When helping our clients design content marketing campaigns, we ask them to identify the men and women they really need to reach. Not everyone is a good prospect for every product and service, so it only makes sense to focus in on the (relatively) small handful of people who aren’t just likely to buy from you now, but to keep buying from you happily in the future.
It’s only natural, under those conditions, that business owners start to think of the demographics that make up their customer base. They assign qualities like age, income, and education level to their prospects, usually based on the information they have about existing buyers.
That’s all perfectly logical, and definitely something you should do as you begin building your sales funnel and content marketing campaigns. However, we would also encourage you to remember that there are actually two types of buyers your content probably has to reach: buyers (or decision makers) and the people who influence them.
This is a crucial detail in the content marketing process that’s easy to miss. Here are a couple of reasons why the distinction is so important…
In a lot of industries, and especially B2B sales environments, the person who gathers information about a product, service, or vendor might not be the one who will ultimately approve the investment. In fact, it could be an assistant, a lesser department head, or a fellow committee member who doesn’t have the same information as the business owner, CEO, or chairperson.
What’s more, the researcher in the situation might have different priorities. For example, while the boss might be looking for bottom-line improvement, their subordinate could be searching for a solution that mitigates risks or lowers costs. After all, they don’t want to be responsible for finding something that’s going to bring a project over budget or lead to disappointment down the road.
It’s also true that they might not have the same familiarity with your industry as you would expect a decision-maker to. Because they might not know about things like pricing, contracts, and ROI, they could be hesitant to contact you or take the next step if the details are unclear.
This same dynamic can present itself in situations where committees are in charge of setting budgets and approving purchases. Often, at least one or two people who are involved in making the call are going to be somewhat conservative on the risk-to-reward spectrum. If they can’t be persuaded, then you’re not going to be able to get them to take the next step until your content can convince them it’s worth the gamble.
Knowing all of this, your job as a marketer is to offer resources that appeal directly to researchers and other influencers who need to be brought up to speed. Reports, buying guides, and case studies can all be helpful for explaining benefits and calming fears.
Often, companies with complex solutions will make one of two classic blunders: either they’ll fill their content with nothing but facts and statistics that turn off buyers who are more interested in dollars, sense, and solutions, or they’ll appeal to high-level thinking without getting to the details at all.
Neither of these approaches usually works out well, if only because high-level decision-makers don’t make investments without input from people who understand what’s really on offer. At the same time, they usually want to learn about specific functions or studies on their own.
The answer, then, is to either provide content with footnotes and technical sections, or to produce separate pieces for different audiences. The goal is to give influencers the hard verifiable data they need, but without taking away from the overall flow and persuasive edge of your overall content marketing campaigns game plan. You just put different pieces for each audience into your sales funnel and let prospects pick and choose what they need at separate times.
As if assistants and technical experts weren’t enough, you should remember that not every influencer is going to be someone who is collecting information or explaining it. That’s because the bigger the purchase is, the more likely a decision-maker will be to go online and see impressions from other buyers.
This strays into the area of online reputation management, of course, but it doesn’t really matter how you name this form of influence – the feedback left about your business from former customers, employees, and colleagues is going to have a big effect on sales. When someone is evaluating your content and thinking of signing on the dotted line, they like having third-party verification that you’re going to follow through on your word and they’re going to get good value for their money.
For that reason, even in situations where there isn’t a formal or informal influencer in place, you can be sure that outside opinions will still (or even especially) affect the reception you get to your content marketing campaigns. Everything is about context and proof. Sometimes the recommendation to buy, or not buy, will come from a spouse, business partner, or administrative assistant. Other times, it’s going to come from elsewhere on the web.
Many otherwise savvy marketers overlook the fact that there are different markets for their web content, each with their own particular needs, values, and concepts. Depending on what you sell and how you provide it – on a B2B vs. direct consumer basis, for example – the role of influencers in the decision process might be minor or outsized.
Either way, though, it’s a good idea to remember that your customers probably aren’t making decisions on their own. At the very least, they’re going to go online to seek out the opinions and experiences of others. If your content marketing campaigns don’t reflect that, there’s a good chance you’re going to miss out on leads and sales that are there to be won.
© MICROD, LLC.