can find it! Sales is either too aggressive with follow-up or never contacts you. It’s painful. Become a "secret shopper" and go through the experience of buying from your own company. And talk to your customers about their experiences. Then, create buyer personas that truly reflect what people go through when buying your product or service so you can develop the content that helps them with their buying decision.
The moral of the story: It sometimes helps to sit in the audience. It did for me.
About the author: Craig Rosenberg is the leader of the Focus Expert Network on Focus.com. His team recruits and manages over 5,000 world-class industry and technology thought leaders that are part of the network. Craig is also author of the popular sales and marekting blog, The Funneholic.