80% of B2B companies are at risk of seeing revenue growth slip away, according to recent Accenture research.
Digital disruption in a rapidly changing technology landscape, that’s why. Over the the past few years, B2B customers have come to expect the same digital experiences from B2B services that they receive in their consumer lives. Frankly, B2B has struggled to keep pace. Oddly enough, a nearly identical trend took place in food culture before it happened in our B2B circles.
A Lesson from the Late Anthony Bourdain
Fans of Anthony Bourdain know he had a knack for describing food in a no-BS fashion. “All my happiest moments seem to revolve around meat in tube form,” he commented in a late-night scene of Parts Unknown in Copenhagen.
“You may think you know what a tapa is. You had small bites at some fusion hipster bar where they did a lot of little plates. Yeah, that ain’t a tapa,” he mused in Granada.
As he held a steaming bag of Frito’s laden with chili and sharp cheddar cheese back in 2013 Bourdain remarked, “It feels like you’re holding warm crap in a bag. It’s also delicious.” No one looks at New Mexico’s famed Frito Pie the same since.
Starting with his famous book Kitchen Confidential, Bourdain single-handedly turned the food world upside down. He laid bare high-end restaurants. He called everyone’s bull on snobbery. He thread a cohesive narrative from the world’s greatest kitchens, to roadside dives, to ethnic enclaves previously unknown to western viewers. He made it really freaking hard for crap restaurants to exist.
This shift in food culture almost identically mirrors digital disruption. Multichannel and omnichannel customer expectations have risen sharply in the B2B world due to quickly changing technology and a rapid evolution of technology experiences. The food game is way more competitive because of Bourdain. So too is B2B technology because of digital disruption.
The world of B2B lead generation could learn a thing or three from Bourdain. Namely, how to make our products and services more accessible, more human, and more valuable through better content planning and personalization at every step of our digital lead generation campaigns.
In the following paragraphs, you’ll enjoy a full-course content planning meal paired to perfection with each phase of lead generation strategy. Enjoy!
Hors D’oeuvres: Tasty Morsels for Your Buyer Personas
Understanding how to convert prospects into customers is a crucial first course in any lead generation process. As you build buyer personas and seek to understand what motivates their decisions, you likewise should begin to plan tasty morsels of content that will attract and engage those prospects.
Adele Revella, author and CEO at The Buyer Persona Institute points out that we focus too heavily on psychographics and demographics in developing buyer personas. She describes that a CEO who appears risk-averse on paper, might in fact go rock climbing or ski double-black diamonds on the weekend. For this reason, we content pros can’t allow psychographics or demographics to inform the content we plan. Content has to entice them on a deeper, more personal level.
At this stage, the most important aspect of your buyer personas is understanding what influences their buying decision and creating content around that decision. Revella describes two key personas to target:
1. The Economic Buyer
The economic buyer is the primary decision maker, and the one ultimately deciding that their current status quo must change. Your goal in planning content for this buyer is to convince them your service, software, or offering will provide a better version of reality than their current status quo. There’s psychology and complexity in approaching this persona. At this phase, start planning small attention-grabbing pieces of content, and leave the long-form stuff for later on.
Here are three content hors d’oeuvres to serve the economic buyer:
- The Surprise Piece
Your prospects are seeing hundreds of content morsels on the web everyday. Develop a small piece of engaging content aimed at surprising your reader with a new perspective. Can you compare your industry to a sport, or a famous painter? Or frame their key problem from the lens of another industry like aerospace, or a current box office film? Entertain and engage, don’t sell yet.
- The Industry Voice
A 2016 Demand Gen study reported that 96% of B2B prospects want content from industry thought leaders to inform their decisions. Find those that influence your prospects and repurpose their content. Better yet, recruit these influencers for a short co-created piece.
- The Economic Case
Statistics, case studies, and user stories can all reveal the economic benefits of adopting a software, service or new business model. Suss out a few of these benefits and sprinkle them into your content program. Keep it at an industry level, the aim is still to attract and engage, not to sell.
2. Lead Evaluator
The second buyer Revella highlights in the lead evaluator. This buyer performs the lion-share of research and often informs the broader buying council on all their options. Your goal in planning content for this persona is to differentiate against competitors. The lead evaluator will be looking at your products and services, as well as other options in the market.
