A Brief Guide to Building a Sales-Driven Content Marketing Plan

Sales | 5 minutes to read

27th Dec, 2021

Discussing various stages of the B2B buyer journey and the most appropriate content marketing strategies for each stage that lead to a higher ROI.

Snapshot:

    • B2B content mapping is essential for effective marketing campaigns

    • Marketers must understand the different stages of sales funnel to build a winning content marketing strategy

    • They must classify B2B content types according to each phase of the buyer journey

    Content creation in B2B marketing is vastly different from other customer-centric campaigns. To reap a high ROI on B2B content marketing efforts, strategic content planning and execution are vital.

    Any marketer worth their salt will move to the content creation process only after comprehensively studying their audience. This is due to the fact that buyers move through different stages of a ‘sales funnel.’ Having content tailored to each stage will result in better conversion, and in turn, ensure higher revenues and business growth.

    This is particularly true for B2B industries, where buyers are unlikely to make impulse purchase decisions, and the size of transactions is higher. Given the nature of digital demand generation in the B2B world, customers have to be carefully nurtured along the buyer journey. While the sales funnel can vary depending upon the industry, product, and business model, fundamentally, it comprises three main parts.

    Understanding the B2B sales funnel

    Awareness, consideration, and decision are the three main stages through which B2B buyers traverse before they convert into paying customers. Whether it is an external digital marketing agency or the company’s in-house marketing division, understanding the buyer journey through this three-stage lens is the first step for content marketing success.

    The awareness stage is the first level of the B2B buyer journey. Here, customers usually have a particular and well-defined pain point. They are either actively looking for a solution, are likely to start their search soon, or are simply unaware that a solution exists.

    Then they move onto the consideration stage. At this point in the customer journey, buyers are aware that a solution exists for their problem. They are proactively researching different businesses that offer a solution. They are usually comparing features and pricing of available solutions, and slowly moving towards a final decision.

    The decision stage is the final stage in the B2B sales funnel. Here, B2B buyers have narrowed their options down and are actively engaging with different solution providers. This could be in the form of scheduled demos, consultations, or free trials. The sales division is typically more involved at this stage to provide a more personalized experience for prospective buyers.

    These are the three basic stages, which can be further divided into a total of seven stages. Synchronous content must be created at each of these stages for maximum success and impact.

    Additionally, read our blog Restructuring Digital Marketing Strategies to Build Sales Momentum in 2022” to discover the next-gen strategies for businesses that will shorten the journey between digital demand generation and conversions. 

    Top of the funnel B2B content

    At the top of the funnel, buyers are in the awareness building and information gathering stage. They are just beginning to explore solutions to the particular problem they are facing. Therefore, the content at this stage should seek to ‘attract’ customers, treating them as though they are strangers.

    As customers are in the early phases of the B2B buyer journey, they are looking for information that will quickly address the problem they face. They might not be actively searching for any solutions and may only want to learn about the technical aspects of the solution. Or perhaps, as stated earlier, they are not even entirely aware of the extent or scope of existing solutions. For these reasons, B2B buyers at this stage will be put off by overly promotional content, since it comes off as nothing but a sales pitch.

    Instead, marketers should provide content that gives customers valuable information and expect nothing in return. Since this is a critical stage where the content can hook prospective B2B buyers, it must be crafted with careful precision. Here, educational and brand-agnostic content is the way to go. Content that customers see as helpful and valuable will build buyer trust, and therein ensure that they progress further down the funnel.

    Owing to the widespread usage of search engines to discover B2B solutions, content in this stage must be SEO optimized for more visibility. Content types that are ideal for customer needs at the top of the funnel include long-form blogging, detailed e-books, explainer videos, infographics, online ads, and explanatory social media posts. Marketers should create these content types keeping in mind that this is the first touchpoint between a brand and a potential customer. Therefore, catching their attention with creative forms of content is crucial.

    Middle of the funnel B2B content

    Content mapped to this stage of the B2B sales funnel is primarily for nurturing leads that are already interested in a particular solution or service. Since they are solution-aware, this is where B2B buyers search for multiple brands that offer the same results. They are evaluating whether or not a brand will be a right fit for them compared to other alternatives.

    Ideally, businesses begin promoting their solution through their content for this stage. Since prospective B2B buyers are already hooked by the top-funnel content, they now expect brands to present a definitive solution to their problem. Ensuring that content marketing efforts are personalized and tailored to such customers is vital here.

    Targeted B2B email marketing to prospects and leads as well as offering an informative webinar service, in addition to user guides, newsletters, templates, and social media posts are the main content types used in this stage. Here, brands can highlight their USP and why their products are better than their competitors. Feature comparison guides and case studies are also some commonly-used go-to strategies at this phase of the buyer journey. Remember, at this stage, B2B customers are actively researching available solutions and filtering out their options. Therefore, brands must be able to make their solutions stand out using content.

    B2B content for the bottom of the funnel

    A potential B2B buyer at this stage is a few steps away from being a paying customer. Since their buying intent is high, marketers need to create content that capitalizes on this sentiment.

    Content at this stage should be aimed towards nudging a prospect towards a final decision. This includes various forms of content: in-depth comparison blog posts/web pages, B2B email marketing for scheduling demos and consultations, testimonials, exclusive webinars, giveaways, coupons, extra features, and special discounts.

    Content at the bottom of the B2B sales funnel should ideally be proposed to give customers that extra reason to choose their brand over other available options. The sales team, being heavily involved in the final phases of the B2B buyer journey, can provide valuable inputs regarding customer pain points at this stage. Addressing them in branded content can prove to be useful for conversion success here. The goal is to solidify the offering as the most suitable solution and worthy of investment, time, and effort.

    B2B content marketing and the sales funnel: The bottom-line

    The core idea behind mapping B2B content to each stage of the sales funnel is to ensure that marketers think like customers and offer the most relevant information. If they can step into the buyer’s shoes and create content for different stages of the sales funnel, the likelihood of conversion increases significantly. Thus, creating and implementing a focused content plan that takes into account customer behavior and the buyer journey is essential for B2B marketing success.

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