You Can’t Talk Sales Without Talking Digital Content

Why your website deserves a seat at the sales table.

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We’re in a different era of B2B sales than we were five years ago. Today, Gartner research shows that 75% of B2B buyers want to forego rep interactions altogether.

So how are those buyers going to learn about you and what you bring to the table?

They’re going to research you with the fervor of a private investigator.

However, unlike a PI, when they can’t find enough dirt on you online, they’re just going to move on. 

B2B buyers don’t have time to stake you out, and why would they when there are other options a scroll away?

You need to provide them with enough information to make a confident decision, with or without a sales rep. This means you need to see content for the sales tool that it is – and commit as much attention (and budget) to it as the statistics on B2B buying behaviors justify.

You don’t even know what you’re missing

It’s impossible to quantify how many sales you lose every day simply because of what’s lacking

For instance, if your website isn’t optimized for key terms your buyers are looking for, it probably won’t come up in their search engine results – so they definitely won’t be clicking on it.

If customers do find your website but it only has four landing pages and an ecommerce arm with short, generic product descriptions, they are more likely to get frustrated that they can’t find answers without picking up the phone – so they’ll click off to a competitor with more to give.

(I don’t know about you, but I don’t know many buyers younger than 40 who like picking up the phone.)

However, if your website has pages dedicated to different services, products or industries, as well as guides, case studies, testimonials, helpful articles and comprehensive product descriptions, why would they wander anywhere else? You have everything they need to make an informed decision.

Starting Is Easier Than You Think

“Content” is a big word. It can feel like a massive undertaking, but it’s not. You don’t have to do everything all at once, and you don’t need a big team to make it happen.

Gather insight from your actual operations:

Don’t sit at your desk, wracking your brain and hoping for an epiphany as far as what type of web content could move customers through the pipeline. Call a meeting with your salespeople — and record it.

No doubt, your salespeople will have more than a few ideas about what would be helpful.

For example, I’ve heard many a salesperson say:

“I wish the customers already knew a little bit more about [topic] before they called. It would really help their understanding of what we offer — and what we don’t.”

“I get asked for examples from past customers and, though I have a lot of examples from my own experience, they’re not always the most relevant, and they’re not something the customer can walk away with and show to decision-makers.”

“People just don’t know all that we’re capable of, or all that we offer. If more people knew, they’d be knocking down our door and we’d get more share of wallet.”

Content is the answer to all the above. Give your customers:

  • A more informative and user-friendly website.
  • Professionally developed and designed case studies they can take to their decision-makers.
  • A resource library (aka, blog) chock full of educational, customer-centric non-salesy content.

When you meet with customer-facing team members, you’ll also want to ask the golden content question: What are customers’ most frequently asked questions? This will turn up great insight for future blogs, guides, videos and other content.

We also recommend talking with a diverse set of actual customers. Find out what’s important to them, what questions they’d like answered and how you can improve your website and resource library.

Make a Plan

Use what you’ve learned from your salespeople and customers, as well as what you know from your own experience in your business, and develop a content strategy.

What is a content strategy? Building a plan to create and distribute valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience and drive profitable action.

Valuable: Content should be valuable to the customer. It should be educational and help them make the right decision for their business.

Relevant: Content shouldn’t focus generally on the products you sell. It should be directed toward the customer themselves — their industry, position in the company, position in the buyer journey and a variety of other potential factors related to their motives and needs.

Consistent: Consistency is key if you want your content strategy to deliver and convert leads. That means consistency in your tone and message, as well as the frequency of publication and distribution. Too many distributor websites reflect an episode of momentum with great content – up to a point – and their “latest” blog was posted over five years ago. That doesn’t look great to today’s buyer.

Here are a few key questions to ask yourself:

What are your goals? Different goals will demand different approaches. For instance, if you’re seeking brand awareness, you’ll need content and channels that give you more exposure to broader audiences, such as social media and contributed articles in the publications your customers read. On the other hand, cross-selling targets existing customers and calls for a different approach, such as case studies, scenario-based blogs that link popular products to those you want to cross-sell, email campaigns to targeted customers, and more.

Who is making the buying decision? Neglecting the “who” in your content strategy is a quick way to stifle the return on your efforts. Who is making the buying decision? Who is reading this content? For example, a CFO/controller will have a unique perspective. They’ll likely care about productivity, making smarter purchases, consolidating suppliers and growing the business profitably.

What themes or buckets of content should you prioritize? Themes are essentially the categories, or buckets, your content should fall into based on what you know customers and prospects want to learn about and use in their decision making. For example, that CFO/controller who cares about productivity. If that’s your primary target persona, productivity is likely a great theme for your content strategy. Under that theme, you could develop social media, email campaigns, blogs, case studies, whitepapers — the possibilities are endless.

Build Out Your Resource Library

A resource library is a library of resources organized in a way that makes it easy for your readers – i.e. prospects and customers – to find the information they’re looking for. In many cases, this refers to what has traditionally been called your company blog. However, any assets that customers and prospects can use in decision-making can be considered part of your resource library.

What might you include? Here are just a handful of common content types:

  • Blog posts/articles or guest posts
  • Video (long or short clips)
  • Infographics
  • Case studies or testimonials
  • Whitepapers/eBooks/guides
  • Profiles (company/employee/vendor)
  • FAQs

To circle back to that sales meeting you had, double down on the effectiveness of each piece of content by continuing to collaborate with your salespeople. For instance, if you develop a case study, make sure your sales team knows it exists and it’s available in a format they can share with customers. If you wrote a blog answering a common question the sales team brought to your attention, let them know it’s available to share with customers and prospects.

Better yet, when you’re putting together a blog or contributed article, involve a salesperson. Interview them about the topic, use that interview to write the article and use their name as the byline.

Keeping that line of communication open and consistent will help each department (sales and marketing) champion one another’s efforts.

Put Content to Work in Your Distribution Business

Small and mid-sized distributors can effectively leverage content as a sales tool as well, if not better, than some larger, more well-resourced competitors. Don’t underestimate your ability to execute on these ideas, especially if you’re in a niche.

You can go far deeper and provide more specific resources than many of your large competitors can. You have the subject matter expertise in-house or in your network. It may feel overwhelming at first, but starting small and doing that legwork to strategize and build a solid foundation will lead to greater success long-term.

Lindsay Young is the president of 3 Aspens Media.

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