Just like Goldilocks' quest to find the porridge that's just right, the challenge for marketers is to get the temperature of their content just right - not too cold and not too hot.
B2B marketers are starting to appreciate that the content they produce needs to change according to the different stages of the decision cycle that their target buyer goes through. In the simplest terms, buyers move through three stages, awareness, consideration and decision. In this blog we argue that the critical phase is the Consideration stage, where your content has to be just right - the Goldilocks zone!
(Many would rightly argue these stages should be broken into sub-categories, especially in the complex world of B2B decision making but then - well, my Goldilocks analogy wouldn't work!)
Let's start with the initial awareness stage. Much has been written on this and a few of our blogs have covered the big changes sweeping the marketing function in relation to building awareness with your target audience or buyer personas. Whether B2C or B2B, buyers are self-educating online, grazing on a rich diet of content from YouTube snippets, Tweets, posts on LinkedIn and Facebook to bigger pieces of content such as whitepapers, eBooks or webinars.
The job for marketers is to drive up awareness in the mind of the buyer and to heat up their particular bowl of porridge from cold to at least lukewarm - To a point where buyers are aware of you and understand that you can help them solve their particular business problem or challenge. So the principle aim here is to educate your buyers via relevant, succinct and easy to consume content.
Jumping ahead to the decision stage, when the lead is hot and ready to engage, marketing typically hands over to sales to close the deal. In this phase its important to carefully judge exactly how hot your porridge really is. Once again content consumption is a critical test. Measuring what content a buyer is consuming (say visiting your pricing page, downloading a case study or viewing a testimonial video) and the frequency of their activity (for example a sudden jump in the number of visits to your site) tell you the buyer is active in the lower funnel stages and your sales team needs to reach out to them. If the porridge isn't hot enough, getting sales involved when the lead isn't ready is an expensive exercise and your lead acquisition costs will rise.
But its the consideration stage - the middle of the funnel - where marketers need to spend their time getting their content just right - not too hot and not too cold. Here's why.
Marketers need to step into the middle of funnel 'chasm'
Research has shown that B2B buyers are completing 60% of their buying journey before they contact sales, in other words, they are well into the middle of funnel consideration stage. It falls to marketing to produce and distribute content that buyers want to consume in this critical consideration phase. Marketers are used to operating at the awareness stage but less so in the midde of the funnel, but with sales being pushed further down the funnel, marketing must step in to fill the gap and keep control of the buying cycle.
The middle of the funnel is the key transition point
A buyer in the consideration phase moves from non-brand-specific education and exploration of the issues they are facing to a point where they have defined what they need and they are searching for an organisation that meets their criteria. The content you produce at this stage is the bridge to your product or solution set. It should build a sense of trust in the mind of the buyer and a recognition that you understand the problem they have. The buyer should be thinking, "these guys get me, they understand our business sector, they have solved this problem for others like me."
Hitting in the Goldilocks zone
Consider different styles of content that work on building that trust. Often webinars and small-format events are excellent bridging tactics since it brings your leads together with their peers and the experts (you) to discuss the core issues. The opportunity to interact with your organisation and ask questions is key to help your buyers move further in their buying journey.
If you're unsure what content is suitable for the consideration phase, we often recommend that marketers speak with their sales team to identify the questions customers typically ask in the initial sales engagement. After a few discussions your salespople will often be able to detect core patterns emerging around issues. Let those issues inform the topics for which you should be producing content.
Distribution tactics need to change in the consideration phase too. Email remains the most effective tactic to get your content in front of your buyers, but manual outbound email is being replaced by automated email workflows that respond dynamically to the content your buyer is consuming. Lead scoring - the process that determines the readiness of your lead to speak with sales - is radically improving conversions rates. Ensure you have clear messaging in your calls to action in all pieces of communication. And A/B test different variables to determine what works or doesn't work.
With some careful planning, creative thinking, and a good distribution plan you can ace the Goldilocks zone where your content ain't too hot ot too cold...its just right!
Download our eBook, The content marketing revolution to learn more.