Content serves as a support system for sales enablement. Content encourages buyer engagement, momentum, and intent. Because content plays such a big role in sales, I wanted to know what marketing experts would advise in answer to this question:
What type of content best supports buyer conversations?
Twenty of the most awesome marketing experts I know jumped in with responses that give you a number of ways to create and provide content that helps sales reps engage buyers with relevant, valuable conversations.
From content that answers questions to storytelling and case studies and creating experiences to being helpful, embracing video and aligning with buying stages, they’ve got you covered.
I asked them three questions. And they weren’t shy with their insights. So there are two more posts with their answers to:
- What do sales reps need to know to use content effectively in buyer conversations?
- How can marketers best support sales reps once they’re engaging buyers?
Without further ado, here’s what they had to say in answer to question #1 - What type of content best supports buyer conversations?
Content that Answers Questions:
1. Carla Johnson
Content that addresses the questions buyers have based on who they are (persona), what their role is in the buying process, and where they are in the process (different stages of the buyer journey or already a customer).
High-quality personas inform marketers about what story to tell during what stage of the decision journey and in what format. Taking the time up-front to do homework saves not only time and money, it saves frustration for both marketing and sales teams, and can help buyers make decisions faster.
2. Andy Crestodina
Articles that answer common sales questions, especially those that address objects.
Bonus points for content that is visual or contains original research. Visuals connect faster. Research connects more credibly.
3. Katie Martell
Content that answers clear questions buyers have throughout their decision to do business with you is the most effective type of content for sales to keep deals moving forward.
These questions can include external validation “who among my peers are solving this problem in the way you’re suggesting, and with your tools?” Case studies, reviews, customer narratives are all helpful here, especially when they’re in the same industry / company size / situation as the buyer.
Questions may also be more broad, such as “how can I trust you?” In that case, marketers must help equip Sales to earn trust with transparency. In a recent study of IT buyers from Spiceworks, 99% wanted product reviews, while only 59% of vendors made them readily available. What’s more, 95% wanted technical spec sheets in the buying process, while only 72% of marketers provided them. If we want to earn B2B buyers’ trust, we need to help Sales deliver the transparency buyers are asking for.
Content that Shares Stories and Case Studies:
4. Mathew Sweezey
Content from others such as reviews, case studies, user groups, or quora conversations can all be great types of content to share with buyers. This content is instantly trusted and highly authentic because it's not from the brand. It also provides the buyer with people they can reach out to and ask deeper questions to.
5. Brian Carroll
Buyers want stories from peers. The reason I think peer content is because buyers want to hear from people just like themselves. Peers have more trust and immediate relevance, so work with your customers to get peer stories so they can do the talking for you. Get stories from your customers about how they navigated the journey to make changes, how you helped them will naturally flow from the conversation.
In sum, don’t think about the content itself; instead, start with what stories you need to tell in the marketplace that’s supported by peer stories and examples.
6. Bernie Borges
Bernie Borges is CMO of Vengreso, a B2B marketer and podcaster with decades of experience producing content that salespeople love because they can use it to start sales conversations.
LinkedIn | Twitter | Website
Content that best supports buyer conversations is content that addresses specific PoPs - Points of Pain - AND is relevant to the buyer persona. For example, the same case study can be modified to address PoPs to the CEO, CFO, CRO and CMO. The case study story is the same. The outcomes are the same.
However, (by way of example) the outcome can emphasize market share gain for the CEO, or cost savings for the CFO or top line revenue growth for the CRO or brand exposure for the CMO. The point is that content is not “one size fits all.” Content should be geared to the needs of each buyer persona. That said, most marketing teams struggle pulling this off.
7. Tom Pick
Tom Pick is a top B2B marketing influencer, blogger, and senior digital marketing consultant who helps clients improve their online visibility, increase brand awareness, and generate leads.
LinkedIn | Twitter | Website
Case studies (properly done). The best case studies make the customer the hero, with the brand playing a supporting role (i.e., the customer is Batman; the brand is Alfred). They include real customer quotes and quantifiable results. Customers want to know specifically how you've helped people like them and what real-world results have been achieved.
Content that Creates Community and Experiences:
8. Nancy Harhut
Nancy Harhut is the Chief Creative Officer of HBT Marketing, where she blends behavioral science insights with marketing best practices to create online and offline campaigns that beat benchmarks and controls. LinkedIn | Twitter | Website
Right now people feel extremely disconnected. So provide content that creates/reinforces community and focuses on shared experiences. Let buyers know that whatever they’re feeling, whatever challenges they’re facing, others are likely feeling and facing the same things. No one is alone.
Deliver helpful content by adhering to the three Es: educational, entertaining, and empathetic.
- Provide educational, informative content because now, with so much being different, your buyers may need to figure things out as they go along. Be there with answers, advice, and added value.
- Offer entertaining content because people, even in B2B environments, need a bit of escapism. Taking a small break from current events can make someone feel better. Provide that opportunity to your buyers.
