The B2B buying process is forever changed. Business buyers are doing most research on their own, and making crucial purchase decisions before ever speaking to a salesperson. In order for companies to keep pace, they must intercept the prospect during their journey.
Content marketing, lead generation and lead nurturing are three ways in which B2B marketers can interact with prospective customers online, capture their information, and help lead them through the buying process until they are ready to make a purchase.
In order to execute a successful content-marketing program, sales and marketing teams must collaborate to turn the funnel into a revenue-generating machine. For sales teams, this means working with their marketing department to identify lead-qualification criteria and map out the ideal sales experience. For marketers, this means creating communication touch points, content and offers that emulate that ideal sales experience. This allows marketing to qualify leads for sales hand-off and nurture leads that are not ready to buy.
Match the messaging goals to each buying stage
A key challenge to building a successful lead-nurturing program is developing the right messaging framework to lead prospects through the buying cycle. One methodology we recommend for clients is to identify specific messaging goals for each stage, and develop content that addresses those issues.
To start, we organize prospects into three categories: Learners, Shoppers and Buyers.
- Learners may be unaware they need a solution to a particular problem. Or they have recognized that a change needs to be made and are in the early stages of solution consideration.
- Shoppers are evaluating the solution landscape and trying to find the good options.
- Buyers are getting ready to make a decision and looking for confirmation their decision is the right one.
Next, we identify the messaging goals for each audience.
Goals for Learners:
- Help the prospect realize there is a problem with their current solution or process.
- Make the problem real, tangible and in need of fixing.
- Help the prospect understand the toll the problem may be taking on their business and themselves.
Goals for Shoppers:
- Help the prospect understand how life is better with your product/service.
- Demonstrate how your product/service is the best option available for them.
- Illustrate how other companies have had success with your product/service.
Goals for Buyers:
- Show the prospect how the benefits of your product/service outweigh any possible barriers to adoption.
- Entice the prospect with pricing or promotional offers.
- Provide the prospect with affirmation.
Once these goals are established, we inventory the available content that best delivers upon these goals. The framework below illustrates how these components align.
By aligning the audience, messaging goals and available content, marketers can begin to build a lead-nurturing program that delivers the right content to the audience at the right time to match their individual stage in the buying cycle.
Adopting a marketing automation solution such as Marketo® allows marketing teams to set up email templates to promote and distribute content, as well as landing pages for content download and data collection. A marketing automation tool will also provide valuable insight into prospects’ interactions with the lead-nurturing program to appropriately score leads, track their behaviors and better determine when they are ready to be passed on to sales for follow-up and close.
A successful lead-nurturing program can be a daunting task to get off the ground. Leveraging a practical messaging framework like I’ve outlined here can help B2B marketers get their programs started swiftly and smartly. Monitor, measure and optimize the program over time based on analytics and insight to fine-tune the strategy and deliver the best experience to prospects.
Eric Mower + Associates is a Marketo Agency Managed Service Provider.