In the early stages of the industrial buy cycle, you as the marketer have very little information about the visitor to help you tailor your marketing content to their needs.
In Needs Awareness and Research phases, the first two stages of the industrial buy cycle (see my earlier post Deconstructing the Four Stages of the Industrial Buy Cycle) your prospects and customers use a variety of online content to find solutions to their current problems and needs.
The chart below shows the variety of content used at different stages of the industrial buy cycle (Source: Understanding the Industrial Buy Cycle: How to Align Your Marketing with Your Customers’ Buying Process from GlobalSpec).
In this post, I’m going to focus on content for the early stages of the buy cycle. It is critical that your company be found early and often in the initial phases if you hope to make it to the short list of vendors who are asked to submit a RFQ.
According to the same research study done by GlobalSpec, during the initial Research phase, 42% of buyers evaluate four or more suppliers, but as buyers move closer to Procurement, only 26% get quotes from four or more suppliers. Those that drop off the list are often those who did not provide the right level of information to buyers or did not meet some other perceived or real need in the buyer.
Primary goals of marketing content in the early stages of the buy cycle
There are two main goals that your content needs to achieve in the early stages. They are:
- Get found in search engines by prospects who use broad search phrases to describe their problem or type of solution sought
- Get the site visitors to take an action so you can score and qualify them for future content marketing
The first goal is usually accomplished by organic or natural search engine optimization (SEO) of your web site and/or business blog. One can dedicate an entire site to SEO because it is such a wide and deep online marketing topic. Instead of taking up more space here, let me direct you to some of my earlier posts about industrial websites and SEO.
- 5 Rules of Website Redesign for Engaging Engineers and Industrial Buyers
- How Lack of Marketing Content Can Derail Your Website Redesign Project
- B2B Websites: To Publish Prices, Or Not To Publish…That Is The Question
- The Twofold Benefit of Optimizing Marketing Content
- Optimizing Your WordPress Business Blog
Best practices of content tactics in lead generation
After you’ve done the heavy lifting of driving visitors to your site or blog, your content must persuade them to take an action. You would be wasting a lot of time and resources unless and until that happens because passive reading will not move your prospects to the next stage of the buy cycle.
Scoring or qualifying your site visitors is largely dependent on their behavior. You should spend considerable amount of time in planning your strategy for effective lead scoring. Not every action needs to be scored. This is where marketing automation software can be a big help. There are many of them out there to suit every type of marketer, from small industrial companies to large enterprises.
Let’s look at three types of marketing content that have proven to be successful in getting site visitors to take action.
- White papers: Without a question, this continues to be the most effective content to build your in-house list. White papers remain the most important content to get individuals to register with an 80% registration rate and 68% of white paper readers contacting a vendor or distributor for more information. (Source: Frost & Sullivan)
- Peer referrals: This is primarily social media marketing or the online version of word of mouth marketing (WOM). Even though this is not content in the conventional sense, peer referrals play a huge role in positioning your company as a thought leader within your industry. Social media among IT and business buyers of technology rose 50% over last year and finally pushed to majority status; 55% said they use social media as part of the technology buying process in 2009 versus just 37% in 2008. (Source: ITSMA)
- Webinars: This is a very popular content marketing tactic used in industrial and B2B marketing. Some marketers argue that they’ve been overused to the point that people think of them as nothing more than a 45-minute long sales pitch. That’s unfortunate because when a webinar is done right, it can be a very powerful tool to educate and engage your audience. They are very effective in delivering the right information to satisfy the diverse needs of the various stakeholders within your prospects’ companies.
I don’t want to ignore the other forms of marketing content such as emails, e-newsletters, virtual events, case studies and analyst reports. However, these tend to be far more effective in the later stages of the industrial buy cycle.
What forms of marketing content are you using to meet the needs of your customers and prospects through the buy cycle?