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From the Trenches

Jumping the Sales Hurdles with Content Marketing

Will Davis | August 2, 2011

“If B2C marketing is the 100 meter dash, then B2B marketing is a lot more like the steeplechase.” This quote came out in a meeting with a new client last week. And if it rings true for B2B marketing in general, the analogy is even more relevant when you talk about B2B content marketing.

With long sales cycles, objections, and hurdles in your way, B2B marketing can often make you feel like you are running a steeplechase. But before wego too far down that track, here’s a quick summary of this Olympic event for those who have been away from track and field since high school gym class:

What is the steeplechase?
From About.com:

“The 3000-meter event includes 28 hurdle jumps and seven water jumps. The jumps begin after the runners pass the finish line for the first time. There are five jumps in each of the final seven laps, with the water jump as the fourth. The jumps are evenly distributed throughout the track. Each runner must go over or through the water pit and must jump each hurdle.”

As you can see, it’s a complicated race, with a lot of obstacles and potential pitfalls to maneuver around — just like B2B content marketing.

B2B buyers now have the tools to control the sales process

The ideas behind content marketing are not new (nor is the steeplechase, which dates back to at least 1860). But the value of this discipline is higher than ever, particularly as B2B buyers are now armed with tools to research your industry and services before even thinking of engaging a sales representative. Buyers want to educate themselves and be in control of the process. But this shift in the traditional buyer/seller roles threatens to take away a key part of the sales process — your ability to overcome objections.

Just as in the steeplechase, every unspoken objection is a hurdle or a water pit in your steeplechase — an obstacle that your company can either clear and continue on or stumble over and fall out of contention. But how do you address these objections if not on a one-to-one basis?

How solid content strategy helps clear the hurdles

Without the opportunity to handle buyer objections directly, companies need to educate buyers from the start and proactively anticipate and answer any concerns that buyers may have. This can be done by creating content, such as white papers, videos, presentations, webinars, blog posts, eBooks, case studies. When creating this content, remember that not everyone digests information the same way — some people learn better through more technically-focused written text, others through video.

To figure out what type of content you need to create, you need to understand what buyers care about, when they care about it, and what roles they play in the process. Only then can you develop the right content tools for the right audience at the right time.

For example, an initial researcher may want to attend a webinar on industry best practices, while a final evaluator will have a different hurdle to clear in making the proper ROI case to the CFO for a purchase. Which content works best for these different stages of the process and different objections? For a clearer view of what’s involved in making these decisions, Eloqua and JESS3 created an infographic that outlines the stages of the buying process, the content and distribution for each stage, and the prospect and business objectives.  You can use this as your guide when planning the right content to address common objections.

Frienemies no more: Sales and marketing unite

How do you best map out the buying stages and appropriate pieces of content? Get  your VP of Sales, sales reps and VP of Marketing in the same room, and have them agree on the sales process, identify where the different objections lie, and collectively map out ways to handle them in order to develop a content marketing strategy.

The tried and true whiteboard session works best for this:

  1. Walk through the sales process from start to finish
  2. List out the objections at different stages of the process on your whiteboard
  3. Go back and talk about ways to overcome those objections.

Hearing straight from the sales team about the areas where they are hearing objections lets the marketing team know what concerns their content needs to address. From there, you can develop the right pieces of content to address those concerns.

This process also gives marketing an opportunity to explain how sales can proactively use specific content pieces to speed up the sales cycle, such as letting prospects know that there’s a relevant webinar available, sending them the wrap-up video, or passing along the latest white paper. In turn, this helps the sales team buy in to the process.

Tip:  If possible, get a few of your good clients to review what you come up with and add any of their feedback from their experience.

Winning the race

The steeplechase has been called “The duckbilled platypus of the track and field world …combining several different skills into one event, including distance running, hurdling, and long jumping.” In many ways content marketing is similar. Mapping your content strategy to the buying cycle and then executing on a plan that focuses on your buyers’ particular needs and objections at any given stage in the process allows you to clear hurdles before you even knew the buyer was there.

Agree? Disagree? Feel like you’re stepping in too many mud puddles in your race? How have you aligned your content marketing strategy with buyer objections? Please share your thoughts in the comments below. You can also learn more in our recent webinar, What if You Build It and They Still Don’t Come? – The Anatomy of a Content Marketing Strategy.

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