In the 2019 B2B Content Marketing Research Report by CMI and MarketingProfs, 90% of B2B marketers surveyed cited putting the informational needs of their audience above that of their sales or promotional messaging. More and more marketers are leveraging a wide array of blog posts, case studies, eBooks and numerous other content formats to fuel lead generation, nurture campaigns and other marketing initiatives.
While increasing your content development efforts to support your content marketing strategy is critical, more is not necessarily always better. Have you analyzed or considered whether your team is serving the right content to your audience at the right stage of the B2B buyer’s journey?
Let this article serve as a helpful guide to get your team to think more strategically about how and when to leverage your content at each stage of the B2B buyer’s journey.
Defining the B2B Buyer’s Journey and Its Stages
Let’s begin with what the buyer’s journey is and why it’s important. The B2B buyer’s journey can be defined as the process B2B buyers go through when researching, evaluating and deciding to purchase a product or service. Having a deep understanding of this journey for your customers is foundational in shaping your content marketing efforts.
Generally, the B2B buyer’s journey is comprised of three stages:
- Awareness (top of the sales funnel)
- Consideration (middle of the sales funnel)
- Decision (bottom of the sales funnel)
Now that you have a general idea of what the B2B buyer’s journey is, let’s take a deeper look at each stage and the type of content you should develop for each.
In the awareness stage, B2B buyers are typically beginning their initial research on various solutions and options that may be a fit for their product/service needs. Content to offer at the awareness stage should typically include a combination of the following content formats or types:
- Blog posts and articles
- Social media content
- Press Releases
Google notes 71% of B2B researchers started with a generic search instead of searching for a specific product/solution. Having high-quality SEO-optimized blog posts on your website provides answers to foundational questions your prospects have at the awareness stage, introduces your company as a credible resource and sets the stage for further engagement.
Social media content
In the same CMI report cited earlier, 61% of B2B marketers report increasing their use of social media over the past year and 84% rely on social media publishing and analytics tools to assist with the management of their content marketing efforts. Social media provides a direct pipeline for sharing content with your audience in an efficient and effective manner. If your organization has neglected its social presence or doesn’t have one, begin by establishing a presence for your brand on LinkedIn, Twitter and even Facebook (in particular, their ad platform).
eBooks are increasingly one of the most popular forms of content B2B marketers use to generate leads and should play an integral role in your content marketing strategy. eBooks can build brand authority and credibility with thought leadership content, generate leads through collection of contact information upon download and act as an educational resource for B2B buyers trying to solve a problem or learn more about your company.
Infographics can showcase your grasp of an industry, issue or challenge that is of interest to your buyers through insightful statistics, figures and facts that educate and encourage action. Infographics are ideal content to leverage on social media because of their eye-catching visuals and data-driven iconography. Audiences can easily share your infographic on social media as well, further promoting your brand and expertise and driving traffic to your website.
A well-written press release distributed via wire can be picked up by industry-related media outlets and deliver widespread distribution of the message(s) you want to send. They also help validate your business’s credibility, especially when focused on award announcements, milestones reached and customer successes.
In the consideration stage of the buyer’s journey, buyers are evaluating whether your product or service as well as those offered by others can meet their needs. Your goal at this stage is to show how your product/service does meet those needs and why it’s the best choice. Content formats to consider during the evaluation stage include:
- White papers
With 79% of B2B buyers willing to exchange their name and email address for webinars, it’s no wonder many organizations turn to them as an effective lead generation tactic. In addition to lead generation, B2B webinars bring wider benefits such as building thought leadership, pushing leads further down the sales funnel and deepening engagement with existing customers.
If you’re interested in hosting a webinar, make sure you have a proper plan in place to promote it, execute it and follow up appropriately after its completion.
White papers help B2B buyers during the consideration stage by giving them deeper insight into your expertise and feature capability details of your product/service that buyers want to know more about.
With 76% of B2B buyers reporting being more likely to share their contact information for a white paper, this content format can be great to leverage for lead generation. Note: make sure the topic of your white paper is something your buyers would be interested in and not simply a topic you or your marketing team wants to write about.
In the 2018 State of Inbound Report, almost 45% of marketers said that they plan to add YouTube and another 41% plan to add Facebook Video as content distribution channels.
Video marketing was a hot and growing trend for B2B marketers in 2018 and there are no signs of it slowing down. In fact, CMI’s 2019 Research Report found that the majority of B2B content marketers (64%) increased their use of audio/visual content over the past year. More and more people are preferring visual content over written, so consider creating client testimonials or product-focused videos to your content development efforts if you haven’t done so already.
Once a B2B buyer reaches the bottom of the funnel, they’re in the decision stage of the buyer’s journey. It’s important to remember that their readiness to decide does not guarantee that they will buy from you. To help influence this decision in your favor, offer product-focused, confidence-building content that highlights key benefits of your solution and addresses any lingering questions or concerns buyers may have. Content formats to use in the decision stage include:
- Case studies
- Product demos
- Trial offers
The purpose of a case study is to showcase real-world examples of how your product or service helped solve the challenges and pain points of organizations or individuals that are similar to the prospective buyer. Elements of a great case study should include:
- Data points presented as engaging visuals to support your claims and capture readers’ attention
- A compelling story (present the problem, how your solution solved it and show the results)
- A call-to-action to encourage readers to take the desired next step (e.g. demo, trial request or purchase)
Product demos can be a deciding factor in getting buyers over the finish line to make a purchase. Create a demo that can be viewed or engaged with on demand via pre-recorded video or interactive tool that you can promote on your website and other digital channels. Also offer B2B buyers the opportunity to schedule a more personalized, 1-on-1 product demonstration with a sales team member who can further cater to that buyer’s particular needs.
A trial offer (often offered by SaaS-based companies) provides B2B buyers an opportunity to “test drive” a solution for free for a specified period (typically 7, 14 or 30 days). Once the specified period ends, the solution’s features will cease to function until a buyer commits to purchase it. Trial offers are a great way to erase any lingering concerns a buyer may have about your solution by allowing them to see it for themselves.
Tip: Consider promoting your trial offers to individuals with higher lead scores and previous website visitors with retargeting ads!
As you can see, content development for the B2B buyer’s journey should be thoughtfully considered and well planned out to effectively offer the right type of content at the right time. Make sure to document your content marketing strategy (if you need help on this, we’ve got you covered), create measurable goals to track the effectiveness of your efforts and continually test and optimize your content offerings based on what is working or what is not.