The sales pipeline follows potential buyers through the stages of their purchase journeys. At each stage, they seek particular types of information. So it follows that easily finding pieces in your content syndication that answer questions moves buyers through this journey faster. How does content marketing impact your B2B conversion funnel? What can you do better to accelerate buyers through their journey? Find ideas in these 15 tips.
Tip #1 – Sales Wants the B2B Conversion Funnel to Flow, Too.
The Sales teams on the front lines are a wealth of customer information and want their sales pipeline to flow smoothly, so use their intel. Ask Sales what works and what doesn’t. What are recurring questions and ah-ha moments? Understand the sales cycle in your organization and align content to it in order to speed up contacts through your B2B conversion funnel. Longer sales cycles have more interaction points and (hence) need more content. A long sales cycle typically requires several touch points and spans several weeks to many months. Harvard University found that at least 25% of B2B sales cycles take a minimum of seven months to close. Additionally, the research firm SiriusDecisions points out that the typical cycle has extended by 22% over the last five years, because the online marketing mix has made things more complex, and now more decision-makers get involved in the process.
Tip #2 – Use SEO to Rope Buyers Into Your Content Syndication Strategy.
It’s not enough to write good and relevant pieces in your content syndication strategy; even the best piece isn’t worth anything if no one finds it. We all know how people find content (or anything) today: we Google it. According to Pardot, 72% of buyers turn to Google during their search to find solutions. Answer questions with your content in a way that Google can find the information for your targets. This means using search terms that matter. You don’t need dozens. In fact, each piece of content should ladder up to one search phrase to work best for Google.
Tip #3 – Put the Work Into Buying Group Personas.
It’s Marketing 101 to understand the needs and interests of the buyer personas who read your content, but you also need to look at their role in the context of the buying group. Like many marketers, you may already know how to define personas, but in the B2B world, you have to think of them as members of a team with different interests and a common goal. The IT Director has a different perspective than the Procurement Lead. Think about buyers in terms of particular information needs by role, and then tailor content accordingly.
Tip #4 – Distribution: Make Content Easy to Find.
Make it easy for buyers to find pieces of your content syndication and you’ll accelerate their conversion to the next step. If they can’t find it, nothing happens. Learn about content syndication best practices, and the use of intent to guide content syndication strategies to reach buyers where they’re looking. This piece has more advice for using content syndication to speed up content discovery.
Tip #5 – Make Your Content Syndication Pieces Purposeful.
Don’t give a piece of content too many jobs. Its single purpose is to serve your reader. If it does that, what you want to happen next will take care of itself. The one job of any piece of content is to convert the reader to the next step – not every step, just the next one. On average, a person consumes 11.4 pieces of content before making a purchase decision, according to Forrester. Entertaining content has its place, but in a buyer journey, content has another purpose – to educate and answer questions to accelerate the sales pipeline. Make your content meaningful and useful, and it will get results and move buyers along faster.
Tip #6 – Good Content Syndication Takes Work.
The kinds of content that perform well and accelerate a B2B conversion funnel are those that educate and inform, but these also require more work to be useful. Your buyers may only take this journey once in their careers, so assume they might not know all the questions that should be asked. Create content that customizes answers in a way that’s relevant to the buying group’s situation, like calculators, business case templates, checklists and discussion guides. Use content designed to answer questions like FAQs. Think outside of video unless it’s a tutorial, webinar or some other educational piece. Short, light pieces better serve branding, social sharing and date-sensitive events, and don’t necessarily accelerate a sales pipeline. A 30-second video doesn’t give you much to sink your teeth into if you’re trying to figure out a high-priced investment. Don’t abandon long-form pieces in your content syndication, even if it’s harder to write. Research reports, white papers, and other educational content still hold credibility with B2B buyers. High-value pieces are more likely to entice readers to leave names and emails, and they’re the pieces most likely to be shared with the buying team.
Tip #7 – Use the Most Effective Content Syndication pieces for the Job.
It’s easy to get distracted by trendy, entertaining content and assume that, because it’s humorous, it’s moving the buyer along. Don’t expect funny videos to push B2B buyers through any B2B conversion funnel. Short-form content like videos or GIFs contribute to brand positioning and other purposes, but hold little educational value. It may be highly shareable, but not necessarily meaningful to a buying team. A 2018 Content Marketing Institute study found that B2B marketers rated blog posts, articles, white papers, and case studies as the most effective types of content for early, middle, and late stages of buyer journeys. The more relevant, useful, and professional the information, the more comfortable we are sharing with other professionals in the buying group. It also provides better context for monitoring intent.
