It's no secret that content plays a critical role in the business development process. But just exactly what role should content play?
The DemandGen Report 2018 Content Preferences Survey Report provides insight into both how buyers use content as well as what types of content they'd like to see sellers produce. And if you don't think content is important, consider that the Survey found that "49% of B2B buyers said they now rely more on content to research and make purchase decisions."
When buyers talk, we listen! So here are some highlights from the DemandGen Report as well as tips on how to use content in your business development process.
Buyers place increasing emphasis on trustworthy content
In my opinion, this is the most important finding of the Survey. Consider the following.
- 78% of buyers STRONGLY agree that they are placing more emphasis on the trustworthiness of the content source.
- 88% of buyers agree that sellers should focus less on product specifics and more on adding value to the buyer's business.
Here are some tips on how to create trust with content in your business development process.
pitchingand start helping! Many professional services businesses feel that they shouldn't give away "free consulting". But buyers are looking for sellers that demonstrate their expertise with helpful content. The goal of your content, particularly at the top of the funnel, should be to help buyers solve problems.
- Focus on quality content, not the quantity of content you produce. The old SEO formula of pushing out keyword-focused content 3 times a week doesn't work anymore. We've cut back on our publication frequency and focused on creating quality content for our vertical markets. So far this year, our website traffic is up 25% and inbound lead generation is up 50%. You're far better off publishing one great piece of content per month than pumping out listicle blog posts that nobody cares about.
Content is the key to generating top-of-the-funnel opportunities
For those of you who are still relying on cold-calling to generate sales opportunities, keep in mind that 78% of survey respondents said that they consumed 3 or more pieces of content before engaging with a sales professional.
What kind of content are they consuming? Podcasts are gaining popularity - 64% of survey respondents said that they listened to podcasts as they began their buying processes. And blog posts are making a comeback - 71% said that they read blog posts during the purchase process, up from 66% last year. Blog posts are the most frequently shared content format. 74% of buyers said they shared blog posts with their colleagues.
Here are some recommendations on using content to generate top-of-the-funnel opportunities.
- Stop cold calling and implement an email prospecting program. Let's face it, buyers are busy and cold calls are more of a distraction than a help. Consider implementing an email prospecting program in which you share relevant content (blog posts, infographics, videos, etc.) with qualified buyers. This does not mean sending out cookie cutter email blasts to mailing lists that you buy. It means sending tailored emails to qualified buyers in your target niches where you share content that relates to specific situations that they deal with in their jobs. Use email marketing software like HubSpot Sales to evaluate the performance of your emails and to optimize your outreach.
- Make your content share-worthy. This gets back to creating quality content. Buyers are sharing content with colleagues, but you can rest assured that they're not sharing low-quality or sales-oriented content. And there's a snowball effect to quality content. Good content gets shared on social media, which sends positive signals to search engines, which gets you more organic traffic.
Rather than investing time and resources in cold-calling, invest it in creating quality content that is directed at target markets. This will result in more top-of-the-funnel opportunities
Structure your content for visually-oriented buyers
One of the surprising findings of the DemandGen Report Survey for me was that 71% of buyers said that they consumed blog content during their decision-making process. This was actually up from 66% in 2017!
But don't forget that buyers are visually-oriented. The Survey also showed that buyers on average spend 5 minutes or less consuming content. This means buyers are scanning your blog posts, not reading them. Help them out by using visual cues to break your blog posts into easily consumable content snippets.
- Break your blog post up into bite-sized chunks by using descriptive headers and horizontal lines. This helps the buyer scanning content to quickly find the information she's looking for.
- Use charts, graphics, bold text and bulleted and numbered lists to illustrate key concepts and data points. Don't make them search through unformatted text to find what they're looking for. If you do, you can bet that they will bounce off your post and move on to the next one.
- Embed video content into your blog posts to further emphasize key concepts. For an example of this, check out our video on formatting content for visually-oriented buyers immediately below this section.
Yes, buyers are consuming and sharing blog posts in their buying processes, but you need to make it easy for them to find the information they're looking for.
Content marketing is more relevant in the buying process than ever. Increase your closing ratios by giving buyers the content they want in the format they want. Share trustworthy content that educates - good content will do the selling without you pitching your company. And make sure to create content that's easy for buyers to consume and to find the information they're looking for. Need a little help - schedule a free content marketing consultation.