After 3 years in the big smoke I decided to make the decision to move back to my seaside town of Portsmouth. Not only had I had enough of the hustle and bustle of London, I knew I had more ambition than what my retail job could offer me. To quote Dolly Parton, I knew I was finally ready for a 9 to 5.
Content is both the cause of, and solution to, many marketers’ problems.
Like channels including email and social media, content has taken its place as a fundamental pillar of B2B marketing. When planning campaigns or marketing strategies, content’s inclusion is simply a given – and rightly so. Tackling long buying cycles, building brand trust, or positioning organisations as industry thought-leaders, few channels do the job as well as content. From ebooks and tip sheets, to infographics and checklists, this multi-function solution has a place in all marketing activities… and this could be its downfall.
In real life, we turn strangers into friends by following three conversational stages - small talk, discussing interests, and sharing feelings. In B2B content marketing, we use a similar communication style to turn prospects into customers.
Stage 1: Keep it light
Imagine you’re introduced to a new person at a social function. What’s the first thing you tend to talk about? Usually, it will be along of the lines of ‘lovely weather we’ve been having, isn’t it?’ This will be met with agreement, and relief that you’ve broken the mounting silence or tension. Now, imagine sitting next to a party guest you’ve never met before and raising the topic of your grandmother’s funeral. You’ll likely be met with raised eyebrows and awkward muttering, whilst your conversation partner looks for any chance to run away.
When it comes to introducing a prospect to your company via content, it’s important to follow a similar introductory approach. Start by using an infographic as an introduction to the initial idea. This would be considered top-of-the-funnel content (or social small talk). Why it important? Well, shouting a call-to-action from the rooftops often has much the same effect as getting too personal too early in social interactions – people will try to run away.
Stage 2: We’ve got so much in common
Once your new conversation partner has warmed up a little bit and engaged with your initial questions, it’s time to get chatting about your common interests - be it your favourite new TV show or the friends you have in common. This is when connections and trust start to form. You might even recommend a movie or show to your new potential friend, demonstrating that you’ve been listening to them, and that you have something valuable to offer your relationship.
When a lead reaches the middle of the funnel, they have displayed a willingness to interact with your company. Now, it’s time to show them you’re interested in helping them. To achieve this, it’s often effective to provide your prospect with an ebook or tip sheet filled with handy information. This highlights just how helpful your company is, and the positive impact you could have on your prospect’s life.
Stage 3: We should be friends
After you’ve been chatting to your new pal for some time, you might begin to reveal more about your personal lives, without it feeling uncomfortable. This is because the journey through stages A and B have shown you can trust each other, and are therefore willing to share information.
When a potential customer gets to this stage, they should be feeling comfortable and willing to consider using your services – or at least be open to a chat about it. It is at this point that they’ll be more receptive to viewing case studies and receiving sales calls. Ultimately, they are sales-ready and on the tipping point of conversion.
Straight to stage 3, stuck at stage 1, or bouncing back to stage 2
Sometimes, you’ll meet someone who likes going straight to C (like the eager beaver in our first example), or a person who doesn’t want to get personal at all, and prefers to keep it to small talk. Personalities and preferences are as complex as the night sky, and you’re always going to meet people who don’t fit the mould.
Just like in real-life conversations, customers don’t always meet our expectations. You may come across leads and prospects who are more receptive to ebooks and won’t take a second glance at an infographic. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing something wrong, or that you need to change your content marketing strategy, it just means that not every customer wants to keep it light. The solution then, is to host all of your content in a central hub, and let prospects and leads choose the content they want. Are they in the research stage and simply looking for statistical infographics, or are they ready to buy and looking for case studies? Either way, a central content hub will enable them to find and engage with exactly what they need.
To find out more about B2B lead generation and how an effective content marketing strategy can help you generate, nurture, and convert high-quality leads, simply contact us today on 44 (0)23 9231 5607.