How can you use content to generate leads? This was the main question during the SPOTONVISION-NIMA Expert Class ‘Connect & Convert’ on May 15th. I was attending the event and one of the main conclusions stayed on my mind: As a marketer with lead generation goals, you should think about the buying process.
Stop pushing information about your own company and products, stop thinking about yourself, and start thinking about what’s on your buyers’ mind. Only when you turn things around from ‘sales to buying’, you can run your content marketing effectively.
A different approach
For many marketers, this is a new and different approach. We are used to designing lead generation campaigns. Short-term promotional campaigns usually, with a clear beginning and end. It keeps on amazing me how many B2B companies develop 2-month campaigns only, whereas the buying cycle can take up to 1 or even 2 years?
Customer journey or buying cycle
In developing effective content marketing, starting at the buying cycle is a must. Try to think outside-in. Imagine a sales manager who considers buying CRM software, but knows nothing about CRM? This person might want to read a generic whitepaper on the topic. If however a similar buyer is already past that stage and knows what he or she is looking for? Maybe that person would prefer to download a checklist to help selecting the right solution.
How to get the buyer’s perspective? These 6 steps help you on your way:
1. Define buyer personas
The starting point is that you want to engage with people and not with companies. In this sense, buyer personas are very important and the basis for effective content marketing. A buyer persona is a fictional buyer, a role model of your typical customer. Try and figure out what personas play a role in your buying process. Who are influencers? What type of people are they? What are their challenges and their drivers? Put together some customer interviews and you will end up with a wealth of information.
2. Map the buying process
Find out what steps your personas take whilst they are in the buying process. What questions come up in which phase? In which channels do they look for information? Map all of this, based on customer/prospect interviews. Don’t forget to evaluate the effect of your existing content. A successful whitepaper that gave you many qualified leads in the past; well that’s a good start.
3. Content goals in each phase of the buying process
Once you’ve mapped the information needs, try and define what you want to achieve in each phase per persona. E.g. are you looking at just ‘creating awareness’ with a webinar or an eBook? Or you do want your content to help a buyer in the final push to decide what to buy by providing a case study or a checklist? Develop your strategy for your buying process. Or else your competitor might run off with your prospect.
4. Map your existing content to each buying phase as well
Are you wondering how to create all this interesting content? Or where to get the resources? No panic! Be smart. We tend to forget that we already have some content available. Information on our website, articles from before, old newsletters etc. Make an inventory of all existing materials and map this content to your goals in each buying stage.
5. Add missing content
Now that you’ve mapped your content, you will see that there are some gaps in your buying cycle. Great. You know exactly what to do and what type of content you should develop still.
6. Measure the effect and evaluate
As you’re executing your content marketing plans, be aware that sometimes things don’t work out as intended. It’s vital that you monitor your strategy, that you check what content is and what isn’t downloaded. What articles are shared through social media and which ones don’t? If no one from your buyers reads your blog, maybe you should decide that you’re on the wrong track. Be swift and be open to adapting.
Whichever steps you take
Make sure that the buying process of your potential buyer is leading. Take your time and nurture your relationship with your prospects. Just like you do in normal life with any friendship you develop. Content marketing is all about nurturing.
Tristan Lavender works at HFM as a marketing communications manager. Tristan is also a board member of the NIMA Young Professionals.