Using content marketing to lock in a sale from an individual consumer is a relatively easy task. After all, you only have one person to convince. Simply write a blog post or draw up an infographic that appeals to their tastes, publish it, and boom. The process can be over within the few seconds it takes the customer to get out a credit card.
Marketing your business straight to the customer is a fairly straightforward process. As long as you address their needs and pain points, you can turn good content into quick sales. Marketing becomes far trickier, however, once you move out of the B2C realm and venture into B2B.
The difference is that businesses, unlike consumers, don’t usually make purchasing decisions on a whim at any moment. The process is more detailed—companies have budgets to maintain, and every decision requires respecting a lot of checks and balances.
If you want your content to help you sell in the challenging B2B world, your strategy has to be tailored directly to this decision making process. Here’s how to get started adapting your style to a new marketplace.
Adapt to the Longer Selling Cycle
Using your content to sell to a consumer is relatively easy. The consumer finds your site through a Google search or a social media post, they read your content, they learn more about your business, and they can make a purchase within minutes. All done!
According to creative consultant and content strategist Katrina Pfannkuch, the timeframe is different in the B2B realm, which necessitates a new approach. The key, according to Pfannkuch, is to target several buyers within the same organization.
“In B2B, the buying cycle is longer, strategies and processes are more complex, and multiple decision makers influence the content lifecycle. Simply put, there are a lot of cooks in the kitchen, and they are all significant to the pace and success of a purchase.”
Pfannkuch noted that in a recent survey, 43% of B2B buyers said the number of people involved in making their purchasing decisions has “grown significantly.” For example, if a company’s IT leaders want to buy new computers, they can’t just buy them—they’ve got to run the idea past the CEO, the chief financial officer, other department heads, and so on. This process takes a lot of time and deliberation.
In marketing, this means you’ve got to address a lot of people who are all at different points in the sales funnel. Some might be newbies, just discovering your brand for the first time, while others have been contemplating a purchase for a month already and just need a little extra convincing. You need a variety of content that addresses these disparate audiences.
Target the Key Decision-Makers
So how do you create content to make your product appeal to every pain point of every team member throughout an entire company?
That’s easy…you can’t. So you have to narrow your focus to targeting the key decision makers and those who will influence the decision maker.
As Dan Taylor explains, the trick is to find the right balance between content that’s too general (which can be boring) and content that’s too specifically targeted (which might miss the audience you’re aiming for). To achieve this, Taylor advocates going after each audience member separately.
“Chances are, you’re not going to hit every nail on the head, and that’s perfectly OK, provided that you hit the right nails,” Taylor says. “If you’re diluting your content down to try to encompass the widest audience, ultimately, you’ll end up dumbing it down to such a level that it will no longer remain interesting or valuable to the intended target audience—the decision makers.”
Instead, use a different approach for each stakeholder in the B2B purchasing decision. If you’re selling HR software to an HR director, tell them why it will make their job easier. If you’re pitching that same software to the CFO, explain why your product will give them a strong ROI and help the bottom line. Everyone has their own motives for buying, so speak to each person in their own language.
Don’t Overlook the “Fun Factor”
There’s a common stereotype out there that B2C marketing is inherently more fun than its B2B counterpart. When people think of B2C, they conjure up images of clever ad campaigns for fun, recreational products. They think of B2B, on the other hand, and boring “work things” like that HR software come to mind.
But just because you’re marketing to businesses doesn’t mean your content has to lose that “fun factor.” Editorial manager Brianna Hand believes that B2B marketers should be just as willing as anyone to write content that’s creative and compelling.
“At times, writing B2B content can feel like being stuck inside on a hot summer day while listening to the cheerful sounds of a B2C pool party next door,” Hand notes. “Those guys seem to have all the fun. However, while the point of B2B content is to convey authority and share information relevant to a certain business sector, your audience is ultimately comprised of people.”
Hand cites a great example: Jason Miller, LinkedIn’s senior content marketing manager, wrote a great B2B marketing article once in which he compared marketing campaigns to Guns N’ Roses concerts. That was a win-win. Miller had fun writing the post, his audience enjoyed reading it, and it still achieved his end goal, which was to write about marketing in a compelling way.
Include the Right Calls to Action (Plural)
Every good piece of marketing material ends with a call to action. This is a given. A statement like “Place your order today!” is a great way to instill a sense of urgency and get people to act.
“Every good piece of marketing material ends with a call to action.”
This is true in the B2B realm as well. A CTA is still a must when you’re marketing to other professionals. Clare Sutton, senior account manager at William Murray Communications, recommends making a CTA as simple to follow as possible.
“Make it easy for people to respond,” Sutton advises. “Once you’ve told your audience what you want them to do, make it really easy for them to do it. Embedded links to your website, include pictures that take you straight to the product, or link to a landing page with more information on the offer.”
There’s just one catch—in B2B, you’ve got to include a mix of different CTAs to reach the various buyers and decision makers in any given organization. If your audience is new site visitors who are just discovering your business for the first time, you might ask them to “Download our whitepaper today.” If they’re farther down the sales funnel and getting ready to buy, ask them to “Check out our pricing plans” to learn more. Craft your CTAs to reach buyers at different points in the purchase process.
What You Can Do Right Now
Your B2C marketing skills will serve you well in the B2B market, but the new audience does require a slightly different approach. Here’s how you can get started adapting to B2B readers.
- Adapt to the longer lifecycle of transactions. Be aware that B2B sales require patience, and cater your content to the long-term sell.
- Know who the many decision-makers within an organization are. Write content that addresses their needs and pain points, and solves their problems.
- Try to have fun with it. Just because you’re addressing a business doesn’t mean you can’t be entertaining.
- The “call to action” is important. In B2B, with multiple cooks in the kitchen, you may need multiple CTAs tailored to different audiences and points in the sales funnel.