The internet has changed the buying process for consumers and businesses alike. For decades, companies could control the information about their products and services, and spoon-feed it as necessary to potential customers. That reality has gone bye bye for good. Small and midsized organizations, traditionally completely Sales focused out of necessity, are getting whalloped as they struggle to redefine their sales process to adjust to the content marketing imperative that has become lingua franca in the selling journey (more aptly renamed the “buyer journey.”
Nobody argues that content marketing is a necessity. To increase sales close rates, the theory goes: if companies can capture the attention of their target market early in the buyer journey, and continuously provide relevant and useful content as those leads work their way through that journey, companies will be able to build relationships and turn more of them into customers than they will by continuing with their more traditional sales process. And for early adopters, it has worked well. But now that the majority of organizations are jumping on the “content” bandwagon, the game is changing.
In fact, one of the top issues cited by marketers responding to a recent survey revealed that goals have shifted from quality of content to sheer quantity of content. And that makes the marketer’s job harder.
The problem with information abundance is that it creates attention scarcity.Why? With the growth of the internet, the world has changed from one of information scarcity to one of information abundance. In fact, according to Google chairman Eric Schmidt “there was 5 Exabytes of information created between the dawn of civilization and 2003, but that much information is now created every two days and the pace is rapidly increasing”. The sheer volume of content coming at you and me today is mind-blowing! And one of our biggest marketing challenges. We are quickly becoming an “ADD” society.
While traditional processes still have their place, smart marketers are focusing on three key principles:
- inbound marketing – being found by consumers through all the advertising white noise currently on the internet,
- being able to build trusted relationships with the buyers, and
- understanding where your leads are in their buying journey, and acting appropriately.
If your marketing strategy does not revolve around these three principles it will likely fail.
Buyer attitudes today are: ‘Engage me’, ‘communicate with me’, ‘add value to my business’, ‘solve my problems’, ‘create opportunity for me’, ‘educate me’, and ‘inform me.’ If you do all of those things well, then THAT is what will sell me.
Yes, buyers want to know the price, the features and what it looks like, but they can get that from an instant Google search. Marketers must go further. Buyers want to be shown what the product can do for them (benefits as opposed to features). Today’s buyers want to work with companies they like, trust, and respect. Effective content marketing could be labeled “human-to-human” marketing. Done well, it’s people talking with each other. Beware the email@example.com emails – which smacks of one-size-fits-all marketing that is mostly a turn-off to buyers. If the company marketing to you only wants to broadcast, and you’ve no way to reply, there isn’t any dialog. Is that the kind of vendor you want to do business with?
Relevant Content is King
Content marketing is now a buzz word, but you need to understand it is the term given to the way that you engage your customers and walk with them and guide them on their buying journey. It is more than a well-written web page.
Content comes in lots of different formats: videos, checklists, articles, blogs, white papers, ebooks and webinars, to name a few. All of them provide information that will educate your customer and show them why your product solves their problems and makes their life/business more efficient, but also showcases how you are going to help them get there. An excellent content marketing campaign will draw people into your website and landing pages and downloads. And when they are ready for a sales conversation, your sales people get in touch, and guide them the rest of the way to becoming a customer with more excellent content, answers, and dialog, until the sale is completed.
The reason ‘relevant content is king’ is that it is the hook that engages people and enrolls them in learning more about YOU – your company and your products. If you provide educational, informative, relevant content, your buyers have all they need to make an informed decision.
Relevant Content Marketing Is Harder Than It Appears
Buyers are overwhelmed with all the content noise and are getting better and better at ignoring the messages they don’t want to hear. They will proactively use the internet to search for what they do want to learn about on their own.
Sending one-size-fits-all messages to your leads will have a diminishing return, and will actually damage your reputation and the trust you are working so hard to build. And email ISP’s are paying attention. If a lead continues to ignore your emails, then they will begin to be placed in that lead’s spam folder. The more messages you are sending that they are ignoring, will damage your ability to get in front of them at all — even with messages they may desperately need!
Over sixty percent (60%) of businesses do not have a content development process.
That means, there is no plan for who develops the content or what that content needs to achieve, so the majority of content does not tune into what the buyers are looking for.
Essentially, 60% of businesses do not understand the needs of their buyers by neglecting a fundamental aspect of content marketing, and failing to guide their leads along their buying journey by developing and offering content pathways.
Let’s face it. Not having a content strategy is like throwing mud against a wall hoping some of it will stick.
The Way Out of Content CHAOS
You need to walk with and guide your leads by offering an content pathway relevant to your buyer’s needs and interests. Each piece of content must build on the last and have a purpose, or there is no progression.
If you fail to invest in the quality of the your content and how you are guiding your buyers, then your content marketing will fail to produce the results you need to fuel your sales efforts.
Only 33% of marketing budgets are spent on content marketing. Without focus and strategy, the content created will not cut through the content noise of the internet – it will only add to it.
If you cannot guide your buyers effectively, why should they do business with you? Without a plan, you can’t know where your buyer is in their journey. Is it any wonder that Sales doesn’t trust marketing to determine when a lead is “sales-ready?”
According to research done by Forrester, buyers might be anywhere from two-thirds to 90% of the way through their buying journey before they even reach the vendor. The reason this is happening more and more is because buyers have so much access to information that they can delay talking to sales until they are experts themselves.
So why aren’t more campaigns spending time guiding buyers with content pathways?
Some great research by TechValidate might provide some insights into the current state of content marketing:
According to TechValidate’s research, the biggest issues with effective content creation centers around lack of time and a lack of knowledge or expertise. And let’s tell the truth – IT’S NOT EASY. And without a plan or process, it’s nearly impossible to get content marketing right.
Smart marketers (even with small budgets) can accomplish amazing things – we’ve seen it. But they are disciplined and focused on 3 fundamental ingredients:
1) Personas are defined. They know WHO their buyer is. They’ve done the work to understand them thoroughly. The issues, challenges, pains, and aspirations that arise as their buyers work their way through their buying journey.
2) They have defined specific measurable results for each campaign. They are willing to listen AND guide. They work on ensuring their content has a purpose and helps them learn, refine, and revise what they know about their buyers.
3) Metrics are the smart marketers friend. From understanding traffic & conversion and applying that to engagement. Because content marketing is never finished or final – but always under revision.
What is missing are practical templates for assembling content into pathways that guide buyers in their journey.
Don’t be just another vendor adding to the content CHAOS. Design your content into pathways that guide your buyers.