Three content hors d’oeuvres to serve the lead evaluator:
- The Awareness Play
First and foremost, the lead evaluator needs to know your service, software, or offering is an option alongside the competition. Surface a few comparative pieces, or use cases that demonstrate how your service stacks up against the competition. Or, build short snappy pieces that highlight some of the problems your service solves that the lead evaluator isn’t already aware of.
- The Toolkit
When and if the lead evaluator decides you’re an option, they’ll need to make a case to the broader decision-making council. Build a toolkit for the lead evaluator including bites of content that make their job easier. Assemble answers to the common who, what, when, where, how questions and start building a small toolkit.
- The Enablement Piece
At some point the lead evaluator needs to advocate for a specific solution, or no solution at all. Cook up some small content dishes that make it easier for them to sell your service within their organization. Could you create a small calculator that demonstrates impact? Or a blog post that faces their bosses doubts head on with evidence or use-cases?
If you’re already a DivvyHQ customer, you can build personas into your content program using your content strategy tab. You’ll find target audiences, buyer stages, and content topics all in this section of our tool.
The Main Dish: Cooking Up a Content Funnel for Prospects
Your second course and task is to plan relevant content for your personas at every stage of their buying journey. Marketers often call this the content funnel.
The vast majority of B2B content falls into one of two categories; consideration and conversion. Think whitepapers, case studies and testimonials. Ever wonder why? Because creating content for the entire journey is time-consuming and hard. Really hard. And there are tried-and-true recipes for pay-per-click, landing pages, whitepapers, e-mail and conversion-based tactics. It’s transactional. It’s easily measured.
But serving an exclusive menu of consideration and conversion content is like skipping to the main course without first letting your audience build an appetite.
I’m guessing if you’re reading this, you’re no amateur chef. You’re a complex B2B all-star ready to dominate the competition through delicious dishes at every funnel stage.
Below are some content types to try at each funnel stage. Keep in mind, the content ideas you developed above for your target personas can apply here as well.
With discovery content, your goal is to draw an unaware target audience to your website through entertainment, education, and industry knowledge. You should rarely talk about yourself, your product, or your specific benefit to the customer.
Joshua Nite of TopRank Marketing points out the importance of answering questions in his post on this topic, “Listen to the questions your audience is asking through search engine queries, emails to your sales department, forums like Quora, and tools like BuzzSumo and Bloomberry.”
Here’s some content to try for the discovery phase:
- Blog posts
Develop posts that answer top questions about your industry at large. What problems are most vexing? Which technological challenge is your audience facing? What everyday topics keep them up at night?
- Video interviews
Video content is easier than ever to produce, and is consumed more readily than other content types. Interview industry leaders, thinkers, and regular folks about challenges they face, and solutions to those challenges.
Far more than an audio version of a blog, podcasts can provide a strong narrative storytelling opportunity for your brand. Consider building a monthly or weekly show that discusses the industry at large, the cosmic shifts happening in technology, and shares knowledge on how to thrive in your industry.
Through platforms such as LinkedIn learning, or on your very own website, you can create coursework that helps your target audience excel in their career. Consider developing a series of courses that educate, entertain and inform your target audience of the latest skills necessary for success in your industry. Courses are a great way to generate top-of-funnel leads through email sign ups that should be nurtured further down the funnel.
With consideration content, your goal is to introduce and contextualize your brand within the industry. As your target audience begins weighing their options, they’ll need reference materials to help them decide which direction to go. At this point, you’re still not selling. You’re informing, helping, engaging, and nurturing deeper interest.
Here are some consideration content dishes to cook up:
- How-to Materials
Many discovery pieces you might have already created can be deepened by adding a, “how-to” layer. If you discussed industry shifts and challenges in a top-of-funnel piece, describe how your audience can solve that problem using your software or service.
- Comparison Content
As your audience gets closer to making a decision about any purchase, you can help them weigh their options in a transparent fashion. Develop content that helps them compare or weigh all their options. This could include comparing how a specific professional task would change when adopting a service like yours, or how a specific aspect of their work lives could be streamlined, when compared to not adopting software or services.
Statistics, studies and industry reports can lend deeper trust at the consideration phase. If you were selling air conditioners, this is where you’d talk about efficiency ratings, long-term cost savings, or specific outcomes of installing unit A versus unit B. There’s nothing wrong with sharing insights from industry studies, as long as you cite them appropriately.
