Good things seem to come in sets of three: dramatic structure, Star Wars (before 1999), and your B2B sales cycle content strategy. Okay, so those first two are clear, but let’s talk about my third set of three.
Managing a writing service for marketing and SEO agencies, I’ve gotten a lot of practice in breaking down strategies and concepts into bite-sized pieces. Hang with me as we go through the three elements that your content strategy needs in order to turn window-shoppers into buyers.
#1: Thought Leadership Stage
The first type of content that your B2B company has to establish is thought leadership. “Thought leadership” is not just a buzz phrase thrown around by inbound-marketing-loving gurus. It’s been going on for decades, but with today’s blogging platforms, thought leadership is something that everybody needs to get in on.
What is it?
I like how Michael Brenner at B2B Marketing Insider puts it:
“Thought Leadership allows us to define the category of our solution.” Similar to branding, “it’s all about being associated with the questions our buyers are asking.”
To start on the road to becoming a Thought Leader, you don’t have to have all the answers all the time. You just have to become associated with those questions. Consider driving a consistent content strategy with the help of a writing service if you can’t do this alone. They can take down your big ideas in a brief interview and then expand upon them through finely crafted blog posts. You stay busy doing the real work, while your writing service turns you into a Thought Leader.
Thought Leadership isn’t exclusive to the blogosphere by any means. It should permeate your brand. Demonstrate your thought leadership in newsletters, social media pages, live Tweet chat sessions, and more.
#2: Real World Problem Solving Stage
As you establish yourself as a thought leader, B2B companies that could become your clients are going to naturally start consuming your media. (Sure, an SEO strategy is important, but I’m a big believer in the theory that good content trumps all other strategies.)
Now that you have people tuning into you and your blog, it’s time to start offering them practical solutions. This is the second stage. Take your readers’ problems, and show them solutions.
You probably already read a client, partner, or competitor’s blog that does this. But if you want to see an example of what I’m talking about, check out Pardot’s blog. Pardot is a B2B marketing automation company that runs a first-class blog, which highlights real problems that real readers deal with.
The bottom line: in the world of blogging, fluff isn’t going to get you very far. If you want to keep those leads moving through your sales cycle, you’d better be up to the challenge of writing informative content. If you don’t have someone in-house who can commit to this, then consider a writing service. It could turn out to be your best friend – not to mention provide great ROI.
#3: Hard Sell Stage
By the time you’ve reached this third stage, you and your writing service are ready to hit the hard sell. Don’t let those two words mislead you. A “hard sell” doesn’t mean it’s time to start talking like a telemarketer.
Rather, hard sells should be your chance to talk about yourself. Really, this is the first time in the three stages where you’re talking about yourself. Everything up to now has been all about the prospective client.
Content to create and share with prospectives in this stage includes:
- How-to guides
- Case studies (of results you’ve achieved with clients)
- Content that shares why you’re the best
- Detailed pricing plans
- Information about the way your business operates/is structured
You thought we were done? Well, there’s just one last thing. In order to keep your sales cycle running smoothly, you must have “the magic.” The magic trick to all of this is pushing all three stages simultaneously. That means you have different pieces of content that:
- Demonstrate thought leadership
- Solve real world problems
- Push for the hard sell
All the time.
It’s the only way to reach every type of lead that visits your company’s site and interacts with your content. It may sound overwhelming, but consider a professional writing service to support you. This kind of content strategy can have an enormous ROI.
Blogging Photo via Shutterstock
I started business blogging about a year ago to generate leads for my financial consulting business. While the site was successful based on analytics like unique hits, subscribers,and comments, it never generated any new clients.
Establishing myself as a thought leader was pretty straight forward. My content was substantive and creative, and I only wrote about stuff that entrepreneurs could use. Nevertheless, I didn’t have the magic. Either I wasn’t a particularly good hard seller, or I wasn’t selling the right stuff.
My problem was that entrepreneurs were not reading my blog. Business students, wantrepreneurs, and business enthusiasts were my readers (None of which buy financial consulting services because they don’t have businesses “yet”). So I pivoted in April 2012. I started writing a book which will be published in March 2013.
I’m going to hard sell a book, not financial consulting services. Hopefully, it’ll be magical.
That’s a really common problem Rayce. So much of the time we are getting traffic from our peers, not our leads.
In the marketing world that is sort of okay though, since your peers are often the ones that send your content through to the masses. I mean…a dentist office might buy your service but they aren’t going to share your marketing guide 🙂
This is totally random but here at CEM we have this cluster of Brazilian marketers that share our stuff non-stop. On twitter, FB, G+ and more. I keep seeing Portuguese urls in my analytics and it makes me laugh. Apparently they are taking our stuff, translating it and passing it on.
Obviously this doesn’t do anything for our conversion rate and the traffic we get is worthless…but it does offer a cool idea if you want to repurpose international content. Just as long as you follow the panda/penguin rules – you are all good 🙂
Good luck on your book!
Great post, Amie. You did a great job at breaking down the different kinds of content blogs need to have. I try to do this very thing on my blog. I have very high standards for the content that I publish and release to my audience. So I do well with driving traffic, getting and keeping my visitors attention.
I’m doing more work on the selling side now to generate more residual income. I’ve mapped out my plan and it’s looking good so far. All that’s left is to set up the processes and funnel in leads. Thanks for sharing your insights with our community.
I appreciate it!
Very smart breakdown of the steps! I’d add that media training and readiness to convert thought leadership into talking points is essential.