When Content Hurts the Sales Process

When Content Hurts the Sales Process

Imagine this. You have an awesome content pipeline. You’re sure that your content will garner attention from prospects and increase social shares in your niche. Not to mention, it’ll get your new leads geared up for personal touchpoints and move them closer to a buying decision.

The only problem? Those things aren’t happening as spectacularly as you’d like.

It might simply be that you’re pushing the wrong content at the wrong time—and your whole sales mechanism is taking a beating for it. To put it another way, content may be King, but even a great king ruling over the wrong kingdom is a disaster scenario.

sales process content king

Only 41% of B2B marketers confirm that their content marketing yields a positive ROI. A lot of marketers make the fatal mistake of mismatching content with stages of the customer journey. To be clear: You must make sure your content is hitting your prospects at the right points within the sales funnel, as well as coach them through it along the way.

Here’s how it should happen.

Speak to the Stage

In B2B markets (and even some more complex B2C situations) customers don’t just roll out of bed, pull out their wallets, and spend. Unless, of course, your content always meets them where they are in the purchase process.

DemandGen Report tells us that 87% of B2B buyers either agreed or strongly agreed on feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of content out there. Part of the reason is that many customers are seeing in-depth content long before they should. Or maybe, they’re seeing thinner, brand-focused content when they’re close to the conversion finish line and just need a little more substance.

Are you absolutely clear about what your buyers’ stages are? Before you direct your prospects to the destination—the point of sale—you have to understand the logical steps they take to get there.

sales process buyer's stage

For example:

  • In the “awareness” stage, the buyer first encounters your brand. Here is where you need to show off your brand identity and promise through the personality of social, easily consumable content—social posts, infographics, and the like.
  • In the deeper “consideration” stage, your prospects will expect some more substantial content from you to bolster their (hopefully strong) inclination to buy your product. For example, as one manufacturing industry professional lamented, it would be nice for more B2B marketers to help build a case for change in their businesses—for example, with things like in-depth product or solution comparison reports.

B2B marketers who want to succeed need to be relentlessly relevant. Those who fail to match content to buyer stages get lost in the customer attrition woods.

So after you’ve identified buyer stages, what’s next? You could conduct a survey of your satisfied customers and/or reference your CRM to see which buying stages were optimally served by which types of content. You could change the content pipeline itself, whether that means eliminating some collateral, moving it to a different buyer stage, refining it so that it’s more targeted, or repurposing it (e.g., a series of Tweets reimagined as a blog post, or a series of blog posts as a white paper) to serve each stage better.

The bottom line: Do what it takes to conform content offerings to customer needs as they move through distinct sales funnel stages.

Guide Them to the Light

sales process tunnel

Have you described the stages? Have you restructured content to fit your leads’ natural progression from stranger to customer? Great! Now there’s more work to do.

Being there for customers through every touchpoint—guiding them with the utmost clarity from point to point until they reach the ultimate buying decision—is what will make the difference. That might seem obvious, but it’s easy to miss. Content “moments” need to be smoothed over with friendly brand interactions.

Firing content pieces at prospects, one at a time, won’t work. Walking with them through the customer journey does.

The guidance can take on a number of different forms, such as social selling, product demos, mobile engagements (that take advantage of “immediacy” and relevance factors, such as push notifications and location-specific services), or email newsletters.

Or, simply, phone conversations with sales. Whatever it takes to prompt the customer to take the next step, to consume and digest the next piece of yummy, nutritional content.

In a report from Infosys, 86% of consumers say that personalization has some impact on buying decisions. 25% say it has a significant impact. The key is after identifying buyer stages and the ideal content for each, you’ll need to get good and personal with your leads between content piece A and B, answering their questions, allaying their concerns, offering helpful suggestions and relevant ideas.

That’s lead nurturing of the highest form.

Content in context? It’s a beautiful thing.

That is, both for your ideal customers and for your company’s bottom line.

sales process feed lead

It’s a no-brainer. Feed your leads the right content at the right time within the customer journey, and more of them will naturally qualify themselves along the way.

How well is your content serving your sales process?

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