This is a guest post by Nick Stamoulis, President of Brick Marketing
One of the biggest differences between the B2B and B2C industries is the length of the average buying cycle. For instance, someone who deciding where they want to eat lunch (B2C) isn’t going to spend six months researching the restaurants in their neighborhood, taste-testing their dishes and worrying if the budget will support their decision. They’ll maybe spend six minutes reading a few reviews on Yelp before heading out the door. On the other hand, if a manufacturing company is looking into buying a new piece of equipment for their new factory, they probably will take 3-6 months researching their options and weighing the cost versus supposed value.
A great B2B SEO and content marketing campaign is going to recognize that the average B2B buying cycle involves a lot of steps before an actual sale is made. You want to create content that addresses the unique needs of each step as a potential customer moves through the sales cycle. These steps include: identifying the problem/need, outlining criteria of ideal solution, researching available options, testing top choices and finally choosing a vendor.
Step 1: Identifying the problem/need
What problems do your products/services solve? For instance, let’s say you’re a software company that sells business finance management software. A small business owner might be looking for a product like yours because they have to manage the company’s finances in-house. Their problem is that they don’t have a strong finance background. Your software is the solution because it is very user-friendly and walks users through the process step by step, prompting them for the right information as it’s needed.
You want to create content that speaks to their need for answers. For instance, you could write a blog post entitled “3 Ways to Better Manage Your Company’s Budget” or an article called “Budget Management Tips for Small Business Owners.” Each of these blog posts addresses the particular needs of your target audience that your company can help with.
Step 2: Outlining Criteria of Ideal Solution
Once your target customer realizes they have a problem, they usually start thinking about the perfect solution. What exactly do they want? How fast do they need to solve their problem? How much are they willing to spend? For the small business owner needing budget management help, they want to get their budget under control as quickly as possible, but they don’t have the funds to hire a financial consultant to do it for them. Their confident in their ability to learn a new software quickly, provided it’s easy to install and user-friendly.
You want to develop content that sets your brand up to be their ideal solution. For instance, you can create a series of “How To” videos that demonstrate the installation process for your software and how to set up initial budget reports. These videos show your target customer how easy your software is to use and how quickly it can start working for them.
Step 3: Researching Available Options
Unless you exist in a very niche market, chances are you have a few competitors to contend with. Most B2B businesses aren’t going to purchase a product from the first company they come across without doing a little comparative shopping.
How can you use content marketing to set your company apart? The easiest thing would be to do a side-by-side comparison of your company and your top competitors. What does your product do that theirs doesn’t? What makes your product special and unique? How is your product better at solving your target audience’s problems? You can then develop an infographic that compares you and your competitor. You could also write promotional blog posts for each of your products outlining the benefits or have an industry blogger review them.
You want to use content marketing to your advantage so that your brand dominates the online search space. What keywords are your target customers going to be using to search for your product? Incorporate those into your content so that your brand ranks well for each keyword. The more times your brand name pops up while a target customer is researching their available options the better.
Step 4: Testing top choices
This step might not apply for every B2B company. After all, most office supplies stores don’t let a company “test” out their printer paper before deciding to buy. However, a lot of B2B companies offer trial versions, demo packages, first month free subscriptions and so forth to their customers. Offering these “test drives” makes the customers feel much more confident in their decision, because they know there is still time to change their mind.
You want to create content that is exclusively for your trial period customers. This content could focus on other ways your product can help them, insider tips and best practice guidelines, invitations to webinars or discounts for upgrading. When a potential customer is testing out your product that means you have nearly earned the sale. What is the tipping point for your target audience? All the content you create for this step of the B2B buying cycle should focus on conversion.
Step 5: Choosing a vendor
Congratulations! You’ve got a new customer. But that doesn’t mean you can ease up on your B2B content marketing. You want to make sure that new customer becomes a repeat customer and brand ambassador. For instance, one the small business owner has had your software for a little while, how can you convince them to upgrade to the newest version? What advanced techniques can you teach them in your blog posts, articles and videos that makes them want to do more with your product?
This is the stage in the buying cycle where you can also use user generated content (UGC) to your advantage. Get testimonials and reviews from your happy customers. You can use these to supplement your own website content for each product or on 3rd party peer review sites. The B2B buying cycle is becoming an increasingly social experience. People want to know they are making the right purchase decision and turn to peers for opinions and recommendations.
About the Author
Nick Stamoulis is the President of Brick Marketing (http://www.brickmarketing.com), a white hat link building and SEO services company. With over 12 years of B2B SEO experience, Nick Stamoulis shares his knowledge by posting daily SEO tips to his blog, the Search Engine Optimization Journal (or SEO Journal) and publishing the Brick Marketing SEO Newsletter, read by over 150,000 opt-in subscribers.
Contact Nick Stamoulis at 781-999-1222 or firstname.lastname@example.org