Holy guacamole, you made it. Finally, it’s time to convert your prospects into buyers! The joy of cooking up conversion content is you get to repurpose everything that you’ve already created. With a deep well of materials to pull from, you can synthesize your value into a single powerful digital experience.
Here are some conversion pieces to cook up:
- Targeted “Power” Landing Page
Using persona-based insights, build a landing page that sells your software, service, or product authoritatively and concisely. Use small samples of content from other phases including comparison content, user reviews, influencer quotes, and specific benefits to the user. Perform the SEO content marketing tasks outlined on our blog, and tag this power landing page as your parent keyword query page. Try to get this page to rank in organic search for your Great White keyword.
- Demos & Trials
The product demo should also include small samples of content from other phases of your content funnel. Develop a simple step-by-step use-case for your prospects and let them try your service or product on for size. The more you can get them using your product, software, or service in their day-to-day activities, the more likely it is that they continue using it.
Retention content is often the most-overlooked content type. As B2B marketers, we focus heavily on convincing, selling, and onboarding new buyers. But with such a huge investment in each and every customer, it’s important to nurture buyers after they onboard. According to recent research by Gallup, just 29% of B2B customers can be considered fully engaged.
Here are some content pieces to consider creating:
- Added Value Pieces
Your users, clients, or customers might not be getting the full value out of your service as they begin onboarding. It’s up to you to describe which features can improve their work lives, and how they can get the most out of your toolset. At DivvyHQ, we have an entire help section dedicated to our users getting a ton of value out of our software.
- Usage and Savings Content
Your clients won’t take the time to log whether your service is saving them time, money, and resources. But you can! Create targeted benchmarks for usage and estimate the value to the audience. At DivvyHQ, we are well aware that using our software instead of spreadsheet for content planning saves our clients hours of valuable time nearly every day.
- Email Nurturing
Now that you have a deeper relationship with buyers, send them targeted emails that help them operate in day-to-day life. Keep them up-to-speed on the latest industry trends, your latest offerings, and offer information that makes work life easier on them.
Dessert: Plotting Micro Content & Social Engagement
No meal is complete without a sweet and delectable finish. Whether pompous pumpkin pie squares, or a crust-free sweet creme fraiche, dessert is a must.
Belly up with us as we wrap up our content planning meal through the sweet treats of content planning. Namely, micro content and social media.
Many B2B marketers shy away from micro content and social media marketing. They tend to leave the more colorful, fun, or even comedic content to B2C counterparts. But even if comedy isn’t your angle, it’s crucial for your social media content to engage and entertain prospects.
Every piece of content described above could translate into dozens of short-form pieces aimed at keeping your audience engaged. They key is to keep your micro content focused on the audience, not you or your industry.
Here are some micro content and social pieces for you to develop:
- The “What If” Post
Think all the way back to the beginning of our meal when we discussed the economic buyer and her desire to change status quo. Create micro content and social media posts that lend color to a new status quo promised by your service or software. What if your audience had an hour back in their day after automating specific processes? Create fun and engaging content that explores how they could spend that time. On the treadmill? Skydiving with employees?
- The “Customer Feature” Post
Develop visual social content that demonstrates how your customers are solving industry challenges. Highlight key employees, their stories, or even their ideas. Small quotes, pictures, or even Tweets can lend major credibility when it’s coming from your customers, instead of from your company.
- The “Drawing Parallels” Post
Draw inspiration from other industries and seek parallels for your own. If your software and service is about process, or software engineering, look at other technical realms for inspiration. What amazing feats are they accomplishing that mirror what your industry is trying to achieve? If it’s interesting to you, it’s likely to be as fascinating to your customers.
These are just a few micro content opportunities available to you. As attention spans shrink, and social media becomes increasingly complex it’s key that you personalize social media content and lay down the entertainment hot sauce.
Conclusion: The After-dinner Mint for Lead Generation
Feeling stuffed with advice? Naturally, you can’t get all of the lead generation ideas going in one sitting. The key is to remember that every aspect of your lead generation strategy can use deeper, more personalized content planning in order to improve the entire customer experience.
At every phase of the funnel, and in every possible prospect interaction, a small serving of smart content planning can significantly improve your overall lead-generation efforts.