Why Content Marketing is a Must – No Matter the Length of Your Sales Cycle
It doesn’t matter if it the sales cycle is long or short, content marketing can help shepherd potential customers along the purchasing path, through the end sale and beyond. I want to expand on Brianne Carlon’s timely article “Why Content Marketing Works No Matter the Length of Your Sales Cycle.”
Perhaps it’s misunderstood, or maybe the practice of content marketing is relatively new versus tried-and-true sales tactics. Additionally, sales people may consider content marketing to be fully in the marketing and branding areas of business, and not sure how it helps the sales process and closing a customer.
It is clear that anything that can help move a potential customer into the top of the funnel, and continue to help them move down until they’re signed, sealed, delivered (they’re yours) should be seen as a welcome development.
And this is where content marketing becomes relevant. Providing your potential customers with kernels of knowledge that they deem valuable helps inform them, and allows for their self-education. Buyers today do research, and do it repeatedly along the purchasing path. By offering them useful information, data, and expert opinions – and then catering the content to fit the different stages of the purchasing path – you help the customer perform self-service research, and help them move from one stage to the next.
“As time goes on and technology advances, customers are educating themselves more and more, delaying the point of contact with a sales rep. ” -Brianne Carlon
The Steps in the Buying Process:
Potential customers must first recognize they have a need. Sometimes you play that part to educate them of their problems that need solving. At other times, they understand their problems but are uncertain what exactly their needs are. And then there are times where they understand their problems and needs, but you serve to confirm their thoughts. You represent and provide thought leadership, years of experience, insights and knowledge. Respect My Authoritah!
2. Information Search
The gatherer mode. Prospective customers actively seek data, pricing and feature sets, trying to understand the baseline solution for their problem.
3. Evaluate Options
Once they’ve gathered the information, they start to weigh the different options in front of them. How much, how difficult to implement, DIY versus outsource, what’s a better fit for their specific set of problems and circumstances. Also, is there a cost savings or return on the purchase to help justify solving the issue? Or are all of the solutions too expensive or require too many resources, so for now they’ll do without?
4. Make Purchase Decision
If they’ve determined that the problem is weighty enough, and there are viable solutions that can be justified, they need to choose which solution or vendor with which to align themselves.
The ongoing assessment of “was this a good purchase?” Is it working, does it meet expectations, is it worth the cost, how effective is the solution to fix the problem, what other complications have arisen due to this solution, and many other questions as to whether or not this was an intelligent purchase decision.
If you create content to target the different purchasing stages for your potential customers, and are providing them value along those stages, content marketing can help your sales cycle.
Confusion over creating and sharing
However, it should be noted that in creating and promoting content, the type of content that is most useful for both your company and your potential customer should be developed by you. Too often one sees brands promoting other companies’ work and good ideas, and yet they consider themselves as performing productive content marketing.
Yes, promoting others’ content is a necessity to cultivate influencers and help build your thought leadership. But in doing so, you need the intermittent development and promotion of your own insights, expertise, opinions and knowledge, tied to the aforementioned purchasing stages.
Who uses Content Marketing today?
“Providing customers and potential customers something of value is the best (arguably only) way to be successful with content marketing.” – Brianne Carlon
Oh, you need empirical data and business blogging statistics to back up these assertions that companies are actively using content marketing?
- “Roughly 80 percent of marketers use Content Marketing in their programs,” according to HiveFire’s B2B Marketing Trends 2011 Survey.
- “9 out of 10 B2B marketers are using Content Marketing,” according to Content Marketing Institute’s 2012 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends.
Additionally, regardless of the length of the sales cycle, companies find a use for content marketing:
- “83% of respondents who cited their firm having a year or longer sales cycle used Content Marketing.”
- “86% of those who cited a sales cycle of 1-3 months were users.”
- “66% of respondents with a 1-7 day sales cycle use Content Marketing.”
Delay at your own risk!
“No matter how long it takes, the goals of content marketing are the same: brand awareness, customer acquisition, lead generation and customer retention.” - Brianne Carlon
Today’s customers are active on social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Quora, niche message boards and forums, Pinterest, Google Plus, Slideshare, Tumblr, Microsoft’s new So.Cl, StumbleUpon and many more. There are many avenues for your brand to be noticed and for you to create awareness, if you can create valuable content and invoke yourself into these conversations.
Potential customers are actively performing research around brands, products, companies and solutions across these social networks. They rely on friends, associates, thought leaders and trusted influencers to help steer their searches and provide useful feedback.
Additionally, potential customers also perform research by relying on Google and Bing search engines. With search engines’ latest shift towards highlighting new, meaningful content on websites (see Google Panda updates), and combining search engine results with social shares (Bing and Google Plus), your delinquency in building content and promoting that through social channels is at your own risk, and to your competitor’s delight.
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Image credit – http://www.copyblogger.com/content-marketing/