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April 19, 2013

B2B Content Has to Cover the Entire Buying Cycle

I read a statistic the other day that said a buyer interacts with a brand 4.3 times in the final 48 hours before making a purchase. Depending on the purchase, those 4.3 interactions might be the first and only times a customer needed to connect with a brand to complete their buying cycle. However, in my experience, the more complex (and expensive) the product is, the more involved the buying cycle becomes and 4.3 interactions is rarely enough. I have found this to be especially true for B2B brands.

Imagine you were the CTO of a company and wanted to invest in a new enterprise software system for your company. You could easily spend hundreds of thousands of dollars upgrading your system, buying new equipment, paying service and installation fees and more. Are you really going to pull the trigger based on 4.3 interactions? Probably not. My guess is that you and your team would spend months researching and investigating vendors, talking with sales representatives and their customers for referrals, maybe signing up for a few trial versions and so forth. After all, if you’re going to shell out $100k for software you want to make sure it’s worth it.

And because B2B influencers and decision makers are so hungry for information to help guide their decisions, if you’re that software company trying to connect with CTOs you need to make sure your brand is everywhere they are when they need you; and that will hopefully amount to a lot more than 4.3 interactions. Your B2B content marketing efforts have to cover the entire buying cycle so you don’t miss critical opportunities to both connect and interact with your audience.

Here’s what B2B marketing expert Michael Brenner   has to say about content and the B2B buying cycle:

Not every buyer is ready to marry you the first time they “meet” you. Buyers have to go through a process of learning, absorbing, sharing and deciding. This is compounded by the fact that there are many people playing a part in the decision process. So effective content marketing will map to the number of people and their questions in the early, middle and late-stages of the buying process. There are many more people looking to understand “Big Data” for example, than are looking to buy it tomorrow. So your content production should map to the volume and types of questions your customers are asking. If you don’t they will get their information from other sources — like your competition. And that puts them in a better position to win the business later on down the line.

Think about who your target audience really is and what kind of information they might look for throughout the buying cycle. For instance, the CTO might be concerned about Big Data security but the IT manager is more concerned about the impact a new software system would have on the IT team itself; do his developers/programmers have the skills needed to successfully implement and use this new software? Are they going to have to bring in a third party to train them on particular aspects of the system?

And then who will actually be using this new software? If it’s supposed to be new CRM software that incorporates Big Data, then what kind of information will the CMO and marketing department want to know? The IT team might set everything up but the marketers are the ones who will be using it every day. Suddenly you aren’t just selling to the CTO and addressing his needs; a whole second level of decision makers just got involved.

As they move through their respective buying cycles, your target audience is going to need more and more specific information from you. For instance, the CMO might not really understand what Big Data is at all, let alone how Big Data can impact her marketing efforts. Once she has a handle on what Big Data is on a fundamental level (which could take a while), then it becomes an issue of showing her the tangible marketing benefits Big Data can bring. What problems does she have that this Big Data CRM software can solve? How can she use that software with her existing marketing programs? All the B2B content you push out should address the unique needs of your target audience at every stage of the buying cycle.

When it comes to connecting with B2B customers you can’t wait and hope they find you when they are ready to pull the trigger. In fact, I’d argue that by the time a potential customer is talking to your sales team they’ve already done quite a bit of research and investigating on their own. Hopefully that sales representative is working from a foundation built up by your B2B content marketing efforts, which makes it a lot easier to ultimately close the sale.


Nick Stamoulis is the president of B2B SEO services company Brick Marketing. With more than 13 years of industry experience, Nick Stamoulis shares his B2B SEO knowledge by writing in the Brick Marketing Blog and publishing the Brick Marketing SEO Newsletter, which is read by more than 120,000 opt-in subscribers.

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