- Design your content to create empathy. Show buyers that you understand their situation. Acknowledge what they’re experiencing. When you meet the buyer where he or she is, that puts you in the best position to ultimately lead them where you’d like them to go.
9. Doug Kessler
We recommend content that's a live session, where the buyer is asked to interact with it. The interactions and choices can then be tracked so you learn more about the buyer's interests or their current tech stack or whatever you need to know.
Static PDFs are okay for education but things have moved on. Why not move that content online and track every prospect's engagement with it?
10. Samantha Stone
In times of uncertainty like we are experiencing right now, and will be for months to follow, content that inspires interactive conversations is even more important than ever. We need to be creating dialogs through our content not just passively educating. This could include self-assessment tools, quizzes, calculators, business case builders. It will also come in the form of virtual events, open office hours and Q&A sessions.
11. Mark Schaefer
People are people. Whether B2B or B2C, there are certain types of content that seem to spur interest and conversations universally.
- Content that is timely. Insight (not just reporting)on the latest news and trends
- Entertaining. Think about the content you like to share. It probably has some entertainment value. Why is it different for corporate content?
- Personal. A sure way to stand-out is to add human interest to a story. Give your content a true human voice that is real and even vulnerable.
Content that’s Helpful:
12. Pam Didner
This may be industry-dependent. For B2B, long-form content still works well. However, it needs to be relevant to your conversations with buyers.
13. Robert Rose
Well, not to get too circular on you but it's the content that best supports the buyer. More precisely, we often get hung up in content that enable sales. In fact, we often call it "sales enablement".
We should, rather, ask the question, "what's the best content that enables the buyer?" If we can constantly focus on being the first to deliver value - and not worrying as much about the "transactional" equality of each interaction - we almost always win more.
14. Achinta Mitra
Achinta is the founder and President of Tiecas, Inc. He is a Mechanical Engineer with an MBA in Marketing who provides actionable marketing advice to manufacturers and engineering companies. That’s why he calls himself a Marketing Engineer. LinkedIn | Twitter | Website
As in any kind of content marketing, it really depends on who exactly you are targeting. Let me give you an example from my world of manufacturing marketing. A manufacturer who is targeting Design Engineers, needs to have product datasheets that are current with accurate specifications. We typically don’t think of these as content marketing because they are product-centric, but invaluable to a Design Engineer in the early stages of the buying decision.
A manufacturer of industrial components and parts can use downloadable CAD files as part of their content marketing strategy because unless your component is “designed in,” you are probably not going to get an RFQ/RFP from the Purchasing Department. These content assets are incredible time savers for busy engineers who are in a time crunch as design cycles have become shorter and they are under pressure to speed up time to market. Studies have shown that up to 88% of businesses ultimately buy a part after downloading a CAD file.
15. Joe Pulizzi
Content pitching product and features needs to stop. The switch needs to be to truly helpful content...but it has to be extremely valuable, so time has to be put into the creation of the content. You don't need to say "we want to be here during this difficult time" and what all other brands are saying. Just be helpful.
This is the time to focus on key customers and deliver them information that is going to help them in their jobs and specific roles. When the marketing team creates this, they need to deliver it to sales with the angle...then the salesperson can truly come across as a resource.
16. Jay Baer
Depends on funnel stage, and the format preferences of the buyer as a human. If pressed to pick one, I'd say video that directly addresses buyer concerns and hopes, with ample opportunity for q&a and interaction.
17. Andrea Fryrear
Andrea is the co-founder of AgileSherpas, where she helps marketing leaders improve productivity, innovation, and speed to market by adapting agile practices to marketing work.
LinkedIn | Twitter | Website
Quickly consumed pieces designed to answer common objections are fantastic late in the customer journey. Video and audio are often great options for this kind of content, but much will depend on your buyers' preferences. Recordings of internal subject matter experts responding with best practices and solutions (which are of course provided by your company's product or service) can accelerate these conversations by showing you understand their issues and have already thought through the solution.
18. David Meerman Scott
Video is a fabulous way to build fans of your business. That’s especially true given the current pandemic when we can’t meet people in person.
Content Aligned to Buying Stages:
19. Lee Odden
Buyers have questions so content needs to provide answers where, when and how buyers want. That might mean a podcast for TOFU thought leadership, a live video "show" on LinkedIn discussing MOFU case studies or a webinar drilling down into solution specifics for a BOFU audience.
20. Carlos Hidalgo
The best content that supports buyer conversations are the kind that aligns to the specific persona and the place in the buyers’ journey.
Typically, in the early stages of the journey, prescriptive content is best given this is when buyers are looking to qualify and if possible quantify their problems. As the conversation continues, the tone of the content will change to begin to tie overall solutions to the top of mind issues that buyers have and are trying to solve for.
In part 2 of our series, the experts answer the question, "What do sales reps need to know to use content effectively in buyer conversations?"
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