Part 1 of 3
Good B2B marketing focuses on the specifics of turning a prospect into a qualified lead and then into a buyer. Strategy and content is tailored to the right prospects, their motivations for purchasing and where they are in the overall buyer’s journey. B2B marketing output that is relevant and useful improves conversion rates. Marketing to the top of the funnel is the most uncertain part of the whole process. The awareness stage is all about informing the world of your company’s solutions and matching those with the problems your ideal prospects have. But “getting found,” as it’s often called in the parlance of inbound, can feel a bit overwhelming. Enticing B2B buyers who are just starting to do their research is a battle for their attention fought in the trenches of search results and social news feeds. They have a problem, but they don’t have a name for it yet.
Top-of-the-funnel content becomes effective through research and an understanding of certain nuances. Here’s how to create it specifically for the B2B buyer’s journey.
1. Know thy customers
In a way, the best inbound content for the awareness stage is reverse-engineered. Take a look at your existing customers, especially those recently acquired. What material of yours resonated with them? Are you tracking their behaviors? What did you say in the sales process that convinced them of your worth? The answers to these questions will illuminate how to make new content effective at gathering more leads.
Your ideal prospects will have very similar questions and concerns, which they’ll use when searching for solutions during the research stage. The key is having your content for this stage available and visible when they’re looking for it. Blog posts, whitepapers and social media activity resonate more at the beginning of the journey.
Take real questions from your buyers and create articles about those topics. Current SEO guidelines prioritize natural language and thoughtful keyword usage, so construct posts that use those queries in the title or body. Use what you know about the type of prospects you’re seeking to address their needs up front and provide them with valuable knowledge as they research solutions. Anticipating their needs will go a long way in establishing confidence in the relationship.
2. Give them the information
Knowledge is the key word here. The term “thought leadership” is a common theme in B2B content for good reason—marketing material that hits home with B2B buyers is informative and just the right amount of authoritative.
Perhaps counterintuitively, though, your company itself shouldn’t be the primary focus of such content. Harping on how you provide these solutions is selling to people who aren’t ready to be sold to yet. Instead, this material should be focused on commentary and education—use your expertise to weigh in on trends, analyze case studies and offer helpful tips that are meaningful to your prospects. Remember, they’ve identified a need and they need to find a solution.
The B2B sales journey becomes more intricate by appealing to multiple decision-makers. Your informative content should reflect that. Researchers want to know how to perform their jobs better, CFOs want to learn how to make more cost-efficient decisions, COOs and CEOs want strategies for growth and so on. Content for the awareness stage should be a marriage of the broad (what motivates most or all B2B decision-makers) and the specific (what your ideal prospects want to know), both providing relevant, timely information.
3. Make it easy to take the next step
All of this serves to generate interest and ultimately leads. Don’t overlook the foremost practical function of top-of-the-funnel marketing content—it needs to move a prospect further along the buyer’s journey.
If you create effective content for the awareness stage, you’ll naturally move a prospect closer to the consideration stage. Your content has to provide a clear way for the prospect to act on that feeling. Whether it’s making it easy for them to reach out to your sales department or subscribe to future content you produce, don’t leave them in the dark about what further steps they can take to learn more. Not all prospects will leap straight to consideration because of a well-crafted blog post or whitepaper, but if they got some valuable information, your company will be in their mind when they’re ready to progress.
Crafting potent B2B content for the awareness stage hinges on providing specific solutions to the needs of prospects. It’s only the beginning of the buyer’s larger journey, but it’s crucial for gathering as many qualified leads as possible for the stages yet to come. This is how marketing becomes an integral part of your sales process. We call it sales enablement.