Tip #8 – Buyer Journey = Content Journey: Map to Your B2B Conversion Funnel.
How many interactions does it take before prospects convert to a customer? How many of those interactions can be handled by content syndication? A strong content marketing funnel is vital for a speedy pipeline, so map your content to the B2B conversion funnel. Whether it’s “snackable” content for easy consumption at the top, or “heavy” content that puts someone over the finish line, your content marketing goals should be in step with your sales pipeline. Content should grow from snackable to full meal as the prospect moves through the B2B conversion funnel.
Tip #9 – One Piece of Content Leads to the Next.
If your content syndication strategy isn’t doing much, maybe you haven’t given it anything to do. Don’t think of content as standalone pieces, but as stepping stones to a purchase decision. Don’t send prospects down a dead end without somewhere to go next. With each piece of content you offer, have in mind what you’d like them to do or know or ask next. It’s not about arriving at some piece of content, but getting to an idea and using that to build on the next.
Tip #10 – Identify What Slows Down Your Content and Fix It.
There’s a natural flow within a sales funnel, but sometimes obstacles prevent content syndication from contributing as it should. What might be throwing up roadblocks? It could be anything from slow page loading to lack of SEO to not providing useful answers. Maybe your content doesn’t deliver as promised. Are you answering the wrong questions? Ask Sales what questions customers have and build content around those. Don’t forget about SEO or keywords. Find out what slows down content in your sales pipeline and fix those problems, so that your B2B conversion funnel flows smoothly.
Tip #11 – Have a Long-Term Strategy.
The B2B conversion funnel is long and B2B purchase decisions can take months, and content marketing must be a long-term game. This is different from B2C, where a buyer decides quickly if they want your walking shoes or your home protection system. A whitepaper reader may not convert to a customer right away, but over time they likely will. It’s a process of layering information and building a story, and the happy ending is a satisfied buying team.
Tip #12 – Answer Questions Better Than the Competition.
How does your competition perform with content syndication? The good news is, it’s possible to find out what they’re up to by visiting their website. Although you likely won’t have specific data on competitors’ URLs, Google Analytics can show how you stack up against others in your industry. What seems to be working for them? What keywords do readers use to find answers, and what landing pages attract interest? Add that type of content to your own repertoire, but do it better.
Tip #13 – Make Blogs a Content Marketing Centerpiece.
Few content tools have as much potential to accelerate your sales pipeline as blogs. They’re not as complex to produce as other high-performing content containers like whitepapers, and you can crank one out as often as humanly possible. They’re ideal to answer specific questions your buyers have on their journeys, and smart SEO makes the information more findable. Monitor trending keywords in your industry and build question blogs to leverage those trends. Blogs are also eminently measurable. Make blogs part of a trackable, ongoing content network, because it’s easy to relate them to other content sources like emails, social media, webinars, and as repurposed collections. Digital marketing expert Neil Patel points out that blogs are also useful for getting readers to return, and returning readers have high value in the B2B conversion funnel.
Tip #14 – Use Tools to Map Out Data-Driven Content Syndication Journeys.
It’s never been easier to be a data-driven marketer. We have tools that were unheard of ten years ago, but let’s be honest: not all forms of content are directly useful in moving prospects through the B2B conversion funnel. Data is one way to truly know what’s best for moving your prospects faster towards a sale. What happens once that content hits a screen? What are readers’ thought processes? Is there anything interactive in the content that may send you some clues? Built-in intent monitoring can capture buyers’ signals and accelerate the sales pipeline by knowing where prospects are more quickly, and with more information about their interests.
Tip #15 – Start at the End and Work Backwards.
Instead of starting with third-party data that represents a broad swath of audiences and matches a certain demographic, marketers are advised to “flip the funnel” and look at data points that define actual customers. From there, you have a clear picture of who’s buying and can work backwards step by step to ensure you cover each stage of the journey. Top-of-funnel data can be very broad and lack markers for specific content preferences – it’s just too general. When you know what your winnable customer looks like and what they prefer in content, it’s easier to repeat the process. Make these types your personas. Never underestimate what you can learn from existing customers. By reverse-engineering your data-driven audience-building efforts, you can better target consumers who are likely to become your next best prospects and move smoothly through the B2B conversion funnel.
Trying just a few of these tips can help your content syndication strategy better accelerate your sales pipeline. Also, consider other ways you can connect with prospects and accelerate their buying journeys. Start with this blog for some ideas: “Let Your Leads Pick the Best Channel for their Lead Nurturing Journey.”