As a B2B tech marketer, you share a lot in common with your prospects and customers. Maybe you came into the job with a thorough understanding of the product or service you’re marketing. More often than not, you had no experience with it. I’ve been there. You have to ask the right questions to learn about that technology quickly so you can sell it. The goal is to understand enough to know what you’re talking about (or at least look like you do) when you’re in front of the customer.
The people you’re marketing to are in the same boat. Some of them will be tech savvy and know all about cloud computing or marketing automation or whatever technology you may be offering. These are the CTOs and tech team members who vet the product before they buy. But you’ll also be selling to the business owner who will be using the product. That business owner might be the CEO or some marketing guy or girl with only a smattering of experience with technology. You, as the tech marketer, need to reach both of these groups and everyone else in between.
If you don’t have a content marketing plan in place to reach all of these people, you’re essentially dead in the water before you even start. You’re not going to get lucky and strike the right chord with each of these buyers from diverse backgrounds. You need to put the work in and figure out what’s going to work best for each person you’re targeting.
Getting Started: Creating Buyer Personas
This brings us to step one in building your content marketing plan: Creating buyer personas. Sit down with your team and think through the five or ten people on the customer side who are involved in the purchasing decision. This shouldn’t just include the ultimate decision maker who holds the purse strings; you want to consider everyone involved in recommending, reviewing and influencing the purchase.
For each of these prospects, build a persona that includes:
- Job title and role
- Demographics: age, experience and years in role
- Work life details: size of the team, responsibilities, pressures and pain points
- Goals and motivators
- Communication preferences: email, phone, social media
- Watering holes and influencers
Building the Content Marketing Plan
With the buyer personas in place, you’re ready to start building your plan. You’re NOT ready to start creating content yet. When we work with B2B technology companies here at Scribewise, we recommend that clients build their content marketing plan by viewing their buyer personas through the lens of the sales funnel. In other words, the buyer’s journey; today’s sales process is social, self-directed, trust-based and transparent. Consider this diagram of the new buyer’s journey:
To effectively meet buyers on this journey requires you identifying who you need to influence (the persona) at each stage in the purchasing process (the sales funnel), where you’ll find them (the channel), and what’s going to push them to the next stage in the sales process (the content type).
Here’s a rough skeleton of what your content marketing plan could look like:
Awareness and Discovery
This stage is where the prospect first learns about your brand at a very high level. Your company name starts to spark some recognition with them and they have an idea of what you do.
- Channels: Depending on your industry, likely social media or other online watering holes (discussion groups, industry blogs, online trade publications).
- Content types: Usually anything that is quick and easy to consume. This is your introduction, so don’t expect a prospect to invest a lot of time. Infographics, short videos (30 seconds or less), banner and native ads and bylined articles work best.
Familiarity and Education
This stage is where prospects recognize your brand and are starting to form a (hopefully) positive impression of it. They educate themselves about what you do and the products and services you offer.
- Channels: In addition to the channels you’re targeting for the Awareness stage, you’ll start to reach prospects in other places like your company website and blog. They may also have subscribed to your list, so you can start reaching them through email marketing.
- Content types: At this point, you’ll be in a position to start offering slightly longer form content like blog posts and webinars. Interactive marketing is also a good play here, such as online calculators, videos with clickable elements, quizzes and customized data visualizations.
Now you’re getting to the point where the prospect is actively vetting you as a potential vendor. They know who you are, like your brand, and are deciding between you and a group of your competitors. You want to make clear how you differentiate yourself in the marketplace.
- Channels: You’ll likely be using email marketing a lot during this stage (yes, email marketing is still king). Manage your list judiciously and make sure you have a solid nurturing and lead scoring program in place.
- Content types: Now is the time to push hard on explaining what you do and how you’re better than the rest. Whitepapers that demonstrate your expertise in the industry will work well, as will product spec sheets and comparisons.
Conversion and Commitment
This is the stage where the finish line is in sight, and your prospect needs that last little nudge to turn them into a customer. You may be one of a small handful of vendors still in consideration. To get them to convert, you’ll need to prove how you’ll help their bottom line.
- Channels: Again, email marketing will be important here, as will face-to-face meetings, phone calls and web chats (think Skype, Facetime, and video conferencing if you’re remote).
- Content types: Prospects will want to learn how your solution worked for other people like them. Case studies and longer testimonials, and possibly even a conversation with a current customer, will help with the conversion.
The Next Step: Ongoing Validation and Justification
You’ve converted them, they’re your customer – it’s time to breathe a sigh of relief. But don’t rest on your laurels, because your content marketing plan needs to support the entire customer lifecycle – from prospect through renewal. You’ll need to continually help the customer step back and justify their decision through content that provides ongoing validation. We’ll tackle how to build a content marketing plan for customers in an upcoming post, so stay tuned.